Have you ever thought about what type of reusable water bottle is the most sustainable and healthiest? Water bottle decision making can be complex -- the three most popular choices on the market are plastic, glass, and stainless steel.
In terms of safety and personal health, there are varying effects from these three material options. Plastic water bottles can leach out dangerous chemicals into the water before consumption if the water is stored in the bottle for a long duration or at elevated temperatures. Glass water bottles can be dangerous if broken, especially on the deck of a swimming pool. Stainless steel bottles, alternatively, do not leach chemicals and are durable.
While stainless steel may be the leader in terms of safety and health, there are other life-cycle factors in choosing the “most sustainable” water bottle including:
transportation required, and
pollution emitted during the manufacturing process.
Plastic water bottles are often thrown out but many can be recycled. Plastic is a light material so transportation involves a smaller carbon footprint; yet the initial production of plastic bottles has a high level of pollution. Glass water bottles are intended for multiple uses yet the bottles can shatter before more uses and not all types of glass can be recycled. This heavier material also leads to higher transportation related pollution. The carbon emissions from the production of the bottles are very similar to those from plastic production. Stainless steel bottles are more likely to have many uses due to the durable and corrosion-resistant material and are also able to be recycled. This light material allows for smaller carbon footprint from travelling, yet the mining necessary to procure virgin materials is energy intensive and polluting.
The advantages and disadvantages of each water bottle can make selecting the “perfect” water bottle seem near impossible. That said, try to find a water bottle that you can use for a long time that is affordable and sustainable!