Testing the Waters: Exploring alternatives to plastic water bottles

By Dolores Tropiano

In part two of Turning Green, my family decided to put plastic water bottles on notice. No longer would they cover our counters and carpets and contribute to the contamination of the oceans. In our home, these bad-boy bottles were banned.

But it wasn’t easy. Like many harmful relationships, plastic bottles had their benefits. First
of all, we actually enjoy the taste of bottled water (save for my husband who hates any water unless it comes in a liter of soda). Strange as this sounds, we prefer drinking from a water bottle over a high-tech hydro cans. And we love the convenience. This became apparent when my son and his friends were going on a bike ride recently. He went to
the fridge to grab some water bottles only to realize there were none to offer. Not cool. (And even though he seems to support the water bottle ban, he snuck a large plastic water bottle into the house after an Arizona Diamondbacks game last week and I noticed that he’s been secretly refilling it ever since.) Which I have just learned can also be


But the bad outweighs the good. Or it would soon after I soiled the reputation of this not so pure product. I set out to built a good- versus-evil case against plastic bottles. Sure it wasn’t Batman taking on the Joker, but there are some serious movies out there that deliver the dark and dooming message of plastic pollution. (Check out “A Plastic Ocean” and “Divide in Concord.”)

Here are some serious problems with plastic: It poisons fish that eventually make their way to our plates. It has caused the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is more than twice the size of Texas! And according to National Geographic, 8 tons of trash enter the sea
each year – that’s the equivalent of five trash bags for every foot of coastline in the world. Oh, and did I mention that particles from the plastic often end up in the water? Yeah, horrible hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA and phthalates that can cause cancers, infertility and neurological disorders.

But I was heading into untested waters. So, I purchased one on Amazon, ( probably not up to true scientific standards), and when it arrived I turned the entire experiment over to my younger son, Dante. Too many test tubes, droplets and multisyllabic scientific words for me. Soon we had a clear idea of our water’s chemical content and were ready to find an alternative.


The tester evaluated for 10 contaminants including lead, which can lead to neurological and reproductive damage, to alkaline and copper, which can contribute to gastrointestinal problems. Did I really want to know this?

The results showed no chlorine, iron, nitrates or nitrites, (phew!) but was positive for pesticides and hardness. The latter indicated that we had water that was as hard as hail. No surprise there.

Next was the vast exploration of alternatives coupled with some ideas contributed by readers and friends. Some swore by water softeners, which reduce the damaging effects
hard water has on plumbing and skin. But my understanding is that it may not necessarily remove contaminants from the water.

Reverse osmosis had a lot of recommendations, along with concerns that it eliminates much-needed minerals from water. It also uses four gallons of water for every gallon made. Still, many people were optimistic about this option. Marc Richter, owner of Streamline Water, sells commercial reverse osmosis products with an eco-friendly
membrane that reduces water waste by 75 percent a day.

Purification products, such as Radiant Life, provide a 14-stage system that uses reverse osmosis and then remineralizes the water. Sounds perfect but costs a pretty penny. Other products do a variation of this, albeit with fewer stages, but for a lot less money.

In the end, I decided to ditch the filtered water pitcher (which never gets refilled by anyone but me). Now, I’m leaning towards a remineralized reverse osmosis process. I’m also going to buy a bunch of BPA-free hydro flasks (that stay cold for 24 hours) to keep a crowd of kids hydrated in our home.

Who ever thought something as simple as clean water, could become so complicated.


Turning Green Commitment Card

  • On (date)  ________ I/we (circle one) decided to change… __________________.
  • I/We believe this is an important because ____________________________.
  • Green Living or ______________will help me/us stay accountable.
  • These are action steps needed to make this happen:
  • _____________________________
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Reader Comments

Hi Dolores,
I read your article on “Keeping Our Heads Above Water…Bottles” in May’s edition of Green Living magazine, and want to tell you what our decision is. We have H2O Concepts Water System in our whole house and love it. (www.h2oconcepts.com) So, no salt added…ever. And all the bad stuff is filtered out, but the good minerals are left in. Plus all our faucets and showers, etc., are on the system, so we can shower in good, healthy, clean water too. But the point is that I have a hard plastic 750 ml water bottle that I fill up all day, every day. The same bottle. It’s awesome!

Keep Smiling!
Barbara Moss


Try refillable metal bottles that hold a liter or more and stay cold for a long time after chilling in the fridge.

Peter Corbett


Our family has rarely purchased a plastic water bottle over the last three years. The only time that we do is at the airport before security. We drink it and then we refill it once we get through security. Our method is to buy the glass kombucha bottles at Sprouts or Whole Foods. We then wash them out and refill them with filtered water and keep them in the refrigerator. Every time we go out in the car, we take one or two bottles with us. When guests come to visit, we offer them a glass water bottle to keep with them in the duration of their visit.
We refill our glass bottles from our reverse osmosis system in the kitchen. In fact, we filter the osmosis water again in a Brita container on the counter. This works very well and now we have converted our daughter and her family to do the same thing. When we go to people’s home, if they offer us a plastic bottle of water, we simply ask for water out of a glass.

Thank you for your article.
Cozette and Bill Matthews


I highly recommend the brand Mira. We all use them. Keeps the water very cold for a long time.

Irene Gottlieb Greco


The most important thing consumers need to know is that not all water filters are created equal…don’t assume they all remove the same contaminants and choose anyone—do your homework. Most pour-through filter pitchers have a two-stage filter that use a layer of activated carbon to remove contaminants. ZeroWater uses a five-stage ion exchange filter that makes sure virtually all the dissolved solids are removed.

Dawn Ryden with ZeroWater


Dolores Tropiano is the editor of Green Living magazine and the multi-tasking mother of Andre and Dante. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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