Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fancy Steel Water Bottles

In relation to this week's Earth Day the New York Times is running a comparison between the energy costs of stainless steel water bottles and disposable plastic ones. Given the intensive energy input to steel production, it will take between 50 and 100 reuses of the steel water bottles to balance out an equivalent usage of disposable bottles. That seems reasonable enough to me. In my water drinking prime, I refilled my Nalgene bottle twice a day, which was the volume equivalent of 4 or 5 disposables. The problem I have with this analysis is that the author used disposable plastic as a straw man. I'd like to see the balance between a stainless steel container and the polycarbonate bottles that you can use just as much. I know, if you drink 6.02x10^23 liters of water from polycarbonate bottles, you might get cancer. But there are other durable plastic choices.

There's another kicker in the feature (that seems a little off): the carbon costs of marketing and storing a steel bottle on the shelf of an REI or equivalent store may be as much as producing it in the first place!

The bottom line seems to me to be: Use old stuff. Reusing anything is better than buying a new 'green' object. The worst steel bottles are the red colored ones - every time I see someone drink from one, I think, "Noooo! Don't drink that kerosene!" But that's just the Boy Scout in me...

1 comment:

manganese said...

Nice analysis, Tom. I liked that NYT article too.

We Girl Scouts had to use the disposable green propane canisters (GSUSA is notoriously paranoid about liability - thus no refilling one's own fuel canister).

I'm still taking my chances with my Nalgene bottles.