In the North Pacific Ocean, between California and Hawaii, floats an ever growing island.
Yet, up close, this island is not what it appears from afar. It is actually a floating mass of marine debris and garbage. And the main component, you ask?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch as it is called was first discovered in 1997. Scientists have collected over 750,000 pieces of plastic in just one square kilometre of the patch. The total size of the patch is unknown because most of the plastic has broken down into tiny pieces but some reports say it could be as large as the state of Texas.
Plastic is bad for the environment. It is polluting our stunning natural world due to poor recycling and the dumping of rubbish.
As a young, independent and eco-minded woman, I try to avoid purchasing plastic as much as possible in my daily life. Yet, when I travel there is one hurdle that I face constantly when it comes to not purchasing plastic.
How do I source safe drinking water when the only option around me is to purchase plastic bottled water?
I became tired of seeing plastic bottles dumped on roadsides and along coastlines so I started to investigate new ways to access safe drinking water without purchasing plastic bottles.
Below are a few strategies that you can use; some are ones that I use when I travel and others I have yet to try.
1. Travel with a reusable water bottle
These can be purchased anywhere and are super light and easy to pack or clip onto the side of backpacks. You can either bring one from home or purchase one in the country you are traveling in. But make sure to check that the bottle you purchase is bpa free!
2. Boiling the water
Depending on how long are you staying in one place, you can try boiling the tap water, putting it into a reusable water bottle and leaving it in the fridge to cool overnight. Boiling kills any potential nasty microorganisms that might be lurking in the tap water.
This can be done easily at a hostel or hotel as well. And if you don’t have a reusable water obttle, you can wait for the boiled water to cool and put it back in a plastic bottle you bought earlier–which means, you are buying one less plastic water bottle.
This option has served me well whilst volunteering in the jungle in Bolivia.
3. Water purifier
There are so many different options to choose from in this category and, with advances in technology, many are now really portable and light weight, too. This option includes models such as the SteriPEN which uses ultraviolet light to zap all of the potential bugs in the water.
A new water purification bottle is also on the market, endorsed by Bear Grylls, which filters down water in the one bottle without chemicals.
4. Water purifying tablets
Also known as Chlorine Dioxide Tablets, are easy and light to travel with.
To use, you simply pop the tablet into the water and wait the recommended time and voila!, done! It can potentially make the water taste a little bit funny but it is a great option, especially on trekking expeditions and camping trips.
5. No other options?
I am currently based on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia and for the house I live in, we have purchased a big water cooler bottle. This is a good idea if you are sticking around in one place for a longer period of time.
Alternatively, if you are around for a smaller time, purchase one larger bottle instead of a few small bottles. You might not need to drink it all then, but you will end up needing extra water at some stage.
Wanting to be eco-conscious whilst traveling can be a bit of a headache, but doing some quick homework into the best sustainable water option prior to departure can help you easily avoid one.
*This article was originally published on Travel Go Girl Magazine as part of the EcoBackpacker column that I am writing about sustainable travel, you can read the original here*