My Carbon Addiction

I've already admitted I don't own a car, and I'm not ready yet to delve into the carbon cost of food, so what carbon am I talking about today? The kind in your soda, of course!

Yes, always a fan of the double entendre, this post is dedicated to the carbon emissions required to produce and ship carbonated beverages. Carbon, carbon everywhere, even in your drink.

The onset of my addiction happened just about the same time Zeph and I started shopping at the farmer's market. We were still making trips to the grocery once a week for the "essentials" that we couldn't buy at the market. My "essential" was carbonated water - crystal geyser lemon water, to be exact. I went through about two liters a week, and at my worst I bought two of the small four-packs. This had to stop.

"Why?" you say? Let's talk about the energy in my carbonated water (without getting too exact with the numbers). There is energy required to make the bottles my water came in, as well as the little plastic ring that held together the bottles if I bought the four-pack. Then the bottles need to be filled, and of course they need to be carbonated, which requires more energy.

Then the bottles have to be trucked from heaven-knows-where to the store, where I purchase them. I don't drive my groceries home, so that's the only step that doesn't use carbon-based energy in this whole process. The water get stored in my refrigerator until I drink it, after which the bottles get picked up at my house and taken to the recycling plant, using more energy to turn them back in to new plastic bottles.

As you can see, this process is a bit problematic.

I could just drink still water out of my tap, but that isn't nearly as enjoyable. Plus, still water does not a good mojito make. And, honestly, I refuse to give up my little pleasures in life. All that does is create a bunch of grumpy people who bemoan how hard it is to live a greener life. It doesn't have to be hard people! You just have to find creative solutions.

As is the case with a majority of green solutions, I looked to the past. Gin and tonic has been around for quite some time, so I knew that fizzy water existed before the invention of the PET bottle. I poked around and found some seltzer bottles, but most of them require small cartridges to carbonate the water. Trashing a metal cannister every time I want to carbonate my water doesn't seem all that environmentally friendly.

So I poked around some more and found a company called SodaClub that manufactures counter-top carbonation devices. I did some research and found that the carbonation systems sold by SodaClub were preferred over other seltzer bottles by far, so I decided to go ahead and give it a shot.

The only decision left to make was which model to get. The cheaper model has larger bottles, but they are still made of plastic. Not exactly the route I wanted to go. The more expensive model doesn't carbonate as much water per bottle, but the bottles are made out of glass - glass that, unless I break it, will never have to be replaced. That appealed to me. A lot. Decision made.

My penguin arrived a few weeks later, and I had it set up and ready to go in a few minutes. I filled all the bottles and put them in the fridge to chill (apparently chilled water carbonates better) and waited patiently until Zeph got home so we could play with our new toy.

First, we made lemon water, flavored with a wonderful citrus fruit we sliced and juiced ourselves. It was delicious. Next we tried one of the soda flavorings that came with the machine. It pretty much sucked. Then, the piece de resistance, we made mojitos with our new water. Fantastic. Lately, when I crave a coke, I make an Italian soda instead. I'm finally not supporting Coca-Cola anymore!

After two months of daily use the penguin is still going strong. We replaced our Co2 cartridge once, but I am happy knowing that it will be refilled with air and sent to a new customer. Best of all? Drinking lemon water is a great way to keep the cat's nose out of your beverage. Pesky, curious kitties.


Will said...

So are you saving money with this thing, or was this simply to spare the environment despite greater cost? If so, given the up-front cost of the carbonation device, how long do you have to use it, including the cost of replacing the cartridges, before you start saving money?

So are you giving up soda since there's no viable way to make it yourself? I don't know if I could make that sacrifice; they've already got me hooked. ;)

Sara said...

Over time, it will definitely save money, though I'm not sure if it has yet. I know! I can finally use the algebra I told my teacher I would never use! And I always kicked ass at word problems.

If Sara and Zeph buy 2 four-packs a lemon water a week at $2 each, how many weeks will it take before they have spent $300? The equation is 4X = 300, which means X is 75, which means it will take about a year and a half to save money.

But, if we factor in our mojito habit, things change a bit. We would probably spend another $2 on sparkling water to make adult beverages, which means that we save money after a year of use.

Those who want a better balance of environmentalism and economics can buy the cheaper version of the system for only $100, which saves money after 4 months of use.

As for giving up soda, I haven't entirely. I still drink a few a week at work. But at home I have given up soda as you traditionally think of it (coke, sprite, etc.). Instead, I drink a lot of fruit sodas, flavored with either store-bought syrups or syrup I get at the farmer's market. Just this weekend I had an orange lavender soda that topped any can of crush I ever had.