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!

Do you need a boat care-taker / deliverer? Let me help!

Hey Boat Owners!

Do you have a boat just sitting on a mooring somewhere growing barnacles? Or do you need to leave your boat behind for a month or longer? Or would you rather have your boat somewhere else but don’t want / can’t do the delivery yourself? Or are you selling her for a bargain?

Your boat can serve as an ocean impact sloop, supporting the mission to protect the ocean!

 

Here’s how I can help:

I can look after your boat, keep the barnacles off, sail her to place x if you want her elsewhere and find crew if needed, or try to help you sell her. I’ve sailed +25.000 NM on a variety of boats and of which four Atlantic Crossings (twice West/East and twice East/West). I’ve reached the level of confidence, competence, and qualification (YachtMaster Offshore) to take boats safely sailing, coastal and offshore. I can hold my breath for five minutes getting rid of all those barnacles at the bottom. Last but not least, I have a good insurance. You can read some reviews on Facebook and ask for my CV for more details. I’m available, qualified, and dedicated!

Here’s how you can help:

Provide your boat to enable Oceanpreneur ocean adventure & impact projects.
I’m looking to sail a boat for 1-4 months in the Caribbean this winter, because:

  • It’s the best way I can use my superpowers to save the ocean!
  • Sailing, exploring, and sharing the experience is what truly excites me! By sailing, and by taking people sailing, I can spark that interest in others and create more ocean ambassadors and advocates! I would like to organize a few Ocean Nomads expeditions so I can connect more people to the sea. From experience comes awareness. From that, comes caring. From caring comes action and leadership.
  • It will allow me to create more and better content on ocean challenges and solutions! I started Youtubing and must make more Ocean Nomad TV (Ocean Adventure & Impact) videos with the mission to save the seas.
  • I’m developing the strategy and funding plan for the Carriacou Sloop. She’ll be used for ocean impact projects. But we have no time to lose! Until she’s ready I’m looking for other ways to scale up the ocean conservation efforts and education is a major part of that. I’m looking to test some ocean literacy programs, visit schools in the Caribbean islands and get a better understanding of how to help the islands and the ocean so that future generations will experience life too.

I just need a platform: a sailing boat!

Time & Dates are flexible!

When and where ideally?

Somewhere between January and May in the Caribbean (preferably Eastern Caribbean since that’s where the sloop will be built)

Somewhere between May and September in the Mediterranean

What kind of boat?

A monohull sailing boat
Pretty much ready to set sail
30-60 ft /Able to sleep 4-8 people. Can consider bigger.
The simpler the better.

 

Contact Me
if you see a collaboration here!

Thank you!

       

If you don’t have a boat, but you do like to encourage my ocean conservation efforts, here are some ways you can support. Thank you!

For only 1$ you can already make a huge difference. Become a Very Important Pirate Patron and supper ocean impact! Thank you!

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Top 10 tips for Sailing Across the Atlantic as Crew

Travelling an Atlantic Crossing on someone else’s sailing boat is not a straightforward endeavour and an adventure to be taken lightly. Finding a boat is one thing, finding the right boat, crew and captain match is what makes all the difference. There are some things to be mindful of. I’ve met too many people that thought to ‘just’ hop on a boat do an Atlantic Crossing. Unsurprisingly many of them did not succeed in having a pleasant experience. On the Atlantic ocean, you live, work, eat, leisure together for weeks. Non-stop. It’s like camping in the wild with a bunch of strangers. Only you can’t walk away… Inform yourself, research and prepare. It’s part of the fun! 

Four times I have now sailed as crew across the Atlantic. Another time I left a boat before setting sail. So many lessons learned. Here are a few.

My ten tips for crew looking to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.

atlantic crossing

  1. Have your WHY clear

Do you want to gain sailing experience? Learn as much as you can? Go from A to B? Just be away from all of it? Or simply chillax on anchor in pretty bays? Search accordingly.

  1. Be Confident or Start small

    Be confident you’re ready for an ocean passage.  You owe it to yourself, captain, and fellow crew. If you’re not sure about the full Atlantic Crossing, start with a trip near shore or a short passage to figure out if an ocean passage is for you.

  2. Know the bearings

To be ready to expect the unexpected, careful investigation and preparation is essential. Learn about the passage, seasons, distance, destinations, weather, costs, and tasks involved. This will help you find a ride at the right time and place. 

