The challenge with plastic bottled water

How can we obtain clean drinking water when travelling, sailing, and nomadding without buying plastic bottles? What are the drinkwater alternatives to plastic water bottles?

Water is life. It’s a basic human need. 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water and collecting drinking water is the daily priority. At home, you may have the luxury to drink safely from the tab, in many countries and on sailing boats buying plastic bottled water has become the norm. We buy it because bottled water is cheaply available, we need it on the go, we want bubbles, because we think drinking from a sealed bottle is pure and free of contaminants, or we simply don’t know what the alternatives to plastic water bottles are.

With pollution all around us, it is becoming more and more difficult to figure out if water is safe to drink. So we buy bottles flown and shipped from as far as Fiji or the Himalaya, because we assume it’s better than the alternative, we don’t know what the alternative is, or we’re gone travelling unprepared. Water has gone from being a free natural resource to one of the most profitable commercial products of the last century. It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Consider these facts, explore the simple and cheap alternatives to plastic water bottles. Then choose what works for you!

Facts on plastic bottled water

  • We produce almost 20,000 plastic bottles every second (1). We globally buy a million plastic bottles per Minute. It is estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020 (2). Only 9% is recycled (3). Where does the rest go? 
  • The amount of water going into making a bottle could be up to six or seven times what’s inside the bottleThe total energy requirements for every bottle’s production, transport and disposal are on average equal to filling a quarter of that bottle with oil, with an energy cost a thousand times larger than the energy required to procure, process, treat and deliver tap water
  • Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in over 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water brands. Levels of plastic fibers in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water (4). 
  • The quality of tap water is more regulated than bottled water. There is no regulation yet that demands brands to spell out the source of their bottled water. One study found that only 55 percent of bottled water brands are actually spring water, while the remaining 45 percent brands sell treated tap water as bottled water. 
  • If plastic bottles are exposed to heat or sit around for a long time chemicals can seep out of which some are possible endocrine disruptors.

Bottled water is not a healthy option for the ocean, our wallet, and ourselves.

What are budget and travel-friendly alternatives to plastic bottled water?

10 travel-friendly drink water solutions as alternatives to plastic water bottles

Explore what works for you and your adventure!

 1. Fill a bottle or cup with tap water

In most places in Europe and North America tapwater is as healthy and good (and in many cases, better!) as bottled water. Use it! It’s a privilege! This sounds very simple and obvious but why do we still buy bottled water then?  If you’re worried about the quality of the tap water or if you don’t like the taste, combine tapwater with one of the other recommended solutions listed below. If you’re in a bar or restaurant and they don’t give tap water because they sell plastic bottled water, share some ocean facts of the bottle crisis in the ocean with the bar owner and/or boycott the place.

2. Boil water

That’s what grandma did. As concluded by the World Health Organization, boiling water is sufficient to kill pathogens (bacteria, viruses, & protozoa). It doesn’t eliminate chemical contamination such as pesticide, herbicides, and other man-made pollution.

DIY. After the water has reached a rolling boil (The Center for Disease Control recommends that you boil water for 1 minute), remove from heat and let it cool down naturally (without ice). The trick is thinking ahead so you have cool water. 

3. Expose water to the sun and air

Municipalities often add Chlorine to disinfect tap water. Chlorine solutions lose strength while standing or when exposed to air or sunlight (source).

DIY. Let tap water sit in a jug without lid and chlorine evaporates after 24 hours.

4. Filter with Fruit Peels

A widely available water filtration solution are fruit peels! Researcher Mallampati found that apple and tomato peels are remarkably efficient at absorbing harmful pollutants including heavy metals, chemicals, various nanoparticles, dyes, and pesticides. Banana peels also have proven promising qualities to filter water (6).

