Ask Ignacio: Water Bottle Amnesia

November 2012

IcyFencer asks:                                                                                                                                                                                      

Dearest Ignacio,

I frequently lose my water bottle. I lose them at the same rate if I am refilling a plastic water bottle from a vending machine or if I buy a nice metal reusable one, so I usually use plastic because I'm pretty sure that the environmental impact of one plastic water bottle is less than that of one metal water bottle (not to mention how much cheaper it is!). Is this true?

Thank you for the question!

First, I would like to make this question a bit more general:

Is it better to buy things that are disposable instead of a reusable alternative that I will keep losing?

Unfortunately, yes. This is why:

A reusable container is more environmentally friendly, assuming that you will use it and reuse it instead of buying something disposable. Of course, when the assumption proves false, so does the conclusion. If you treat reusable items as if they were disposable, then they are indeed worse than disposable items due to the amount of energy that goes into producing something strong enough to be used many times.

Don't stop reading! I have a solution!

It is true that if you compare one disposable bottle to one reusable bottle, the emissions of a reusable bottle are much higher. Because reusable bottles are made of varying materials, it is difficult to calculate their carbon emissions. For example, a plastic BPA-free reusable bottle has 20% of the embodied energy of a metal bottle. However, metal can be recycled eternally, unlike plastic. That is to say that when you recycle steel or aluminum all of the metal is recovered. Plastics, on the other hand, degrade, limiting the amount of times they can be recycled.

However, I reject the notion that you should make this comparison one to one.

The point of a reusable bottle is to replace disposables completely (or as completely as possible). So lets think of a way to not lose our water bottles.

So of course, I used to forget my bottle all the time. But I came up with a solution that worked for me: I have two different bottles, and neither of them travel with me. I keep one at home and one at work. This way, I have kept the same two bottles for over a year now.

You might want to leave one in your gym locker, who knows. Something that doesn't move can't be lost, figure out what works for you.

Stay strong friend, I commend you for your great question with this picture.

Happy Halloween!

Cheers,
Ignacio