If you’ve started drinking sparkling water instead of soda, cola, pop, or diet soda, congratulate yourself. You’ve made a very meaningful change for the better for your health. Giving up the sugars and artificial sweeteners in those beverages will help you avoid issues such as obesity and cavities.
And now that sweetened and diet beverages are in your rearview mirror, it’s time to have a talk about your canned sparkling water habit.
It’s a given that it’s supremely satisfying to go into the kitchen, open the refrigerator, and grab a can of cold sparkling water. It’s easy and refreshing, and with zero calories, no guilt is required.
However, what’s healthy for your body may not be as healthy for the planet. The aluminum can itself is environmentally costly to produce. Getting the minerals that make up aluminum out of the ground is not a clean process, and they’re extremely energy-intensive to refine, creating greenhouse gas emissions.
One advantage of aluminum is that it can be recycled indefinitely—no material is lost in each round of recycling, and recycling an old can takes a tiny fraction of the energy it takes to produce a new one. The catch is that the consumer recycling rate for used beverage cans was 54.5 percent in 2015, down from 56.7 percent in 2014. That means that nearly half the cans we’re buying are still being discarded, necessitating an awful lot of new aluminum. Don’t forget to factor in the not-inconsequential environmental effect of filling those cans at one location, then shipping and trucking them to your local grocery store.
Recycling is important, but reducing demand for aluminum is the greener move here.
Want to wean yourself off of your five-can-a-day sparkling water habit? Here are a few ideas:
- Make your own. If it’s the bubbles that seduce you, forgo your sparkling water purchases for a few weeks and put the money toward a countertop soda maker. These use your own tap water and recyclable or reusable canisters of CO2 to make bottles of seltzer you can enjoy anytime.
- Plan ahead. One reason those little cans are so addictive is that they’re always lurking there in the fridge, chilled and ready for you. So do it yourself: fill a reusable bottle with homemade seltzer or tap water before going to bed each night, and pop it in the fridge.
- Flavor it up. Maybe it’s the fruity taste of flavors like cran-raspberry or mango that draws you. You can get the same burst of flavor by adding slices of your own fruits and veggies to your refrigerated bottle of water. Cucumber is particularly refreshing. You can even find water bottles with their own infuser baskets.
- Make it pretty. For a beverage with plenty of eye appeal, put chopped-up fruits in an ice cube tray, fill with water, and freeze. Add the fruity ice cubes to your glass or bottle, and your water will be instantly Instagram-worthy.
Miriam Wolf is a wellness professional and the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter.