Photo joshme17 @ flickr
The problem of one-use plastic bottles has far from gone away - we're still chucking out 30 billion empties globally each year. At least a six-pack of different U.S. and Canadian cities has come up with some kind of bottled water restrictions, hooray. But how to quench our collective thirst - have you noticed how few and far between once-common water fountains have become? Some solutions are cropping up, however, at least giving restaurants and offices a way to supply tap and sparkling water for guests and employees.
Filtered, carbonated, and (so far) free
Natura Water system is installed in more than a dozen restaurants and hotel eateries (such as Chez Panisse) in L.A., San Francisco, Miami and now Chicago - and so far, these places are serving it without charging patrons. The Natura system is an on-site filter system that takes local tap water and passes it through carbon to remove dirt, rust, chlorine, and other impurities, and then through a disinfection chamber to kill 99% of microorganisms and germs - then chills it and carbonates if desired. Natura isn't practical for home use - the shiny, espresso-like dispensing machines run into the thousands of dollars, making a glass pitcher in the fridge a much better alternative (though only for still). Natura says it would like to get into the home market, and one Swedish company already has - hit the jump for more.
Then there's the Sparkling Water, Powered by AGA concept - a sink-top faucet that lets you use tap water and carbonate it on the spot. AGA is an industrial gases company, so they know their CO2 (also originally the company that invented the AGA stove beloved in the U.K.). The cheapest model of the Sparkling Water faucet currently goes for around U.S.$500 - that's a lot of pennies, but factoring in all the fossil fuels and/or human labor that goes into getting enough bottled water for a family of four, and well, you might get close to recouping your costs in a year.
And finally, the SodaStream, a product that had its first heyday in the 80s, along with slush-makers and shave-ice machines. SodaStream claims ten million households use the counter-top appliance to carbonate their water or create homemade sodas. Normally, we'd eschew the SodaStream, as the regular models use a plastic bottle. But the $199.99 Penguin kit is fairly attractive (made in Israel), and comes with two glass carafes for holding your sparkling water. The company is also working on essences to flavor the water instead of sweetened soda flavors. Now if there was just a way for us to somehow pipe in excess CO2 from coal-fired plants to our Penguin, all would truly be better in the world.
Read More on Tap vs. Bottle Water
Tap Water or Bottled Water: Which is Better?
Great Chefs Prefer Tap Water
Lipstick on a Pig Dept.: Robert Walker on Fiji Water
Greenest Gift: GPS, Eco-Pig Or A Fizzy Water Maker? : TreeHugger