Thirsty? The first lesson received by a visitor arriving in Mexico City, is that you cannot drink tap water. As a result, Mexico’s plastic water bottle consumption is one of the highest per capita. According to Greenpeace, only about half of the bottles are recycled and the consumer pays 5,000% more for the product just for the cost of the container. Two DJs are trying to change this. With their company Smart Filter they sell and install Elkay water fountains, bottle fillers and 3M filtration products.
IMPACT ON MEXICO’S DRINKING WATER CULTURE
Co-founder Edward Lugo: ‘Me and another co-founder are DJs. We have actually provided free water systems for water festivals and taken a 2 hour break to go play a set; so we like to connect ventures and be artistic with everything we do.’
Edward Lugo tells us his family has been involved in water treatment in Mexico for over 50 years. He explains: ‘Our dream is to have an impact of Mexico’s drinking water culture so we can stop being one of the main consumers per capita of plastic in the world’. Therefore, with Smart Filter he wants to install as many filters and water fountains as possible and then find ways to map and have users find the stations. Mapping stations can be done with one of the many refill app.
MORE AND MORE WATER FOUNTAINS IN MEXICO
We believe Smart Filter has an interesting approach. Mexico still has a long way to go, but every step counts. Official numbers are missing, but public water fountains are emerging in gyms, universities, massive events, office buildings, parks and hotels. Locals with a sustainability mindset are starting to carry a refillable bottle with them on the streets. We hope more will follow their example!
GET IN TOUCH
Smart Filter is based in Mexico City, a metropole with nine million inhabitants. They are a division of Lawsco, a big water treatment company in Mexico. Do you want to learn more about Smart Filter? Check out their website or get in touch with Edward Lugo.
Chlorine and chloramine are added to tap water to make it safe for drinking. They have no negative health impact, but they affect the taste and odor. As a result, many people buy bottled water. What a waste! With a small and cheap water filter, the chlorine taste and odor is reduced to almost zero. Refill Ambassadors Félice and Hella tested a BRITA filter in the South of France.
How does it work? We could not find much information about the filter itself, except that it is a carbon filter system. The BRITA water filter looks like a simple plastic jug. You fill it with tap water and wait approximately 30 seconds. Pour the filtered water in your glass and enjoy!
What about the taste? We are very positive. The chlorine taste and odor are close to zero and the water is softer.
How much does it cost? This depends on the model and the country where you buy it. For example the “Brita® Everyday Water Pitcher” costs 35 dollars, including one filter. The filter needs to be replaced after every +/- 150 liter or 450 liter if you choose the long-lasting filter. Check out the prices for filters here. In total, you’ll spend a few cents per liter.
What about the environment? By using a water filter, you help prevent plastic waste (compared to buying single-use plastic bottles). According to the BRITA website, 1.800 plastic bottles are replaced per year if you use a Brita® system vs. buying bottled water. Almost all BRITA filter cartridges are recyclable (we advise you to choose the long lasting filter). Some models provide a sticker calendar indicator when to replace the filter. All products are BPA-free.
MORE ABOUT BRITA
BRITA was founded in 1966 by Heinz Hankammer in Taunusstein, Germany. Since then, it has grown to a worldwide firm with almost 2.000 employees.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WATER FILTERS
To conclude: we think this is a cheap and simple solution for countries where tap water is potable but not very tasty. But BRITA is not the only option. Read our blog about TAPP.
We’re eager to learn more about water filters and other brands. Please share your experience with us.
Today we focus on RESPONSible Travel Peru, a community-based tour operator (HQ in Cusco). While tourism contributes 10% of global GDP and accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide, the industry’s use of key resources is growing equitably. Think about its generation of solid waste, including marine plastic pollution, loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. Tourists, tour operators, tourist accommodations and (local) governments are all responsible for this. And capable to change the industry.
That’s exactly what RESPONSible Travel Peru has been doing. During the past months, they organised several sustainability workshops throughout Peru. Including tips about how to become a refill station. We got curious and asked Daniel Muñoz all about it.
INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL MUÑOZ (D), EDITOR AT RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU
Single-use plastics are still widely used in Peru. What are the biggest challenges?