Map of Atlantic Crossing Sailing Routes. Originally published in Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide

  1. Be flexible with time, place and money

Sailboats deal with seasons, routes, weather, breakage, and all sorts of variables. By thinking about scenarios in advance makes it easy to peacefully change course and comply with Captains’ calls.

  1. Be 100% happy and confident on with whom you’re jumping on board

Research the boat, captain, and crew carefully. The people you share the adventure with either make or break the experience. Realise that anyone can buy a boat without experience or license. Exchange loads of messages, ask questions, and talk to each other on the phone, preferably with video. Meet-up, fix things together and go for a test sail. Don’t let your eagerness to make a trip override your instinct and judgment. Be 100% sure. Find a safety and happiness assessment checklist and questions list in Ocean Nomad.

  1. Always talk to the captain

    When assessing the options and figuring out if a boat is a good match, talk to the captain. Not (only) the owner, another crewmember, relative, manager or passenger. The captain is the decision maker and the one that knows the boat best so you want to know about him/her and his/her plan.

  2. Be clear on intentions, expectations, and agreements.

Know what the captain is expecting from you. What are you expecting from the captain and the Atlantic crossing? It makes it easier for you to prepare, anticipate, and avoid misunderstandings. Talk about budget and agree in advance about which costs are shared.

  1. Pack light and thoughtful

You don’t need much at sea. As a general rule, if you can live without it, leave it at home. Storage space is worth gold on board. If you have already committed to a boat (and are sure about it!) before leaving your home base, ask what’s already on board, so you don’t have to bring it. Less is more; less is more; less is more! Find an ocean packing checklist and considerations in Ocean Nomad.

  1. Provision carefully

Captains usually have their hands full preparing the boat, so it’s likely that as crew you will be part of the provisioning team. A well-fed crew is a happy crew, so properly organise, plan and execute provisions for the boat. Your health and happiness for the next few weeks depends on it. A big part of your contribution (or destruction!) to a healthy ocean starts with the packing and provisioning preparation. I dedicated a full chapter to this in Ocean Nomad.

The veggies provisioned for the Atlantic Crossing. Shop Local.

  1. Make it meaningful

As users of the ocean, it’s our responsibility to become part of the solution, not the problem. When we plan, prepare and make conscious decisions, we can minimise our negative footprint and maximise the benefits for the place we visit and for the planet as a whole. Find out what you can do as crew to contribute to a healthier ocean.

Taking microplastic water samples on the Atlantic Crossing

  1. Bonus tip! Don’t book a return ticket 😉

An Atlantic Crossing  goes hardly as planned. Avoid stressing the captain because you have a plane to catch. Above all, chances are you’ll be hooked and you want to keep going. 

At the end it’s common sense, follow your instinct and one big adventure! But being well informed and prepared is key for a happy, safe, and meaningful experience. That’s why I wrote Ocean Nomad, to connect more of you to the ocean, happy, safe and meaningfully! Enjoy & Ahoy!

“A highly organized and helpful book with routes, ports, websites, and even some of the bars you should hang-out or go duckwalking to find your ride. Clear thinking and attention to details make Ocean Nomad useful to any captain or crew for an ocean passage. Her passion for conservation and sustainability offers insight into a ‘vagabond’ lifestyle that is also socially responsible.” – YachtingWorld

This content has originally been published in YachtingWorld.

 

Download a copy or print version of Ocean Nomad here  The Complete Atlantic Crew Guide: Catch a Sailboat Ride & Contribute to a Healthier Ocean.

 All proceeds of Ocean Nomad go into ocean conservation projects.

Have you sailed across the Atlantic? I’d love to hear about your experience! Take part in the big Atlantic Ocean Crew & Captain Survey.

Have you read Ocean Nomad? I would LOVE to hear how the book has helped you to make the dream happen and if it has left you with any questions, let me know so I can incorporate answers for the next edition! Thanks for leaving a review on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, or Bol.com

Do you have specific questions for me? Or would you like me to help you decide if it’s a good match or not?
Have a Virtual Coconut with me. Or become a VIPatreon and I’ll support you to the best I can.

 

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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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Suzanne
Help to make impact. Here's how you can support Ocean Awareness & Action -> Go to https://theoceanpreneur.com/about/support/
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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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