DIY. Instead of just throwing them away, try this. Soaks the peels in a rubbing alcohol solution, dry them out, and put them in the water for two hours to let them do the filtering job.  Remove the peels and the water is ready to drink. (7)

5. Add purifying drops

Drops are a lightweight water purification solution. There are lots of chemical drops on the market with either iodine or chlorine as the purifying ingredient. Iodine is the stronger variant and kills most (but not all) pathogens. Drops are also effective to remove different types of water based contaminants. Iodine also helps to neutralize strong taste. Most of the purifying drops do not have an expiration date and are therefore a good choice for long term travel. Iodine and chlorine drops are only recommended for short-term situations because the chemicals used in chlorine or iodine-based products can become harmful to the body if consumed for extended periods of time.

The only natural water purifying drops and free of iodine, chlorine and any toxic substances I found are Purinize drops. A combination of sulfate mineral salts disinfects and clarifies the raw water. 

DIY. You add a few drops to contaminated water. The dirt and contaminants will settle at the bottom and give safe drinking water generally one hour later. You can also remove unwanted sediment with a portable filter or cloth (but you don’t have to).

 

6. Activated charcoals sticks

Another creation of mother nature: Activated charcoal sticks! Active charcoal naturally bonds with mercury, chlorine, copper, and even lead. There are lots of other purposes for activated charcoal too (brushing teeth, food poisoning). I now have it standard in my nomad kit. Activated charcoal is not effective in removing dissolved inorganic contaminants, some metals, chemicals and viruses.

How does it work?  You place the activated charcoal stick in a jug or bottle of water and let it sit for a few hours. Voila, impurities are filtered. They work up to four months and you can ‘reset them’ by simply boiling them! The best part: active charcoal can add healthy things like calcium, magnesium and iron back into your drinking water. (note. Activated charcoal is different than charcoal)

 

7. A Straw with filter

Similar to boiling water, filter straws eliminate bacteria, viruses, & protozoa. They can’t pass through the microscopic holes of the filter. They can filter up to 1000 liters of water without chemicals. It doesn’t filter all chemicals, heavy metals, and pesticides.

 

8. A Bottle with filter

Using a filter bottle has saved me from adding hundreds of plastic bottles to the trash pile, in just one month! The market has plenty of different filter bottles available. The challenge is to find filters that don’t need to be replaced often and that do not come in plastic.

 

9. Screw on a filter

Screw on water filters, also called ‘Faucet’ water filters can be screwed onto bottles and taps. Most but not all of them are a little bit bulky.

 

10. Don’t forget the reusable bottle

 

How do you know if it’s safe to drink?

We don’t know if bottled water is right. We don’t know if using the methods ourselves is right. What I do know is that the water quality result reports from the drops, charcoal method and filtration are positive and the water quality results from bottled water not always are. The main reason I ditch the plastic is because I’ve seen bottles floating around in the middle of the Atlantic, have first hand seen its impact, and now have learned that every bottle made never ever disappears. The second reason is health. Knowing what I know now after having studied tons of research report, I trust using self-purification methods myself more than bottled water that likely has been standing in the sun which is linked to health issues in the long run.
 
Of course we don’t want to spend a week in the bathroom either. To get extra confidence you can travel with some test strips to test the water quality. You can also combine methods for example drops + a filter.

Skeptical? Test your water!

 

What is the best travel friendly water filtration option?

The best option is the one that does not leave a trace. The best alternative to plastic water bottles is the one that works for you in your situation and destination where you are going to. It depends if you travel alone or not, your preferences, and the resources and availability around you. With so many options out there, different combinations of water purification and filtration can perfectly do the job.  There’s is no excuse for single use bottles.

Which alternative to plastic water bottles will you try out?

What do I use for water filtration in my nomadlife?


I’m a complex case since sometimes I’m on a boat, sometimes I’m on the land. Sometimes I’m in developing countries and sometimes in the developed world. Sometimes I travel alone, Sometimes with others. So what do I use to access clean drinking water?

I source clean drinking water with a combination of the above depending the situation I’m in. The habit of always having a reusable water bottle with me is in the system. I refill from taps wherever I can.