D: There is a big culture around the use of disposable items. They are cheap, practical and available all over. Although the law against the use of plastic bags/cups, straws, styrofoam cups/boxes was approved last year, its enforcement is slow, and it is also being internalized in the minds of people at a very slow pace. There is still a hard-to-believe lack of consciousness among citizens and companies as well, but neither municipal government offices are doing their part (very few exceptions only).
That is a shame. Some habits are not easily changed. Governmental rules and bans are a great help but not sufficient. Luckily, tourists and tourism facilities can make a change too. For the latter you organised several workshops. How did that go?
D: The workshops were held in various cities: Cusco, Urubamba, Puno city, Arequipa Coporaque, Nasca, Paracas, Lima, Huaraz and Chiclayo. We started months ago preparing ourselves via our own internal workshop (2 weeks) where, as a team, prepared the sustainability criteria and useful information to share with providers (transportation companies and drivers; agencies and guides; hotels and homestays; and communities that provide Community Based Tourism (CBT)). We contacted all the participants one by one, and asked them for collaboration in terms of conference rooms, snacks and lodging.
So you managed to reach quite a lot of people. What kind of information did you share? How did your audience respond to the workshops?
D: The public was very participative. Also because we promoted participation within special segments of the workshop where we asked to mention problems faced in the area, as well as possible solutions.
We started with an overview of global problems faced by the planet (global warming, SDGs, etc.). This was followed by a local overview and sustainable tourism approach. We explained who we are and our way to do stuff. Furthermore we looked at sustainability and tourism certifications (mostly Travelife). We gave a resume of sustainability criteria by sectors (as named above), and sustainability strategies. And then in detail about becoming refill stations.
CREATING NEW REFILL STATIONS IN PERU
That’s very good. In Peru refill stations are hard to find (and this increased our motivation to start Refill Ambassadors). For example in Cusco, there are so many hotels, bars, shops, restaurants and museums. The potential for new refill stations is huge! Let’s talk a bit more about your effort to create new water refill stations, since that is our main focus too. What worked well and what did not? Did you just ask your partners to become a refill station?
D: Yes, we started encouraging partners to implement refill stations at their businesses, first by means of the word through our workshops. That didn’t work out that well, only a couple did it right away, others only because we provided the water filters. But 25 other participants of the workshops filled out forms where they were requesting more information on how to become a refill station. So that was our next step.
We can imagine the concept of ‘becoming a refill station’ needs some more explanation before facilities actually join. Can you tell us in depth about this ‘next step’, how did you follow-up?
D: We implemented our own sustainability team, and already sent-out our first three newsletters sharing tips and relevant information, and a special one (with all the information related to refill stations) was launched as well. You can check this last one here (in Spanish). So far, about 30 new refill stations are on the way to be established.
Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink. That means refill stations have to be equiped with some kind of water filter. Or they can be a large water tank (e.g. 20 L with deposit). Could you tell a bit more about the water filters you provided for some homestays? What type of filter is used?
This is the HUATTA family at their homestay in Taquile island, Titicaca lake (Nazava brand). A similar filter was provided to another homestay (coffee farmers) in Cusco, along our Coffee Route to Machu Picchu; and a third to a local restaurant in Cusco city with which we collaborate largely (they provide cooking lessons as part of our Meet-the-local activities).
It’s really great that you organised these workshops. And to see the effort is paying off. You at RESPONSible Travel Peru have become true experts while still continuously looking for improvements. Can you share some other sustainable travel tips?
Travel light (and to use that space to bring donations).
Embrace the slow-travel philosophy. Really get to know the destination and meet the locals
Use ground transportation as much as possible (and to fly the least);
Bring reusable bottles and zero-waste kits
Eat local and slow food.
Daniel, thank you so much for your time and keep up the good work.
RESPONSible Travel Peru is a community based tour operator since 2009. Its founders wanted to tackle ‘the problem of welfare projects and defined periods specific to non-profit organizations, which seek to train small entrepreneurs and rural communities, but that at the end of the management fail to achieve self-sufficiency’ (read more). Over the years, RESPONSible Travel Peru has become much more than a just a tour operator: they are a great source of inspiration for travellers, tourist facilities and other tour operators in the world.
