I have water on the brain. For one thing, at the time of writing, it’s pouring fat, wintry drops begging to be snow. For another, last week, I got cheeky and shared a glimpse of our fridge on Instagram which brought a torrent (water pun!) of questions about the black charcoal sticks we use to purify our water. I’ve written about this before, but it’s been a good five years, so here’s an update.
Suffice to say, I haven’t done a comprehensive scientific study of water filters. The degree to which water filters work (and how they work!) varies drastically on the type you have and your own needs and concerns. (Here’s a handy chart from the CDC if you’re interested in learning more about the different approaches you might take. Ditto this one from the NSF.)
For our part, we take an admittedly extremely low-tech approach to water filtration and purification. We use activated charcoal sticks to purify our water in glass bottles that we store in the fridge. Charcoal water filtration of this sort has been used in Japan since the Edo period (which began in 1603!). The Kishu Binchotan charcoal that we use is made from 100-percent Ubame oak heated to high temperatures and quickly cooled. The basic principle is that toxins bond to the porous charcoal and leave water tasting fresher, brighter, and with any luck, free of some of the heavy metals that can be found in drinking water. Anecdotally, I’ve found that the charcoal helps the water taste a whole lot better. Better still, it comes minimally packaged and doesn’t require lots of moving parts or complicated disposal.
What we use:
+ Small Glass Water Pitcher Great for little kids.
How we use it:
+ We keep charcoal sticks in three glass vessels filled up with tap water. The charcoal starts working nearly immediately. Generally, I find that by the time the water has been in the fridge long enough to get cold, it’s already tasting better.
+ Every few weeks we boil our charcoal sticks to reopen pores and give them a kickstart.
+ Every six months or so, we replace them.
+ Spent charcoal can be used as odor absorbers, or put into a garden bed or the bottom of a potted plant.
+ Walter Filter: This ceramic countertop filter is extremely lovely looking. It’s designed to use the Berkey Filtration system, which aren’t inexpensive and they don’t meet NSF filtration standards, but then, neither do activated charcoal sticks.
+ Soma: This B-Corporation makes lovely looking pitchers (including the glass carafe shown here) and delivers filters directly to your door. Filters are made from certified sustainable coconut shell carbon and plant-based sugar cane but are not currently recyclable. Like the Brita below, they’re NSF-certified. A portion of sales go to charity:water.
+ Brita: I don’t love keeping water in plastic and I find that these guys take up too much room in our little fridge, but they’re highly recommended, NSF-certified, and long-lasting. Plastic cartridges can’t generally be recycled curbside, but some stores offer recycling programs. This slim model seems like the best small-fridge option.
+ New Yorkers (and no doubt folks in many places) can get a free lead water test kit. We did it when we moved into our current apartment and it might be something you choose to do too!
+ Reality check: Personal preferences and particulars aside, having guaranteed access to clean, potable water is something that lots of folks can’t take for granted. No surprise, unsafe drinking water disproportionately effects poor, BIPOC and communities. Here’s a sobering look at safe drinking water across the US. And here’s a look at what’s changed—and what hasn’t—when it comes to the Flint Water Crisis (and why we should all care).
+ Earlier this year James and I decided to get our first new set of water glasses since we moved in with each other 12 years ago. This glass is one of them (in the medium size!).
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