Sometimes the sailboats I’m on have a water-maker and/or filter on the tap. If they have both, I trust it without using additional purification. If the boat only has a water maker I now also additionally purify it myself.  I’ve become terribly sick by trusting a water-maker only. The tank can still contain contaminants, also when it has been 100% emptied and refilled.

For additional purification, I boil it if I have the facility. If I don’t, I use a water filter. So far I’ve tried a water filter bottle (Water To Go). This has saved the environment from buying hundreds of plastic bottles. It’s not a circular option since the filters need renewal every two months and produces waste. The charcoal sticks are now my personal favorite water purifying technique since I do not generate any waste. I simply put the stick in my reusable bottle. It tastes great and I feel great.

I’m super curious to try out the drops and will update this post once I have.

As sailors and ocean lovers, we should not and we don’t have to rely on bottled water. We have the responsibility to be prepared with alternatives to plastic water bottles. Inspire your fellow crew and travelmates with your alternative to plastic water bottle water system. And let me know how you go!

What system do you use when travelling to get safe drinking water? Share your wins in the comments and with #PLASTICFREENOMAD on the social media channels

As always, opinions are my own. No organisation or brand is paying me to write this or mention them. What drives me is saving the ocean. Sometimes links to ocean-friendly alternatives to plastic water bottles contain affiliate links. If you’re looking to purchase something, huge thanks if you purchase it via this website (but try to find it locally first! ). At no extra cost to you, orders and bookings through this website give me a tiny piece of the pie that help me keep investigating, exploring and creating content about on ocean action and solutions! The information presented here is not a substitute for specific training or experience. When going into the outdoors it is your responsibility to have the proper knowledge, experience, and equipment to travel safely.

Here are more ways to support ocean awareness and action. Splashthanks!

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The Holiday Sailing Packing List – Practical and Ocean Conscious Tips

Summer sailing season is on and you’re going on a sailing trip!

Good for you! Your life will never be the same ;). Especially if you have never been on a sailing trip before it can be difficult to figure out what to pack for a sailing trip. Preparation is key to make sure you, as well as the ocean, will have a good experience!

Here are some sailing packing tips to have you well prepared for your first sailing trip!

A practical and ocean conscious holiday sailing packing list

A few general sailing packing tips and considerations

  • Pack for the destination you’re going to and the adventures you’re planning to have. The list presented here focuses on the warm charter island hopping / coastal kind of sailing trip.
  • Bring little. Chances are you’ll end up wearing the same things anyway. Storage space is worth gold on board. You won’t have much. If you can live without it, leave it at home. Especially on a summer sailing holiday, you need very little. Most days are spent in bikini and boardshorts.
  • Check what’s provided on board so you don’t have to bring it: towels, sheets, 12-volt USB charger, dishing washing sponge etc. If it’s a rental boat there will be very few things on board.

First, I will present the sailing packing list for easy reference which you can use as a checklist. After the list, I provide some commentary on different items to help you figure out whether they may be necessary for you or not, plus some more happy ocean sailing packing tips to be a real ocean, conscious warrior.

The Sailing Holiday Packing Check List

Luggage

Clothes

  • 1 wind jacket
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 tee shirts
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt (against the sun)
  • 2 tank tops
  • 2 fast drying shorts/board short
  • 7 underwear
  • 1 long pants
  • Clothes to sleep in
  • Some decent clothes for on shore
  • Swimwear! x3
  • A lycra for sun protection
  • For girls: a sports bra/top for the adventure activities
  • A sarong and/or coverup

Shoes

Sun protection

Entertainment

Toiletries and sleeping

Health kit

  • Seasickness pills/wristband
  • Personal medicine/glasses/contact lenses

Paperwork & money

  • Valid Passport (and visa if necessary)
  • Cash
  • Debit card
  • Credit card

Food, Drinks, Cleaning

Can be handy & cool

  • A Headlamp
  • Your country flag
  • Hammock
  • A notebook and pen
  • A sewing kit
  • A pocket knife
  • A little music speaker

Notes on the Sailing Packing List

The considerations on a few of the items listed above.

