How to Filter Your Water, Without All That Plastic

I can't remember how we filtered our water as kids, living in bustling Bogotá. I ask my mother for clarification and she mentions that we bought bottled water and washed our fruits & vegetables in bleach water, a suggestion from other American families at the time. As a teenager, we started drinking filtered water from the fridge and later moved on to a Brita filter. I'd fill up a spill-proof bottle everyday before school and not give it a second thought.

Filtered pitchers do lessen our reliance on plastic water bottles which, according to Brita, apparently amounts to 3,500+ bottles per average household. Brita, like Pur, also uses companies like Terracycle to recycle their filters, packaging, faucet systems, pitchers, and bottles. These companies have worked to make this process easy for you, by offering drop off locations and a mail-in program that allows you to print off shipping labels from your own online account. But, as we all know well, these options are reliant on 'perfect world' situations where in the recycling of your filtration system is on the forefront of your mind in all scenarios, such as moving across the country or spring cleaning. While it's important that once thought 'unrecycable' items be given more purpose, instead of wasting away in a landfill, it doesn't mean we should freely contribute to the demand.

Yes, you likely still have to filter your water. Ask any other Houstonite, our faucet water is a special kind of terrible. But are there any filtration systems on the market that rely less on the actions of its owners for sustainability? 

Soma is a new product, endorsed by celebrities and advertised heavily on Facebook, that boasts a more environmentally conscious experience.

They offer two different systems at this time - a glass carafe and a mixed-materials pitcher. The pitcher and cone (which holds the filter) is made of bpa-free plastic, the handle is white oak, and the filter is coconut carbon and "plant-based" PLA. The carafe is only slightly better with a glass body, plus the same cone and filter. These items are beautiful, but seem geared more towards the design-oriented - not those who are looking to decrease their toll on the environment. There's little to no actual information about Soma's sustainability and recyclability on their website either. A lot of resources are being used here and at the end of the day, you're still left with the same options as any other plastic product.

The answer to clean, safe water without the use of plastic seems to be a little product called the Kishu Charcoal. The innovative company behind this 'system'  came together in 2011, with the sole purpose of finding a more eco-friendly way of filtering tap water. A Kishu is created by sustainably pruning white oak branches which are then slowly carbonized to 1000 degrees. You place the resulting charred piece in a pitcher, water bottle, or pet bowl (!), and then let it work its magic for up to four months. Because branches are pruned, the oak doesn't have to be reshaped, painted, or chemically sealed, like the handles of the Soma. 

The Kishu, along with its packaging, can also be composted and used as bio-char in your garden. 

But how does it taste? The company indicates that while this product works immediately, it's best to give your piece 8 hours or more for optimal absorption. I popped the Kishu in my favorite glass carafe, waited an hour, and served my housemates. Everyone noted that it tasted way better than tap water but I personally didn't see enough of a difference. After letting it sit over night, however, the water tasted perfect. Not at all like bottled water or a Brita though, which may benefit you if you're the kind of person who doesn't like water because it's bland. This purifies your city's water without taking away its character, which might be something you have to taste to believe.

Magdalena Antuña