Making your own soda – an old idea that’s new again
By Lauren Heine
We’ve all seen heartbreaking photos of birds and other animals caught up in plastic trash in the ocean. Albatrosses, who go out on long expeditions to bring back food for their mates and their chicks, mistake plastic for food, swallow it, and have been found dead with a stomach full of trash.
Plastic bottles are a big contributor to the problem. I drink carbonated beverages, and I like bubbly water with a little juice for flavor. But buying and transporting bottled water is energy and material intensive – even if the bottles are recycled or reused. And more than 80 percent of plastic water or soda bottles in the United States are still not recycled.
Recently I discovered a product called Soda Stream that allows me to make bubbly water – plain or flavored – that is really a disruptive technology in the best sense of the word.
The Soda Stream system includes a carbonator that holds enough CO2 to make up to 110 liters of soda (a liter is roughly a quart), reusable one liter bottles, and a soda maker that allows you to carbonate tap or filtered water in the bottle to whatever fizz level you like. You can mail the empty carbonators back to Soda Stream in a prepaid box for a refill, or you can take them to a local store (Bed, Bath and Beyond, Sears and JCPenney are among about a dozen chains) and exchange it there for a refill. You pay only for the refill.
I’m an engineer by training and a geek at heart, so I get great pleasure from calculating the benefits of things like Soda Stream. A family that drinks 30 liters of carbonated beverage each month generates 360 empty quart-size bottles a year, or more of the smaller sizes. Plus they need to carry those bottles from the store to home and ideally recycle them too. Multiply 360 by the number of soda-drinking families in the US and you can see what an enormous impact it can have.
The Soda Stream system, by comparison, generates no waste as the bottles can be reused for two years, the water can be obtained from the tap, and the CO2 canisters are refilled.
Soda makers have, in fact, been around for a long time. (The earliest ones date back as far as 1600s.) In the 1950s, stylish bottles (photo right) were common in homes. But each one had to be refilled with a small CO2 canister, and they weren’t kept in the refrigerator. So they gave way to the single-use cans and bottles that now pollute the land and ocean. Soda Stream’s system fits our modern age – easy, quick and convenient.
Soda Stream provides an example of how products can be designed to offer convenience and all the benefits of carbonated beverages without the waste and negative impacts on wildlife. Let’s make a toast to those who engineer delightful products that benefit humans, animals and the environment.
What do you say? Have you used a soda maker? Would you try one? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.
What you can do. Check out the Soda Stream system here.
Lauren Heine, Ph.D., is Consulting Science Director, Clean Production Action and Principal, Lauren Heine Group LLC. With experience and expertise in green chemistry, green engineering, sustainable business practices, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, she advises organizations seeking to integrate green chemistry and engineering into product and process design and development activities. She has co-authored and directed the development of tools and databases that promote green chemistry in product formulation including CleanGredients and the Green Screen for Safer Chemicals.