Luggage

Duffel bag Unless it’s a huge catamaran, a boat does not have storage room for a hard suitcase. A waterproof duffel bag is ideal; you can fold it into a small size. A 50- to 70-liter duffel bag is a good size. The smaller, the smarter you will pack. For years I have been travelling with this 70L AquaPac Duffel bag. Simple, light, and strong.

Day pack A 20- to 25-liter waterproof day backpack is nice for day hikes and shopping. It’s also helpful in dinghy rides from the boat to shore to keep things dry, or for swimming to the boat if there’s no dinghy around;). I use the 20l Aquapac backpack.

Storage bags/ Shopping Bags Chances are you will only have one small cupboard or drawer to store your stuff. It’s helpful to have different coloured (non-crispy/noisy) bags to be able to easily find what you need. There are also easy to DIY from an old t-shirt. You can also use these bags for shopping.

Clothes

Summer sailing holidays are predominantly spent in bikinis and board shorts. Bring a few of those. Stretchy, fast drying and breathable fabrics are comfortable. We can look like hippies on board but bring something presentable to wear for on shore out of respect to the local communities. A long sleeve shirt is nice as protection from the sun. Usually, it’s hot in the sleeping cabins. Bring boxer shorts and a shirt or top for sleeping. Don’t forget a cap (to protect your face from the sun).

A sarong and/or coverup easy to pop on when coming out of the water and protect from the sun.

Shoes

Shoes don’t have to be sailing-specific shoes. On every island you touch shore, you will find places to explore and hills to climb on all sorts of soils. Good multi-purpose trail/running shoes allow for island exploration. I use my multi-purpose trail running shoes for sailing, walking, running, dancing, and everything. They do the job just fine. Just keep in mind that your shoes are very likely to get wet and salty. On deck, you have to be careful with black soles. They can leave marks on the deck.

Some captains have a barefoot policy. Nice for leisure sailing, it keeps the boat clean, and if you’re a passenger you’ll be fine. I prefer wearing shoes because I go around boats like a monkey and have stupidly sprained my ankles a few times too often.

Flip the flop with your Flip Flops

Sun protection

Cap A cap is a must. A hat leash is Neptune’s greatest invention. This is a clipper between your cap and t-shirt, which, in my case, has prevented my cap from going into the sea for about 283 times.

Sunglasses Polarised sunglasses are favourable at sea to view deeper, sharper and clearer. You can better see the dolphins swimming underwater at the bow. A neck cord prevents your sunglasses from going overboard.

Bandana A multi-purpose headband/scarf/bandana thingy to protect your head to keep the hair out of your face in the wind.

Sunscreen Bring a good ocean friendly sunscreen.

Entertainment

SUPS, Hammocks, snorkeling gear, floating devices can all greatly add to the experience! Bring it if you have it or check the second-hand marketplace. Locally this stuff is expensive and/or imported low ocean-friendly shipped from China. Lots of this toys are out there already and often only used for one summer sailing holiday. See what you can re-use. If you want to bring surf or kite gear, check if there is space for that on board.

Film & photography – Memories are certainly best captured with your mind, at the moment—but capturing the adventure with a camera can also create nice memories to look back on later and to excite others about the ocean! Smartphones do the job these days. Protect the gear well. Electronics are not made for life on the sea. You only need one wave and hatch not properly closed to have your phone or camera ruined. Also, on boats it easily becomes humid and salty, so you better protect it. Buying a new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade. The second-hand marketplace has affordable water-proof cases.

Music brings happiness. Bring your Phone with some sweet playlists downloaded,  cable to connect the music machine to the speakers. Also, bring earphones or headphones, so you don’t disturb the other crew if there are in chill or siesta modus.

