Thursday, April 10, 2014

You are paying a pound for a bottle of drinking water? Are you off your trolley?

If any teacher had told us at school 50 or so years ago that people would pay serious money for the stuff that came out of the tap for almost nothing we would not have believed them. It now happens all the time in Germany. Even people on basic social support payments (Hartz 4) buy the stuff at the start of the month when they have been paid. The mind boggles. We went on a two day course last weekend and most of the group slurped commercially bottled water for much of the time. Some of these bottled waters are just filtered tap water, anyway. Why one needs to drink so much water when sitting about listening to a lecture on First Aid we have no idea. We were not powering up Mt Ventoux in summer and in urgent danger of dehydration.
Then it seems that a plasticiser used in many of these bottles to improve their flexibility, can leach out into the water. This compound resembles a hormone. The long term health effects of absorbing synthetic compounds that resemble hormones has yet to be established. It is however probably better to avoid them if possible. There are plastic bottles available that do not contain plasticiser, such as water bottles from Dopper, Klean Kanteen, and Sigg, for example.
We were much impressed by the Dopper water bottles we saw at VELOBerlin. These are stylish, plastic or steel bottles that come with an integral drinking beaker. Two sizes are available: 500ml (plastic) and 800ml (stainless steel and plastic). The plastic used is inert without the addition of plasticiser. Unfortunately the stand only had  the 500ml variation on offer and these are too narrow to fit in a bike water bottle holder. They are ideal for a rucksack or even to carry on a belt while jogging. They normally cost €12.50. The steel bottles cost €27.50 which is about par for quality steel water bottles. We like the concept of the integral cup which means that one can offer others a drink without them slurping our bugs down or adding to the bugs in the bottle.
The other thing we liked about Dopper is that these guys are serious about water. They support a Dutch charity in Nepal bringing clean water and decent sanitation to a particular region and have also set up a foundation to try to educate people about the misuse of plastics and the problems of plastic litter in the oceans and lakes of the world. Having both helped in our town's annual volunteer clean up of the woods and roadsides we think a German foundation would be an excellent idea as well. When we return to the UK we notice unfortunately that as in the slogan of our youth: "The litter lout is still about!". Much of this litter in the UK is plastic drink bottles.
Price wise the quality bottles in steel are much of a muchness. I reckon around €30 buying them mail order. A thought experiment suggests that if you go out on club runs at weekends and have a two week cycle touring holiday you will probably get through at least 32 750ml bottles, i.e. 24L annually. Bottled water bought from supermarkets costs between 20 and 50 cents a litre. Bottled water from a kiosk or bakery on a railway station will cost at least €1 for 500ml. Within two years your steel water bottle filled with tap water will be saving you money and will continue to do so.
Dopper offers an app to help you find a source of drinking water when travelling. What the app does not mention is that most villages in Switzerland have drinking water fountains in the main street. We also look for public toilets, in cemeteries and sports fields in France and Germany, where the wash hand basins have water taps. The words to look out for are Kein Trinkwasser (Germany, Switzerland) or eau non potable (France) - Not Drinking Water. Obviously Trinkwasser and eau potable are drinking water. What we often do as well is fill our bottles in the toilets/restrooms of caf├ęs after we have had coffee there.

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