During her 3 month tenure in Singapore, my sister took a short trip to Vietnam and made me think of something I can't believe I hadn't previously. Drinking water. Pretty much the most crucial substance for general survival, besides air I guess. The majority of the countries I'm traveling to don't have safe tap water so most Western visitors will end up leaving a trail of bottled water in their wakes.
I almost had a panic attack thinking about the mountain of bottles I would accumulate during 6 months of drinking this way. And they have so many other issues demanding attention in these countries that recycling is not a priority so there's no telling where these single-use containers whose contents are consumed within a few minutes will end up settling for 450 years. (Probably the Pacific trash vortex.) I also read a recent article on Gizmodo about how fluffed up and backwards the bottled water industry is anyways, and why we should boycott them.
So I started doing some research on portable water filtration and purification alternatives. Why is the water in other countries so scary? REI has a great comprehensive article explaining it:
Water-related illness is typically linked to 1 of 3 types of invisible-to-the-eye pathogens (disease-carrying pests). Caused by animal or human contamination, principally via fecal matter, the following trio of bad boys is potentially lurking in just about any lake, river or stream outside the U.S. and Canada:
- Protozoa and cysts (Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia lamblia). Single-cell parasites; tiny (between 1 and 20 microns. A micron is 1-millionth of a meter, or 0.00004 inch. The period at the end of this sentence is roughly 500 microns.)
- Bacteria (Escherichia coli, or E. coli, Salmonella, Vibrio cholerae, Yersinia entercolitica, Leptospira interrogans and many others). Very tiny (0.1 to 10 microns).
- Viruses (hepatitis A, rotavirus, enterovirus, norovirus). Exceptionally tiny (0.005 to 0.1 micron). Caused by human waste.
Water bottles, filters and pumps designated as purifiers will neutralize all three threats and there are tons to choose from. I found most of the ones at REI to be pretty expensive and cumbersome. And the cheaper tablets take longer to work and sometimes add a chlorine taste to the water. Then I found the LifeStraw Go Water Bottle on Amazon which filters and purifies up to 1,000 liters of water for just $30. And with a 4.5 star rating based on 167 customer reviews - many of which I read - it seems pretty legit. If you compare that to 1,000 bottles of 1L water conservatively priced at $1 each, that's $970 in savings and even more plastic pollution aversion Karma. There's also the less expensive and smaller LifeStraw Personal Water Filter that you can use to drink directly from any water source for about $16 which also has nearly a five star rating based on 2,849 customer reviews.
I investigated the LifeStraw company further and found out that they provide clean drinking water to developing schools and communities, starting with Kenya, which is near and dear to me since I volunteered there a couple years ago. And they took it a step further with offsetting carbon emissions, in their words "Do business and do good."
This makes me so happy. Clean water and saving trees? I can't not support this company after all that so here's my safe water kit that I'll be taking with me for far less than it would cost me to buy six months worth of bottled water.