What if tap water is potable, but not very tasty? Use a water filter! It’s almost one year ago since we tested the TAPP 2, a simple and affordable biodegradable water filter. Since then, TAPP Water has been working on the development of new products and their website. Time for a close look at this innovative company. Oh and we have a nice present for you at the end of this blog!
The 25 team members gained lots of insights regarding misconceptions about tap water. Silvia Gennaro (PR, Affiliation & Partnerships Manager) shared a few stories with us. For example many universities are engaging with their students giving them reusable bottles to refill and avoiding single-use plastics. However in countries where these universities are, many still refil the reusable bottle with water that comer from plastic bottles. (e.g. using 1,5 L single-use plastic bottles from the supermarkets).
Silvia: “Italy has extremely pure water sources. It’s even famous for exporting bottled spring water, like San Pellegrino. However, Italy is the world’s 3rd country when it comes to bottled water consumption per capita (after Mexico and Thailand), the first one in Europe. Tap water tests in Milan and Rome show the water is very clear and safe, yet people buy bottled water because they have false beliefs.”
Furthermore Silvia told us some people believe they get kidney stones from drinking tap water, even though many studies show it is not true. Overall, tap water provides a perfect mixture of sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Even more strange: healthy humans buying low mineralisation bottled water and mineral supplements! Strange!
TESTING FILTERED TAP WATER
Last month, TAPP demonstrated their water filters on a local food and artisan market in Barcelona, their hometown. During the event, they conducted blind-tests with filtered and non-filtered tap water. Visitors were amazed by the difference in taste. “Amazing!” “It tastes really good, I’m going to buy it”. Something we also concluded with our own user test (50 participants).
GET YOUR OWN WATER FILTER – SPECIAL OFFER
All in all, we feel TAPP is a cool company striving for big changes. They really want to re-educate people in the way we consume and drink water. Most importantly, they offer sustainable, affordable water filters. The TAPP 2 is a biodegradable water filter (Activated Carbon Block, 1-2 microns) that you connect directly to the faucet. It strongly reduces bad taste, chlorine, lead, microplastics and a wide range of other contaminants.
Do you want to get your own filter? With the coupon code refillambassadors you get €5,- discount on any order at TAPP (apply this code in the first step of the check-out). In addition, our project receives a very small percentage when you use this TAPP discount code. We’ll use this money to cover our operational costs. Happy refilling!
In this blog I share my experience with the SteriPEN adventurer Opti, which I used when hiking in the Dolomites, Italy. You might wonder, can’t you drink tap water in the Dolomites? Yes, in most places you can. Sometimes directly from the mountain stream. However, there are some areas where tap water is not potable. For example in some mountain cabins also known as ‘rifugio’s’, we could not drink tap water (listed in the end of this blog). Luckily with our SteriPEN we didn’t have to buy any single-use plastic bottles. In this blog, we explain how it works.
WHAT IS A STERIPEN?
The SteriPEN is a portable gadget which uses ultraviolet light to sterilise water and make it safe for drinking. The device kills the DNA of harmful microbes, viruses and bacteria. According to the manufacturers, 99,9% of all harmful enemies are killed. The SteriPEN does not filter metals or chemicals.
USING THE STERIPEN
Several models exist. We bought the SteriPEN adventurer Opti for our trip. This device only has one button. Click once (for 1 L) or twice (for 1/2 L) to activate the UV light. Then stir around in the bottle until the green light flashes. And done! In case it did not go well, the sensor gives other signals to warn you.
STERIPEN ADVENTURER OPTI PRO’S AND CON’S
What we love about the SteriPEN adventurer Opti:
Lightweight: 108 grams + batteries
Quick: 48 seconds (1/2 L), or 90 seconds (1 L)
Clear interface: green and red lights (unless you are colour blind!)
Capacity: can filter 8.000 liters of water
Value for money: prices vary from €60,- to €100,- (or around 1-2 cent/litre)
Battery: you need CR123 batteries, which can be expensive and difficult to find
Bottle: you need a bottle with a wide opening, otherwise it does not work
OTHER WATER FILTERS / PURIFIERS
The SteriPEN is one product to purify water. For example there is also the Lifestraw or Grayl water filter. We did not test these, but read what other travellers wrote about this topic:
How do you filter water when travelling? Share your experiences!
