Alternatives to bottled water save cash, planet

Bottled water alternatives save money and the environment

When I was growing up, we drank water from the tap. The only bottled water I recall seeing people drink was Perrier at a restaurant. Today, bottled water in the household is as common as having milk. Some people drink bottled water to avoid whatever harmful components they fear are in tap water, and others drink bottled water for its convenience.

I drink tap water and use a plastic cup when I take water with me in the car. However, like many readers, my husband believes in drinking only purified water. He uses a water-filtering pitcher and reusable Nalgene water bottles that he takes along on outings. He gets his purified water, saves money and avoids contributing additional trash to the environment.

Having a bottled-water habit can add up to be a significant expense over the course of the year. Bottled water comes in all sizes, from 8-ounce bottles to gallon-sized jugs. Of course, the per-ounce cost of bottled water is lowest in larger sizes. The typical cost of the store-brand gallon of filtered water is about a dollar. The typical sale price of a six-pack of half-liter bottles is about $1, which is about one-third more expensive at $1.34 per gallon.

By comparison, if you were to buy a pitcher water-filter system (such as PUR or Brita) your average cost per gallon of filtered water would be about 25 cents. The Brita company bases this cost estimate on the purchase of a $25 pitcher (one filter included), plus 5 replacement filters at $9 each, for a total yearly cost of $70. Each filter produces 40 gallons of water and the average Brita owner uses six filters in a year, to produce 240 gallons, which is the equivalent of using about two-thirds of a gallon per day. (Of course, your costs would be lower if you took advantage of Brita and PUR coupons that you can find on their Web sites and in the newspaper coupon circulars.) You could also buy the systems at household stores and use the 20 percent off coupon for the household store to buy the system.

If your family uses two-thirds of a gallon of filtered water per day, your annual savings would be about $175, compared to using gallon jugs. That is also a conservative estimate; people that buy individual water bottles at the grocery store ($1 per six pack on sale) or individual water bottles at concession stands ($1 or more each) would save far more money by using a pitcher water-filter system.

Shoppers who use filtered-water systems also help reduce the environmental impact of producing and disposing of plastic bottles. The Web site (sponsored by Brita) encourages consumers to make a pledge to help reduce plastic water bottle waste. You will also be able to print a coupon for Brita products after you make your pledge, including $5 off the pitcher system or $1 off refills.

The Web site mentions a disturbing fact: Consumers send 38 billion plastic water bottles to landfills every year. Not only does that add trash to our environment, but it also takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to create that many bottles.

Even though the bottles are recyclable, we do not manage to get them all to recycle bins. According to the site, last year the average consumer used 167 plastic bottles but only recycled 38 (28 percent). Shoppers can get $5 coupons for the PUR filter system or $2 coupons for the PUR refills at Click on the Promotions link to sign up for coupons that you will receive by mail.

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