Monday, December 17, 2007

Better Living Through Chemistry

This might be the beginning of a trend. Or at least a trend crossing to the early majority. Mountain Equipment Co-op is pulling most polycarbonate water bottles from their inventory. Those are the multicolored Lexan Nalgene bottles and all the clones. I've seen the allegations of chemicals (Bisphenol A) leaching from the plastics before but this is the first big action on it. Nalgene has a page on their website with information on the safety of their polycarbonate bottles.

This is happening at a time when Nalgene and other bottle makers should be seeing growing sales. You see, they're jumping on the growing backlash against the wastefulness of bottled water. It's even been featured in Fast Company and now Nalgene Outdoors and Brita have partnered with a website

The major contender to replace those sorts of bottles is stainless steel, like the Klean Kanteen. There's even a sippy cup version. I like them because you can heat and boil water directly in them. They're definitely heavy for backpacking, but not much heavier than the Lexan bottles. Besides, most bottles like this will never be taken camping anyways.

I'm interested in watching how both of these ideas (toxic plastic bottles and the wastefulness of bottled water) spread and if they can cross the tipping point. They aren't new ideas so I'm guessing they'll linger around, never making it to the majority, unless something absolutely sensational happens involving Brittney Spears and bottled water.

Update: Outside Magazine's Gear Guy answered this question: "Should I follow MEC’s lead and get rid of my polycarbonate water bottles?" His answer? Maybe.

Stainless Steel Nalgene Camping BottleUpdate: I found the stainless steel bottle I'd been looking for. The Guyot Designs "The Standard". It's shaped and dimensioned just like a the popular Nalgene bottles but it's stainless steel. Reusable Bags and Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) sell them for around $20.

Update: I got to thinking. Why the uproar over polycarbonate water bottles, particularly Nalgene's, when there's no mention of all the polycarbonate bowls and other kitchenware. If the BPA leaching is worse with hot liquids, surely using a polycarbonate bowl for things like soup would be pretty bad. Sure enough. Even though I didn't notice it, the initial notice from MEC was that they are pulling bottles and bowls made of polycarbonate.

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