Charging Usually charging phones and tablets is not a problem. You need a 12V USB charger for that. These are popular on board so it can be helpful to bring your own. Don’t forget the charging cable. Label them so it doesn’t get mixed up with other cables. Charter boats usually only have 12Volt charging possibilities.

Universal adapter Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas have different power outlets. Bring a universal adapter if you change continents so you can plug in everywhere on land. It’s not easy to find these things in harbour towns.

Toiletries

Towels and bed linen are usually present. Not always, check this or bring a towel and pillow cover/sheet and/or sleeping bag. I use my sarong for drying and sleeping situations.

Earplugs Good earplugs can help to dampen the noises on the boat. Be sure to only wear them when appropriate.

Soap and shampoo Whatever shampoo, soap or shampoo product you bring on board, remember that it all drains straight out to the sea. Choose biodegradable. A simple soap/shampoo bar or multifunctional soap is a responsible solution. You can also wash your clothes with that. Learn about the shampoo challenges and plastic free soap & shampoo solutions.

environmental friendly plastic free shampoo

Washing unit A sponge or washing glove is handy to give yourself a quick wash. Baby wipes are often recommended and can surely be useful for you, but not for the environment. Opt for biodegradable ones.

Tooth care Bring a (bamboo) toothbrush, paste or powder, and toothpicks (in many places in the Mediterranean and Caribbean they are individually wrapped in plastic). Btw, Rinsing with seawater is a really good mouthwash.

Hair ties and clips Bring something to tie up your hair. Otherwise, your hair will be all over the place and it can be dangerous with making sailing maneuvers.

Health Kit

For casual coastal sailing holidays, you do not need to worry about seasickness. If crew or passengers feel bad, the next port or anchorage is close. If the plan is to make larger distances then you may want to bring something for seasickness. Seasickness remedies are available in pill, plaster, and wristband form. Scopolamine is the ingredient that many find to work best, but comes with some side effects so be aware of the dosage. You can read and learn more about preparing and dealing with seasickness in book Ocean Nomad.

Food / Drinks / Cleaning

If you rent a boat as a group, it comes with the very basics. Together you’d have to source things like dishwashing liquid, a sponge, toilet paper (never to be thrown in a toilet on board), shampoo. Coordinate with fellow holidaymakers who brings what. A huge difference can be made by arriving prepared for a minimal waste shopping experience. In the Mediterranean and Caribbean, popular sailing holiday places, the corner shops in most cases do not have plastic-free regulations in place (yet). Instead of taking things as they come, help to shape as they go, and show up with some reusables. Think about a bag, water filtration solutions, food produce bags, a reusable straw, a reusable cup (especially if you like a Greek frappé on the go).

By taking some (ocean-friendly) dishwashing liquid, a sponge and/or cleaning cloth from home, this will prevent you for having one to buy new locally which generally comes with lots of plastic wrapping and non-ocean-friendly ingredients. Most dish washing liquid brand contain harmful ingredients for the ocean (phosphate, Chlorine, Artificial fragrance). Bring ocean-friendly dishwashing liquid.

On the average summer sailing trip, food and the food costs are shared as a group. Everyone can have a say in what’s being provisioned. Try not to be too complicated for your fellow crew, so if you have particular tastes you really can’t do without for a week, bring some goods of your own / buy it yourself.

If you’re obsessed with tea or herbs/spices (like me), consider bringing some of that. This way you don’t have to buy the triple plastic wrapped tea bags or herb pots. Also, if you are gluten intolerant, vegetarian or vegan, prepare or bring something from the food department if you think this might be an issue. I personally travel with a mix of seeds. It gives me superpowers. For short-term holidays I wouldn’t bother.

For all the rest, shop local! Part of the fun and you can make a big difference by shopping local. Here you can read more about ocean conscious food provisioning.

