Week 11 | Bottled Water | 52 Weeks to Downsize & Minimalize

During Week #11, we learn and practice ways to downsize and minimalize the use of disposable plastic water bottles and plastic containers for water. We review the pros and cons of plastic water bottles, what plastic “leaching” means and does, and spotlight alternative water storage and filtering options.

By cutting down the use of plastic bottles, we can:

1) Save money.
2) Save the environment.
3) Protect ourselves from the health repercussions of plastic leaching into drinking water.


Pros of plastic water bottles/containers  (let me tell you, there aren’t many.)

  • quick and easy storage and travel companion
  • portable reminder to drink water
  • less chance of shattering if banged or dropped
  • a BIG TIME money maker for the plastic water bottle industry (a “pro” for them).

Cons of plastic water bottles/containers  (get ready…)

  • Store-bought bottled water is more expensive than tap water, and 25% of bottled water is from the tap. Companies filter or use ultraviolet light to radiate tap water, then sell it for several thousand times the cost of municipal tap water. The bottled-water industry is so successful, it has beaten coffee, milk, and juice in the number of gallons sold. Only beer and soda surpass it.


“Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.” ~ EcoWatch

  • What you drink in a few minutes leaves behind plastic trash to linger for a thousand years. The U.S. public goes through an estimated 50 billion water bottles a year, and most of those plastic containers are not recycled.* Humans are not perfect recyclers, and our environment is paying for it. Plastic bottles that get thrown in the trash go into landfills. Toxins from degrading plastics leach into soil and watersheds, which also flow into rivers, oceans and to neighboring communities, states, and countries. In many developing countries where there is not a safe source of tap water (and not-so-strict recycling laws, education, or culture), bottled water is the only option. Imagine the plastic toxins we send to them, and what they send to us…


  • The creation AND recycling of plastic bottles uses TONS of energy. Plastic bottles – including recycled plastics – are manufactured using high volumes of fossil fuels and other energy. Bottles need to be designed and created, filled, labeled, transported nationwide and internationally in trucks and floatings vessels, keeping them cold in supermarkets and corner store refrigerators…all using more gas, energy, and emitting greenhouse gases. Plastic recycling efforts have improved, but still leave a huge carbon footprint. Watch this video and look closely at the breakdown and manufacturing process that goes into recycling.


  • Despite the hype, BPA-free plastic bottles are dangerous to humans. Considered “safer” if used only once, BPA-free #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. CertiChem found that 70 percent of products that are BPA-free still leach harmful chemicals into food and beverages. As #1 bottles are reused, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a possible human carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. Because the plastic is porous, you can take a swig of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse the bottles, especially when they’ve been exposed to heat (microwaves, left in hot cars) or cold (refrigerators and freezers), or sit around for a long time (stored water bottles, emergency preparedness supplies). So much for wanting to be “green” by re-using a disposable plastic water bottle over and over and over again…


How to Identify BPA Products
BPA products have recycle codes on their bottoms with the #3 or #7.

“Plastics labeled ‘1,’ ‘2,’ ‘4’ and ‘5’ are the safest,” says Dr. Whitney Christian, a health scientist for Cardno ChemRisk. “However, avoid reusing plastics labeled ‘1’ and ‘2,’ and do not use them with warm or hot liquids.” Avoid eating foods or drinking beverages stored in plastic containers if pregnant or nursing because you could pass the leached chemicals to your baby.

How to Ensure Safety

Use glass bottles and stainless steel water bottles and containers. Although glass bottles might not always be practical, they are a much healthier alternative to plastic water bottles.

Another safety method is to avoid putting plastic bottles, sippy cups or food storage containers in the microwave or dishwasher, the freezer, or exposing them to sunlight. “Leaching of chemicals from plastics can also happen from repeat use and from scratches that accumulate over time,” says Dr. Christian.

The Breast Cancer Fund also recommends that consumers limit exposure to toxins in BPA, BPS and other alternatives by using glass, stainless steel and food safe ceramic containers. They stress that it is not safe to microwave in plastic.

Tips to Store Emergency Water

  • Use wood rain catchment barrels, and glass or ceramic storage containers.
  • If using plastic or “resin” water barrels, or storing bottled water in plastic, rotate the water every six months to prevent toxic leaching; never let the water sit inside a plastic container for longer than 6-12 months. Rotate the water by using it to quench non-edible plants and trees. Use fresh rain water to refill catchment systems each season.

A Few Water Filtering Options for Tap Water Drinkers

For home, one option is the Soma water carafe and filter. It’s a sleek, glass carafe with a fully biodegradable filter made from coconut shells. Soma sends a new filter every 60 days. Visit Food & Water Watch for information on in-sink filtration systems. Soda Stream is an option for sparkling water.

Change is simple and makes a real difference. We can teach generations how easy it is to be plastic water bottle-free, just like we used to be.

“93 percent of American ages age 6 and older test positive for the plastic chemical BPA. BPA-free is not safer.” ~EcoWatch

*Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It by Elizabeth Royte (2008) 

Bella_Organizing_Best_Professional_Organizers_San_Francisco_Oakland_Berkeley_silicon_valley_montereyIsabella Guajardo, founder and owner of Bella Organizing, is a San Francisco Bay Area professional organizer offering home organizing, interior redesign, and residential move management services throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Call (510) 229-7321 or email info@bellaorganizing.com for more information. Gift certificates are available.

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