Liquids Surrendered At Airport Security: Is There An Afterlife?

water bottlesEver looked at the mountain of liquids (or, in my case, that luscious, unopened jar of dulce de leche, and countless yogurts) accumulated at airport security and wondered where they end up? Yeah, me too. I’ve always hoped they go to charity and the water bottles recycled, because I have a bit of an idealist streak beneath my jaded exterior.

Our friend Andy Bender over at Forbes helped get to the bottom of this tricky question, and the answers are somewhat surprising. Rather than being palmed by greasy-haired or hungry TSA agents (cause for immediate termination), large airports divvy up the booty by category and dispose of it accordingly, although smaller volume airports may just lump it as trash.

If you lie awake nights pondering the fate of your spendy conditioner or lotion, here’s the breakdown:

  • Liquids are sorted by type (sunscreen, shampoo, alcohol, contact lens solution, etc.) and emptied into hazmat barrels, which are then collected by waste management companies. They’re disposed of according to environmental regulations (Forbes reports that “water-based solutions are sent to a waste water treatment facility or waste energy recovery facility aka trash-to-stream plant.”
  • Alcohol ends up being treated at fuel-blending facilities because it’s flammable.
  • Large quantities of bottles are “chipped” and recycled, but not smaller volumes, which go to the landfill.

For more information on current regulations taking liquids in carry-on, click here. And here’s a tip: by carrying a refillable water bottle, you help reduce the 1.5 million barrels of oil required for U.S. plastic water bottle production each year.

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[Photo credit: Flickr user stevendepolo]

Five Things You Can Do On Earth Day To Save Natural Resources

earthEarth Day is upon us, and even if you’re not planning to celebrate our planet’s making it through another year (what global warming?), there are still some simple measures you can take to show your gratitude. Love your Mother, you know?

Whether you’re on the road or at home, the following are smart rules to implement every day of the year:

  • Do laundry at night, after peak electricity usage hours and only wash full loads.
  • Use a travel mug when you purchase your morning coffee and carry a reusble water bottle.
  • Stash reusable shopping bags in your car, purse or backpack and desk.
  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, washing your face, doing dishes or shaving.
  • Switch to e-tickets, e-pay, and other paperless forms of commerce; add your name to no junk mail and catalog lists.

[Photo credit: Flickr user kevin dooley]

How to Save Water and Save Money

New water bottle stations in Grand Canyon make park safer, more “green”

New water bottle stations in the Grand Canyon will help the park go Stretching for 277 miles through the Arizona desert, the Grand Canyon is amongst the more impressive natural wonders you’ll ever see. It is over 6000 feet in depth and at its widest point, it is 18 miles across. Everything about the place is truly epic in scale, and that is why the park receives nearly 4.5 million visitors a year. But all those visitors can have an impact on the environment there, which is why the National Park Service recently took steps to protect the Canyon, while serving its visitors better at the same time.

A few weeks back the NPS completed the installation of nine water bottle stations in the park. Those stations, located in the highest traffic areas, will provide visitors with plenty of water while hiking in the canyon, which can be quite warm in many months of the year. Visitors are now encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles or hydration packs, and refill often while on the trail.

Keeping visitors hydrated during hot days in the park was only one of the reasons these stations were installed however. The Park Service estimates that about 30% of all the waste removed from the park comes from plastic water bottles, and they are hoping that these filling stations will become a more viable option for hikers, while cutting down on litter and the use of plastics in general. The Park’s leadership has made a commitment to being more environmentally friendly, and they’re encouraging visitors to do the same.

Six of the water stations have been installed along the South Rim at Hermits Rest; the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trailheads; the Canyon Village and Desert View Marketplaces; and
Grand Canyon, Verkamp’s and Desert View Visitor Centers. An additional three refilling stations have been installed along the North Rim at North Kaibab Trailhead, North Rim Visitor Center, and at the North Rim Backcountry Office. Two of those, the North Kaibab Trailhead and the North Rim Visitor Center are for seasonal use only, while all others provide access year round.

Considering how environmentally unfriendly plastic water bottles are, this is a great move for the Park Service. It is also a fantastic resource for travelers in the Grand Canyon as well. The hot, dry weather often surprises visitors to that park, and there are a high number of evacuations there each year for heat and dehydration related issues. Hopefully a readily available supply of water will help address that issue as well.

Review: WaterGeeks filtering stainless steel water bottle

The WaterGeeks filtering stainless water bottle is a water bottle with a twist – besides being a non-leaching BPA free container, the bottle features a built in water filter capable of removing water contaminants, chlorine, bad odors, lead and heavy metals.