Paperwork & money

Passport Obvious but easy to forget. Some countries require 90 to 180 days’ validity on arrival. Check if your passport is still valid long enough. I’ve met numerous people who had to fly home to renew and could cancel their adventure!

Money Bring cash in the local currency and an extra credit card. ATMs could be far, often don’t work, are empty, or swallow your card. It’s good to have a back-up.

Can be handy & cool

Head torch A head torch is handy for reading, coming back from the shore at night,  getting up in the night without waking anyone up. It’s great to have a head torch with a red ‘night watch’ option—bright white lights affect your sleep rhythm, and blinds you and fellow crew.

Your country flag (small–max 30cm x 20cm). Bear in mind official flag regulations.

What NOT to bring

  • Too much!
  • A hard suitcase. There is no storage space for that.
  • Too many (warm) clothes. You’ll end up wearing the same things anyway. No winter clothes needed for Mediterranean summer sailing and  Caribbean sailing.
  • Too many shoes. You’ll be mostly barefoot on the boat (some captains demand wearing shoes).
  • Too many creams and oily cosmetic products.
  • Expensive jewelry with emotional attachment. Very easy to lose!
  • Hairdryers and electric razors (most boats only have 12-volt charging possibilities)
  • Your surfboard, mountain bike and sea scooter (without asking captain in advance).
  • A return ticket ;-). Make sailing a lifestyle.

HOW to pack Budget & ocean-friendly?

Being well-equipped and prepared allows you to create positive change in many ways. We can do more than simply packing light, compactly and purposefully for our own sake. Our greatest and most exciting individual power: the power of choice! To a large degree, we can choose what to eat, drink, wear, believe, say, do, create, and buy. Each choice comes with its consequences, good or bad. Do your best to make whatever choice you make a good one for you and the ocean! Not sure what the best choice is? Ask questions, research, explore, and find out! How can you pack smart, on a budget while minimising your carbon footprint, your trash trail, and the number of chemicals polluting the environment and your body? What can you choose to be the best for your health, your wallet, and for the world that you call your playground? Here is some food for thought on actions you can take to make the packing challenge more affordable and better for the environment

Offshore sailing packing list

Packing for a long-term Ocean Nomads sailing adventure? Then check out the offshore sailing packing list I created for crossing oceans and longer journeys. You can find the extensive sailing packing list and considerations in book Ocean Nomad. This offshore sailing packing list includes information about lifejackets, personal safety and sailing gear, gloves, pocket knives, visas, vaccinations, onward travel proof, and more tips on how to make a difference for a healthier ocean. Or download the simple and quick offshore sailing packing list checklist (free).

Wish you a splashtastic sailing experience! Let me know in the comments what you have found to be super useful on your trip and what you wish you had taken.
Ahoy!
Xx Suzanne

As always, opinions are my own. No organisation or brand is paying me to write this or mention them. What drives me is saving the ocean. Sometimes links contain affiliate links. If you’re looking to purchase something, huge thanks if you purchase it via this website (but try to find it locally first! ). At no extra cost to you, orders and bookings through this website give me a tiny piece of the pie that help me keep investigating, exploring and creating content about on ocean action and solutions! The information presented here is not a substitute for specific training or experience. When going into the outdoors it is your responsibility to have the proper knowledge, experience, and equipment to travel safely. Here are more ways to support ocean awareness and action. Splashthanks!

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Summary
10 cheap, light & plastic-free to-go drinkwater solutions. Rethink the water you drink!
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10 cheap, light & plastic-free to-go drinkwater solutions. Rethink the water you drink!
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How can we obtain clean drinking water when travelling, sailing, and nomadding without buying plastic bottles? 10 safe drink water alternatives to plastic water bottles. No excuse for single use!
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Suzanne

Suzanne

Ocean Nomad, Adventurer & Change-Maker
Hi! My name is Suzanne. I'm here to help you go on ocean adventures and make positive impact for a healthier ocean. Explore this website to learn what I do and how you can make some splashes too!
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