Water Filtration: The Most Basic Overview and a Few Environmentally Friendly Responses

As I began to do research into zero waste lifestyles, I found a strong co-occuring concern for toxin free living. Throughout the last century or so, humans have made huge strides in technological advancements. So many of these advancements have been of incredible benefit to the masses. However, one thing I have been noticing is the general assumption that progress is always good. We (humans in a very general sense) tend to find a newer, "better," faster, or cheaper way to do something and we apply that practices as the new standard. Plastic kitchen storage was a durable, versatile, cheap alternative to glass products and it took the world by storm. But the majority didn't seem to stop to ponder whether or not this shift might negatively affect anything or anyone. Today we know about the problems. with BPA, the other toxins that are used in the production of plastics. We know about the huge environmental cost of production, distribution, and disposable of plastic goods. Today we have recognized that our failure to consider the implications of a technological development at its inception has had destructive consequences for individuals, communities, and the natural world as a whole. 

All that to say (and hopefully encourage you toward a more critical consumption), that one way I have seen the assumption of "progressive" practices is in our water supply. Tap water toxicity varies widely throughout the United States. There have been well-publicized water crises in Detroit, while those of us in Minneapolis often feel very comfortable drinking our water straight from the faucet. However, even the tap water that we consider safe (maybe even good) can be problematic. For instance, in the city of Minneapolis, the EWG Tap Water Database indicates 6 contaminants that were above guidelines when the water was tested in 2015. All six of these contaminants (listed below) increase the risk of cancer. 

In addition to the six above, there are also eight other contaminants that are linked to other risks for the individual. 

All this to say, that I've come to realize that there is a real value (beyond taste) of drinking filtered water. The problem now becomes, what is minimal waste, filtration system that has minimal impact on the environment while still benefitting the water drinker by eliminating toxic contaminants. I have a few options for you, though these are by no means the only options, I think they provide a wide range of accessibility for those who are ready to take a step toward fewer toxins and minimal waste in their lives. 

1. Kishu Activated Charcoal Filters

I personally have a to go size and an x-large. I use the to-go filter in my water bottles, but keep the x-large in a one-gallon drink dispenser (similar to this one) which I keep on my counter. The kishu charcoal filters remove heavy metals from drinking water. For more information about the science behind it, check out this post on their website. I love Kishu because even though their charcoal comes from Japan and requires the expenditure of fossil fuels for its transportation, the company uses really sustainable, environmentally friendly packaging. This is from the FAQ page of their website: We are so proud of our packaging. We took special care and research to create a completely biodegradable package: our label is made from paper that is FSC® Certified, SFI® Certified Sourcing, and Rainforest Alliance Certified™ and printed using the most environmentally friendly process available. The clear sleeve is made from wood pulp and is completely compostable. So even though it is shipped across the world (if you're living in the USA), the product is plastic free, toxin-free, and helps remove dangerous heavy metals from your water. It also happens to be one of the most affordable, small-scale filtration methods. It is similar to Brita filtration but doesn't involve the same plastic and packaging waste associated with Brita Filters. 

2. Berkey Water System

Berkey's are super popular, but also pretty expensive. Due to the cost, we do not have on yet. But they're a great option if you have the counter space and the money. 

From the Berkey website in reference to the 3.25 gallon water filter system: 

"The Royal Berkey system removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts, and parasites entirely and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes.

This system is so powerful that it can seriously remove food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs. Virtually no other system can duplicate this performance. 

With this system, you can use up to 4 Black Berkey purification elements, though this particular one includes 2. With the 2 Black Berkey elements, it can purify up to 4 gallons per hour, while with 4 Black, Berkey elements you can have up to 8 gallons of filtered drinking water per hour."

3. Whole House Water Filtration

There are so many different home water filtration systems out there. Some are around $200 and some are a couple thousand dollars. Most whole house water filters will connect to your water line at its initial point of entry to the house and begin filtering there. This means you will have filtered water going to your sinks, showers, tubs, washing machines, and dishwashers. The benefit of this is that we don't just ingest toxins in water through drinking. Our body absorbs toxins through the skin as well, so when we shower or wash, we are potentially exposing ourselves to endocrine disrupters and possible carcinogens (all while we get "clean"). We are in the process of saving up for a whole water filtration system. Do your research and find the right one for you. 

Overall, my advice to you is to a) consider switching to filtered water even if your tap water tastes okay. You just don't always know what else is in there. B) Find a filter that works for your family, lifestyle, and budget. Don't let anyone make you think you need an expensive berkey if you have a great brita filter that suits your family. My hope with Pure and Simple is that you would begin to consider whether or not your lifestyle and decisions match your stated values. If not, I hope you begin to take steps toward consistency and find the richness of knowing that your decision represent your stated and upheld values.