Summer is officially here, and so are the days spent outside going on hikes and enjoying the warm, sunny weather. However, as the temperatures start to rise and we spend more time outdoors, so does our consumption of single-use plastic. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the amount of plastic we waste goes up by 40% in the summer—and unfortunately, most of that waste ends up in our oceans. 

Water bottles provide a convenient way for people to stay hydrated, but when they’re composed of single-use plastic, the long-term negative effects on our planet seriously outweigh our quenched thirst. We’ve put together the numbers on single-use plastic water bottles, and how you can easily make the swap to something more sustainable during Plastic Free July: Refillable and reusable bottles. 

The Impact of Single-Use Water Bottles

The United States relies heavily on convenience and affordability, which leads to many people opting for plastic bottles and containers–but what happens to that water bottle once you’ve thrown it away or placed it in the recycling bin? Let’s break down the numbers (and the impact) of the water bottles that are composed of plastic. 

How single-use plastic and water bottles impact our planet 

Plastic pollution refers to the presence of plastic in any place that it shouldn’t be, like the ocean, in parks, but even in our air. According to Surfers Against Sewage, it’s estimated that at last 8 million pieces of plastic are entering our oceans every single day. This type of plastic waste lingers in the water, ultimately damaging marine ecosystems and the animals that live within them. 

Commonly found pieces of plastic in the ocean include water bottles, food wrappers, straws, and so much more. Once an empty plastic water bottle is discarded near or in the ocean, it can take up to 450 years for it to decompose, leaving a lasting impact not only on the ocean, but on our health, too. 

How single-use plastic and water bottles impact our health 

The use of plastics is such a common behavior in our society today that the single-use plastics we use for water and food are even becoming a part of us. Scientists have discovered that humans can consume thousands of plastic particles each year, and recent studies even found the presence of microplastics in human blood

Curbing (and stopping) our consumption of single-use water bottles has a variety of benefits: we can reduce the amount of pollution in our water, limit the waste found in landfills, save energy, and even help combat climate change. By making small decisions in our own lives and committing to finding a more sustainable alternative to everyday products like a water bottle, we can inspire others to do the same!

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July is a campaign that began in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation. This campaign inspires millions of people each year to think about a greener future for us all–and to be a part of it. When it comes to getting involved in this campaign, there is no change too big or too small! According to the Plastic Free Foundation, when a group or individual decides to commit to the Plastic Free July Challenge, they can help reduce plastic waste by: 
  • Bringing a reusable coffee cup or dining in at a local café.
  • Making the switch to a reusable and refillable water bottle.
  • Avoiding disposable products and packaging when shopping. 
  • Avoiding pre-packaged foods by choosing bulk or loose food.
  • Choosing to refuse single-use plastic bathroom products.

…and so much more. 

How to avoid single-use water bottles in July and beyond

Switching to a refillable and reusable water bottle is an incredibly easy way to join the Plastic Free July Challenge – and it’s something that can continue into your everyday life! By purchasing one reusable water bottle (or ideally using a reusable water bottle that you already have), you can avoid the countless single-use plastic bottles that are in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and you can feel great knowing the positive impact you’re having on our environment! While carrying a reusable water bottle with you is ideal, there is not one person on their sustainability journey that is perfect, so it’s important to know your options for alternatives to the plastic water bottle on the off-chance that you forget your reusable water bottle at home.

Water filling stations and drinking water fountains

If you live in the Big Apple, then you might know that your city is making a serious commitment to reducing plastic waste! The city will be installing 500 water fountains and water bottle refilling stations across all five boroughs between 2015 and 2025 in an effort to encourage hydration and refilling. For a current list of all available water fountains and refilling stations, click here. 

That’s not the only initiative that’s working to bring refillable options to people. Water-Map, an app created in collaboration with Open-Street Map and the NGO European Water Project is using technology to provide access to water bottle refill stations all over the world. By downloading the app and turning on your location settings, you’ll be able to see the 280,000 refill stations (and counting) that are found all over the world–and better yet, these refill stations are completely free to use.

Our top picks for the best refillable and reusable water bottles

Are you ready to make the switch from single-use plastic to reusable and refillable water bottles? Well, we’re here to say that the most eco-friendly water bottle is actually one that’s already in your home! We all can get into the habit of wanting the latest and greatest sustainable products, but the best option for the planet is one that you might already have (and will actually use).  That said- the best water bottle for you is the one you actually use, so we’re here to help. If you don’t have a reusable and refillable water bottle that you use just yet, here’s a list of our go-to brands that provide this sustainable alternative: 

  1. S’well: Known for its triple-insulated design that keeps water cold for 36 hours and hot for 18, the S’well bottle is an all-time favorite. Plus, they’ve expanded into other reusable products like mugs, salad bowls, and cutlery. 
  2. Klean Kanteen: This brand sold the first BPA-free stainless reusable water bottles back in 2004, and they’ve been leaving a positive mark on our planet ever since. We love that Klean Kanteen is a 1% for the Planet Member, a Certified B-Corporation, and family/employee-owned! 
  3. HydroFlask: This is a great option for steel water bottles, because the design is made for functionality. With handles on the lids and temperature-controlling insulation, this bottle is perfect for people on the go. 
  4. Yeti: Treehugger recently performed a test on all of the major reusable water bottle options for durability, sustainability, and insulation – and it’s no surprise to us that Yeti made the list! Their Rambler bottle with a “chug cap” claims to keep your water ice cold, even if you’re spending a day out on the water. Plus, they’re committed to reducing their carbon emissions and regularly give back to organizations that focus on conversation, and they’ve helped save more than 200,000 single-use plastic bottles from being used.

Refilling/Plastic Free July

The journey to becoming a more sustainable version of “you” never really ends, and it’s something that we all have to work on each and every day. By making small, but intentional changes in our lives each day (like bringing a reusable water bottle to work and refilling it), we can inspire others to do the same. And when that happens, we can make a real difference in the trajectory of our planet! 

Are you ready to commit to creating a better future for the planet and our communities? Then join us in the Plastic Free July challenge in whatever way you can–whether that’s refusing the plastic straw, buying in bulk, or refilling your home and body products. 

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