Turn on the Tap

Turn on the Tap

Americans drink a huge amount of bottled water—2.5 million bottles every hour—and most of those containers end up in landfills. We found some simple ways to use bottled water more responsibly and reduce our dependence on it.

RECONSIDER TAP WATER. Tap water is just as safe as bottled water, says Jenny Powers, media manager at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental nonprofit. It gets tested regularly for viruses, parasites, and potentially cancer-causing chemicals such as phthalates. To find out about your city's water quality, go to epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.html.

FILTER YOUR WATER. For most households, a carbon filtration system like a Brita pitcher (brita.com), which reduces chlorine, lead, copper, cadmium, and mercury, is enough; just replace the filter regularly, says Elizabeth Royte, author of Bottlemania (Bloomsbury, 2008). Whatever filter you use, be sure it's certified by NSF International, a nonprofit organization committed to public health; nsf.org/certified/dwtu.

TRAVEL WITH A REUSABLE BOTTLE. Royte uses stainless steel SIGG (mysigg.com) and Klean Kanteen (kleankanteen.com) bottles. Avoid hard plastic containers that contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that may be linked to prostate cancer and other health conditions. Nalgene recently took its BPA bottles off the market, and companies like CamelBak have introduced BPA-free lines. New portable bottles with builtin filters (like those made by Seychelle; seychelle.com) remove up to 99 percent of pollutants.

RECYCLE. On average, only about 12 percent of water bottles are recycled—the rest end up in landfills or the ocean. In fact, there's a vortex of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean called the "the great Pacific garbage patch" that's estimated to be twice the size of the continental U.S. Both plastic and glass water bottles are recyclable, so toss them in a recycling bin (or reuse your glass container).