BACKGROUND INFO: SOME CABINS (RIFUGIO’S) IN THE DOLOMITES WITHOUT CLEAN TAP WATER (BY MACHA LINSZEN)
Our friend Mascha Linszen also travelled to the Dolomites (natural parks around Cortina d’ Ampezzo) and she kept track of tap water conditions in all cabins she visited.
“Most cabins are large and comfortable, and often well connected to civilization by means of a cart track. The comfortable cabins where we have been sitting or passing along the way have running drinking water from the tap at their disposal. In our case this involved the following cabins (DE / IT):
Hütte Plätzwiese / Prato Piazza rifugio
Dürrenstein Hütte / Vallandro rifugio
Sennes Hütte / rifugio Sennes
Schutzhütte Vodara Vedla
Berghütte Lavarella / Rifugio Lavarella
In some smaller huts the tap water was not drinkable. This was indicated in different ways, and there were alternatives available:
Seekofel Hütte / Rifugio Biella Indicated: by means of signs (‘kein Trinkwasser’) next to the tap Alternative: water / soft drink / alcoholic drink offered for sale
Ucia dles Muntagnoles Indicated: on arrival, verbal communication by the hostess Alternative: water / soft drink / alcoholic drink offered for sale Alternative 2: tap water at a nearby larger cabin (Fanes / Lavarella) Alternative 3: the host lady (living in the hut) drinks from the nearby stream herself, but clearly indicates that this is at his own risk given the larger huts upstream. Two Germans who, despite this warning, drank from 4 brooks in the brook soon got stomach flu.
Ütia da Rit Indicated: warm tap water temperature Alternative: water / soft drink / alcoholic drink offered for sale Alternative 2: there is potable tap water in the kitchen – we asked the cook on the spot if we could fill our bottles.”
Can a simple and cheap water filter be the solution for people to switch to tap water? We tested the TAPP 2 Click during our research trip in Andalusia.
WHAT KIND OF WATER FILTER IS THE TAPP 2?
The TAPP 2 Click is a biodegradable water filter (Activated Carbon Block, 1-2 microns) that you connect directly to the faucet. It strongly reduces bad taste, chlorine, lead, microplastics and a wide range of other contaminants (see detailed description). By using a switch you can choose between filtered water and regular tap water.
The filter works as a kind of printer: the cartridge has to be replaced every three months (or sooner, once you’ve reached >1500 Litres). It is cheap: €89,- for the first year (device + 4 cartridges) and €60,-/year afterwards (4 cartridges).
With a green button on top one can activate a Bluetooth connection and connect the product to the ‘TAPP app’. In the app you can see how many plastic bottles you have saved, and it gives a reminder when to change the cartridge.
The TAPP 2 Click was tested in the Lemon Garden Hostel in Seville and Cádiz Inn Backpackers Hostel. A short written explanation – in English and Spanish – was added on how to use the filter.
We observed how people used the filter and asked 50 people about their opinions:
In both hostels, we managed to connect the TAPP 2 to the kitchen faucet in only one minute. The product could not be attached to the tiny bathroom faucets.
Overall responses were very positive. 45 preferred the taste of filtered water, 4 people could not really tell the difference, and 1 person preferred the taste of unfiltered tap water.
About 1/3 stated the filtered water resembled the taste of mountain water.
Some participants were confused about the button on top (made to activate Bluetooth connection). They were pressing the button in an attempt to get filtered water, instead of using the switch on the side.
Some participants opened the tap too far, causing the water to flow too quickly though the filter (with unfiltered water this is not a problem).
We also tried the TAPP 2 Click ourselves and really liked the taste of filtered water. Even though tap water in Cádiz and Seville is relatively good, we could clearly smell and taste the difference. We think the TAPP 2 is a great product in areas where tap water is potable yet not very tasty. When used intensively it also saves money on plastic bottles.
The product is very simple, but a little explanation is desired. Therefore we feel that the TAPP 2 Click is best used in households, small bars, cafés, AirBnB’s and smaller hotels/B&B’s. But not in places where users randomly walk in or out.
GET YOUR OWN TAPP 2
Excited? The TAPP 2 Click has been developed by TAPP Water, a young startup based in Barcelona. Get yourself a nice present and order the TAPP 2. With the coupon code ‘refillambassadors‘ you get €5,- discount on your order at TAPP (apply this code in the first step of the check-out).