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The Dilemma of International Waters

Half the joy of vacation is that anything goes. Alarm clocks are shut off, routines are put on hold, junk food is consumed with reckless abandon, and lazing around is totally acceptable, if not encouraged. The best part of all? It’s totally guilt-free! Isn't that what vacation's for? But even the most relaxing and indulgent vacations still require a level of mindfulness.  Often, as we strategize our travel plans to ensure they’re green as can be, it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller but equally impactful details—like where we get our drinking water.

Even for the most devoted reusable bottle carriers, travel can be a challenge. I was recently flipping through pictures from various travel adventures and was more than a little horrified to see a bottle of water tucked under my arm in just about every smiling pose. At the time, I figured that being on the move and not being sure when I’d next have access to clean drinking water meant that I needed to suck it up and buy the bottles (which probably wound up being among the costliest parts of my trip!). If only I knew then what I knew now: it’s easy to stay safe and hydrated without falling off the bottled water wagon.

The first and most obvious suggestion is to be sure you have at least one reusable bottle with you at all times. Since they come in a wide range of sizes, why not purchase a few? You’ll want your small-ish, easy to carry bottle for everyday use, and a larger bottle (Kleen Kanteen produces a 40oz version) or Camelbak for longer outings when water availability is less certain. Concerned about the safety of your drinking water? Iodine purification tablets are an inexpensive and effective alternative to bottled water. That said, some people (myself included) are put off by the taste, and you definitely don’t want to risk dehydration. If you fall into that category, I highly recommend a Steripen, a magic little wand that purifies water in about 30 seconds through UV filtration. These run about $80, so it’s a bit of an investment, but the long-term savings are huge. Think about it: regardless of where you travel, bottled water is always, always costly-- because vendors know that tourists will buy it without attention to cost.

Need added incentive? I’m continuously struck by the irony in that so often, the places without potable water are the locations most negatively affected by privatization of clean water sources. So next time you travel, avoid unnecessary expense, minimize your ecological footprint, and ensure that your purchases reflect your values by sticking to your commitment to breaking the bottled water habit. That’s one routine well worth upholding—even on vacation.

Tags: Camping gear, Green travel, International travel, No-impact travel

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