According to Fast Company, Americans spent $15 billion on bottled water last year, which is more than we spent on "iPods or movie tickets." From corporate buffet lunches to health club vending machines, restaurants, and home refrigerators, bottled waters such as Poland Spring, Evian, and Perrier account for a huge percentage of what we drink every day. But how healthy is bottled water, for us and for the environment?
Bottled Water: No More Beneficial Than Tap
Not very, according to many experts. All drinking water, from fancy Italian Lurisia to plain old Brooklyn tap, has to meet the same standards for consumption. Bottled water is more or less an appeal to vanity. We buy it because it makes us feel fit, virtuous, and hip, when in fact it is no more beneficial than what comes from the kitchen sink, in addition to being more harmful to the earth. Consider how much fuel is used to transport bottled water around the world—according to Fast Company, in the United States alone it's a weekly equivalent of 37,800 18-wheelers delivering nothing but water. Add to that all the plastic and glass bottles, and you've got a whole lot of wasted energy.
Restaurants Doctoring Up Tap Water
For all these reasons, many of America's premiere "green" restaurants (most notably Alice Water's Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California) are no longer selling bottled water. Instead, they are doctoring up tap with special filters, minerals, and purifiers, and by infusing it with fizz to make seltzer. (According to the Wall Street Journal, New York's Il Buco serves carbon-filtered flat water, and San Dominico offers tap water that has been filtered through Japanese stones.)
As a bona fide seltzer enthusiast, all the negative press surrounding my beloved San Pellegrino had me feeling more than a little guilty. Sure, I always order tap when I'm out to dinner, but I buy big bottles all the time at the supermarket, and little bottles without a second thought at the corner deli. What could I do at home to contribute to the cause without sacrificing taste, or bubbles?
The Soda-Club Home Seltzer Maker to the Rescue
Enter the Soda-Club Home Seltzer Maker. The kit costs less than $100, and contains a carbonating bottle with enough carbon dioxide to make up to 110 liters of seltzer. Think about it: that's 110 less liter-sized bottles in the recycling bin, or worse, the trash can. In addition, the Soda Club offers flavorings such as orange and lemon-lime. Just pour a few drops into the reusable bottle and volià—homemade citrus seltzer.
But just how easy is the machine to operate? I have to admit, I was a little intimidated. The box sat in my kitchen for almost a week before I sat down to actually assemble everything. But as it turns out, I had nothing to fear—the instructions were incredibly simple and the whole process took less than ten minutes. Once everything was in place, all I had to do was fill the bottle with tap water, attach it to the Seltzer Maker, and press a button—four or five times for a standard level of fizz, more for extra effervescence. It tasted just as good as anything I would have bought, and I felt pretty cool offering glasses to my roommates ("Want some seltzer? I made it myself.")
Now I'm excited to experiment with different essences, in particular orange blossom, rose water, and grapefruit. In the coming weeks, I'll be bringing you recipes for homemade water. Let me know what flavors you'd like to see. Protecting the environment doesn't have to be a tedious bore—it can be simple, creative, and delicious!