The bottle itself comes in two sizes – 12oz or 24oz and you can chose from stainless or one of eight different colors. You can even pick from eight different cap colors, which means you’ll be able to design the bottle exactly as you want it. Depending on the quality of the water you’ll be drinking, you can chose from a basic tap water filter, or a more advanced version capable of filtering out bacteria, cysts, cryptosporidium and other nastiness.


The filter cartridge fits onto the bottle cap and is sufficient for 800 12oz servings. Replacement filters cost $10.99 and come with a new cap, ensuring you always get the best possible quality water.

If you really want to get safe drinkable water from questionable sources, you can of course combine the filtration power of the WaterGeeks bottle, with the disinfecting power of a SteriPEN water purifier.

The WaterGeeks bottle weighs just 6.9 ounces (195 grams), making it ideal of packing and carrying on a trip. The cap cover is attached to the neck of the bottle and features a pop-up valve and air valve to reduce vacuum inside the bottle.

Without access to a water lab, it is hard to tell whether the filter actually works – but there is no denying that active charcoal as used in the tap filter is a proven technology – and water filtered through the bottle really does taste better.

One added bonus of the WaterGeeks filter technology is that their cap and filter will fit any bottle with a 1.75″ thread design – including those from competitors.

You’ll find the entire lineup of WaterGeeks bottles at TheWaterGeeks.com, along with their many other produces. Their bottles are also on sale through several other online retailers.


Top five ways to conserve water when you travel

It’s not always easy to be eco-conscious when you travel, especially when it comes to conserving natural resources like water. Over one billion people don’t have access to clean water, says thewaterproject.org, a non-profit that works to bring relief to global communities suffering from this issue (to donate, click here). Yet, the often-necessary evil of purchasing bottled water in developing nations has made for an environmental nightmare, as anyone who’s ever seen entire beaches littered with discarded plastic containers can attest.

As travelers, we’re fortunate to have the money and resources to obtain clean water, but there are things we can do on the road to conserve this precious resource, as well as minimize the amount of plastic we use. Even better, most of the below tips are just as easily put into action at home. For more ideas on indoor and outdoor water conservation, click here.

1. Turn off sink when brushing your teeth, and washing dishes, your face, or shaving (legs, too, ladies, if you’re in a place with abysmal water pressure). Also be sure to fully turn off taps. Leaking faucet? Unless you carry spare washers with you, it may be tough to resolve this one, depending upon where you are, what type of place you’re staying in, and language barriers. Use your judgement on whether or not it’s worth alerting staff or your host.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Stacy Lynn Baum]2. Turn off the shower while you’re soaping up, shampooing, or shaving/shorten your shower.

3. If your water has been festering in a plastic bottle on a hot bus all day and you can’t bring yourself to drink it, don’t just pour it onto the ground or down the drain. Find a smart place to empty it: a tree, a vegetable garden, give it to a thirsty animal.

4. Pack lightweight, quick-drying, dark-colored clothing that can be washed in the sink, eliminating the need for washing machines. Allow them to soak for awhile (bring a flat sink-stopper with you, or stuff a piece of clothing in the drain, in a pinch). Drain, wring out, and refill sink with clean water, rather than using running water to wash and rinse.

5. If you need to hit a laundromat (even if you’re dropping it off), wait until you’ve got a full load, if possible. If you’re DIY, select the appropriate machine setting to ensure the right water level, and wash your clothes on cold–it will get them just as clean, and conserves energy.

It can be tough to postpone laundering when you’re backpacking, especially in hot, humid climates. I usually sink-wash to get by until the entire contents of my pack are ready for a trip to the laundromat. Yes, it’s kind of gross, but if you can’t handle slightly funky threads, you probably shouldn’t be a backpacker.

Tip: Bring your own water bottle (or reuse a plastic bottle several times). Not only does this save money, but you’re sparing the earth. thewaterproject.org, reports that it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to meet the demand for U.S. bottled water production, alone. Plastic bottles take thousands of years to degrade, clogging landfills, or releasing toxic fumes if incinerated.

If you’re traveling in a country or region where it’s not safe to drink tap water, and you’ll be staying put for a couple of days, or you need to stock up (for a long bus trip, say), buy a gallon jug(s) and refill your own bottle as needed, rather than purchasing multiple units of smaller bottles. Be sure to pack some purifying tablets to keep it clean (they’re not a bad thing to use in suspect areas, anyway, since bottled water can be contaminated). If you need to purify your own water, there are pros and cons to the various types of filtration systems. An outdoor store like REI is a good place to ask for feedback and advice, as well as purchase BPA-free water bottles

Sigg makes excellent, eco-friendly water bottles from lined aluminum. They’re practically indestructable (mine has seen four continents and a lot of abuse since I got it four years ago, and it’s still in top shape), come in various sizes, have cool designs, and the caps are replaceable/have interchangeable styles.

[Photo credits: shower, Flickr user privatenobby; bottles, Flickr use procsilas]