Refill and Reuse Your Own Water Bottle, Even on Vacation

Finding clean safe water is easy, even on vacation. Here's how and why.
Mammoth Cave 2015 (12 Of 25)
Tamela Rich
Bottle filling stations like this one at Mammoth Cave National Park are everywhere. You can also use a drinking fountain.

Your next vacation could be an opportunity to take on a family challenge together, the "No Bottled Water Challenge" to be exact. Kids are oriented to altruism and "saving the world," so this should be a challenge they take on with gusto!

Saving the world one "less" bottle at a time

Did you know that the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans every year could stretch halfway to Mars? Plastic bottles take many hundreds of years to disintegrate and when they do, tiny pieces of plastic choke or obstruct the gastrointestinal tracts of marine life. 

Though bottled water is convenient and available everywhere, it's damaging to the environment. Imagine a water bottle filled 25 percent with oil. That's about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle alone. 

And for every liter of bottled water that makes it to your store, the bottling process used about 1.39 liters of water plus up to three liters of water to make a half-liter bottle itself. That's over four times the water in the bottle.

Add to the environmental equation the the fuel spent trucking it all across the world or the country, and your family has a real opportunity to make an impact!

Isn't it recyclable?

"But it's recyclable," you might say. Not exactly. You may be putting it in the recycle bin, but it isn't likely going to be recycled. Ever. 

This summer I was at a state park in Michigan that wouldn't even accept water bottles because there aren't enough places that want them. We're using an overabundance of PET/PETE bottles (properly called No. 1 polyethylene terephthalate bottles).  A National Resources Defense Council specialist was quoted saying that recyclable post-consumer packaging worth an estimated value of $11.4 billion is landfilled in the U.S. annually instead of being recycled. 

Don't even think about recycling PET/PETE bottles yourself (by washing them out and refilling them). They can leach chemicals that the bottles are produced with, and since the plastic is porous you can ingest bacteria with each swig. Yuck.

How to win the "No Bottled Water Challenge" on vacation

Refill your own bottle with water from a restaurant

I'm assuming you already re-usable bottles for everyone in the family to refill. The question is where do you refill them? These tips will help you at home and on vacation:

1. Soda fountains have a water option, and fountains are everywhere from gas stations to fast food joints.

2. Your waiter will happily refill them when you stop for lunch or dinner.

3. Keep your eyes peeled for refill stations at state and national parks (like the one pictured above at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky), and look for water fountains at rest stops.

I am now carrying a refillable bottle into restaurants that would otherwise serve me water in a throwaway cup, keeping one-use cups out of landfills. It's easy once you form the habit!