Summer is coming!! (Sorry for you Game of Thrones people- no more of these “winter is coming” shenanigans, summer is the glory time of Seattle, and I’m all over it.) That beautiful warm weather (hopefully) means more time sitting outside, sipping a refreshing beverage and staying cool. If I don’t feel like a beer, my go-to is often a sparkling beverage, like the ubiquitous La Croix or other similar drink. But I’ve often wondered what the environmental cost of drinking sparkling beverages is, and whether getting a SodaStream or similar device would be worthwhile.
FOR ONCE, this is an easy answer!!!! If you (like me) are a frequent drinker of sparkling water, get one of those machines!!! And stop buying the cans!
But, to get more specific, what are the environmental costs of sparkling water? The carbon dioxide that is in the water is rounding error in terms of the carbon cost; it’s usually captured from burning things in industrial processes, so no additional carbon is produced to carbonate your water. A life cycle analysis done for soda (so, similar impacts to fizzy water, but with the addition of sugar production) suggested that the vast majority of the carbon impact comes from production of the packaging (60-77%, depending on whether the packaging is made from aluminum or glass). Refrigeration and transport of the bottle come in at 33% and 7% of emissions each.
However, importantly, as pointed out in an Ask Umbra column about this same topic, consumption of fizzy beverages is overall a small contributor to your carbon footprint relative to other factors. Drinking a can of soda contributes only about 0.4 pounds of carbon to the atmosphere, while driving your car just 20 miles produces 18 pounds of emissions. Although a yearly habit of 100 sodas or bubble waters does come out ot 40 pounds of carbon emissions, there are other equally or more impactful ways to cut back on your emissions.
Even with that caveat though, I’m buying a SodaStream. I found one on OfferUp while I was researching this post and it’s already got a new home in my kitchen. (Although I’m driving to pick it up- argh! Extra motivation to not squander those carbon emissions by buying any more fizzy waters this year!)