With approximately 700 brands of bottled water available in stores, it can be tempting for consumers to opt for packaged water instead of more environmentally-conscious choices. The perception of bottled water as being healthier to drink than tap water has also contributed to the high rates of pre-packaged water consumption. The truth is that the Environmental Protection Agency EPA sets extremely high standards for public drinking water systems, while bottled water remains largely unregulated. This means that there are systems in place which consistently test and monitor the safety of water that arrives via tap, but that bottled water – especially that which is shipped between states – is usually not subject to the same stringent testing procedures. The seemingly endless negative effects that discarded plastics can have on the environment and on human health require that socially-conscious consumers rethink how they drink water.

The marketing and advertising teams of many bottled water companies often insist that their products are somehow purer and fresher than water that flows through a tap. Close inspection of labels, however, can quickly point to an interesting fact: some of the most popular brands obtain their water from municipal sources. Many of these companies simply bottle tap water in a factory and ship the products to be sold at retail outlets. If you have specific concerns about your local water supply's quality, you can consult the Environmental Protection Agency's reports on water quality for your area. These reports may come in handy, if your main water supply is connected to a well.

Almost two million barrels of oil are required to construct the plastic that goes into making water bottles. Since oil is a nonrenewable resource, the construction and use of water bottles can be unnecessarily taxing on both the environment and energy resources. By straining available resources, carbon footprints and environmental impact are also increased.

Excess water bottles negatively affect different parts of the Earth's environment every day. Discarded plastics can be eaten by animals, which can result in injury or death. Plastics that float in water sources can transport harmful elements to each other. Dangerous chemicals can even leak out of plastic as it attempts to degrade in landfills, which can find their way into groundwater and affect the health of humans. For these reasons and many others, the use of plastic water bottles should be conscientious, and recycling should be attempted as often as possible.

Plastic water bottles contribute to landfill overflow because manufacturers often use non-biodegradable materials to construct them. With over 30 billion plastic bottles finding their way into landfills every year, environmental impact exponentially increases as water bottles pile up. While some companies have begun to take measures to lower the impact that their products have on the environment, including using less plastic and even choosing more sustainable construction materials, drinking bottled water continues to be a wasteful exercise, when more viable and Earth-friendly alternatives exist.

If taste is a deciding factor for you when choosing your water source, consider installing a filter on your faucet. Filters can be found relatively inexpensively at retail stores, and they will quickly pay for themselves while purifying your water of the minerals that contribute to strong tastes. You can still access purified water without having to install filters by investing in pitchers with filters or counter top water filtration systems. Regular filter changes on these devices can guarantee fresh and purified water each time you reach for a glass.

Refilling your own water bottle, instead of depending on single-serving plastic bottles, can drastically reduce the burden on your local landfill. For maximum value and safety, consider investing in a stainless steel water bottle. The sturdy construction of stainless steel containers ensure their longevity, and are also free of Bisphenol A, a toxic chemical contained in plastic that is made even more harmful when exposed to heat. By drinking out of a stainless steel water bottle, you'll be free to enjoy your water, without putting yourself at extra risk. When shopping for these types of bottles, ensure that the container has been made out of steel and not aluminum. Also verify that steel is labeled as "food-grade."

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