My in-laws have a well on their property and their tap water is seriously the best! But most of us don’t have this luxury and resort to filtering our water. 😉 Today I’m going to share my favorite and most sustainable way to do this with a plastic-free water filter!
[Before diving in, it is extremely important to recognize that having access to clean water and even being able to filter our water is a privilege. While this should be a human right, it’s something that too many people are currently living without. If a community depends on plastic water bottles/shipments to receive access to clean water, my recommendations are going to be insignificant. There is much to be done to fight against these injustices and education/awareness needs to be spread (check out more here). As you work to take better care of the environment in your own life, know that our collective action impacts the bigger picture — environmental justice is social justice. For now, continue learning, continue applying/adapting, and if you can, donate to organizations actively working for justice.]
That being said, if you are privileged to live in a community with access to clean water and have a choice in how you’re going to filter your water, keep reading below!
Why Filter? And Why Plastic-Free?
Even “clean” water can contain dangerous chemicals and/or contaminants that are potentially carcinogenic, as it’s traveled through miles of pipeline. (read more about that here) The solution, if you have a choice, is not to turn to bottled water but to simply filter your water. It takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce enough plastic for bottled water that will only last Americans one year! The energy required to capture, treat, send this water to a bottling plant, fill, package, transport, cool, and recycle / dispose within that entire process is a tremendous amount! Let’s simply look at the amount of energy required to make the plastic and then fabricate it into the bottles. That amount alone is equivalent to fueling over 1 million American cars/trucks for a year! (source)
So, plastic bottles don’t make sense (again, when you have a choice), but neither do plastic filters. If you haven’t already heard, plastic has detrimental effects on our planet AND harmful effects on our health! Because of this, I made the switch a few years ago from using disposable Brita filters to using plastic-free water filters. (if you want to learn more about the negative impact of plastic waste, check out my blog posts here or here)
The Best Option for a Plastic-Free Water Filter
Why yes, that is a stick inside my water pitcher! And THAT is the solution!
The Japanese have been using this practice of filtering water with charcoal made from oak branches for hundreds of years. You’re probably wondering how it works. Basically, this charcoal has been “activated” using oxygen to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms. The charcoal is then used to “adsorb” substances from gases or liquids, and “adsorb” means to attach by chemical attraction. When certain chemicals pass by the bonding surface, they attach and are trapped. (source) These charcoal sticks naturally and effectively adsorb: lead, mercury, copper, aluminum, uranium, molybdenum, and more. It also leaves behind important minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. (source) In fact, the main ingredient within plastic water filters IS activated charcoal!
To filter, you simply place the charcoal stick into your water bottle or pitcher of water. I’d recommend using glass or metal since plastic leaches toxins. Then just let it sit in the water. The amount of time needed for the charcoal to interact with the water molecules depends on its size. Each brand will give you specific instructions. After that time (about 1-5 hours), you have purified water ready to drink!
You can continue using that stick for months. Boil the stick once a month to cleanse the impurities and reopen the pores. When the time has come to replace it (usually between 4-6 months), your old stick can be repurposed. Some new uses are to eliminate odors in your fridge, in the closet, by your pet’s bed, etc! Or you can break it up and put the pieces in your garden or potted plants to help improve water absorption. You could even turn it into a crafty decorative piece! And if all else fails, they’re compostable. 😉
My personal favorite brand is “Kishu”. They’re based in Denver, CO, and work with Japanese artisans to sustainably harvest and renew their materials. Even their packaging is 100% Green! Kishu uses recycled paper stock for the outer box and a compostable wrapper on the inside (made from wood pulp) to hold the charcoal stick! (find out more here) You can buy directly from their site… But if you want to go above and beyond to support local business, you could buy from The Zero Market. That way you’re supporting both!
Here’s a link to similar charcoal stick brands if you want to compare!
As an alternative option, if you’re looking to filter with less waste but aren’t ready to embrace the fully plastic-free water filter yet, check out this link for a few brands that are working to be more sustainable.
Cheers To Our Health!
Let’s remember to give thanks for something that seems so simple and yet is denied to many — clean drinking water. Think of how you can help others obtain access to this necessity as well! Consider volunteering, donating, voting, educating, and so on. And finally, in your efforts to filter your water, consider what’s best for your own health and the health of the planet.
Cheers to that!