less waste, minimalism

Big Berkey

Our household took it’s next step to becoming more sustainable (aka more hippie like) by ordering and setting up a Berkey Water Filtering system for our daily purified water needs.  We had been buying the dreaded bottled water for years now, and even though we are avid recyclers, I really don’t like impact that plastic bottles have on the environment.  Recycling is better then just tossing the bottles in the trash but there are still negative aspects that come from the actual process involved with recycling.  There are lots of fossil fuels used and lots of chemicals emitted into the air from these facilities.  Plus we still don’t really know just how toxic plastic really is to our health (even BPA free plastics).  So my goal was to find a way to cut out the use of plastic water containers.

My first idea was to have the water delivered to us in 5 gallon jugs.  Two things came to mind with this.  First, the 5 gallon jugs are still plastic themselves, even though they do get returned and reused, they still have to be manufactured in the first place and cleaned and recapped.  Second, I didn’t like the idea that the water would be delivered by large, polluting, trucks.  I thought about buying glass jugs and filling them at local filling stations, but that would still involve driving somewhere to bring water home. Lastly, it was would be a space issue for us.  We use a lot of drinking water and have a smaller home and would need to have a reserve of these bottles on hand (maybe 4-5 a month) and that takes up space.

Next thought was to have a reveres osmosis system installed.  I honestly don’t know a lot about these systems.  I’m sure that they work well.  They seem to be able to clean a lot of junk out of your water, including fluoride.  The units do usually take up some space either under your kitchen sink or somewhere else and with such limited space in our kitchen already, it didn’t seem like a good fit.  Plus between what they are made of and the fact that someone else usually needs to install them, it just didn’t seem as practical as I would have liked.

Thinking on a smaller, simpler, scale I thought about getting a Brita type system.  Usually just a small, plastic jug that has a filter in it that you refill and keep in your fridge or counter top.  Since they are smaller, and we need a lot of water, we would go through filters quicker.  I always try to use purified water when I cook and my husband drinks a lot of water to stay hydrated at work.  Used filters, equal more plastic waste (not even sure if there is away to recycle the filters?)in the end.  Also the idea of having to constantly refill the small pitcher in the fridge was not appealing to me.

On an even simpler scale I considered using Kishu Charcoal.  This would have seemed to be been a very “green” way to go, but still not as sustainable as I would like.  Basically, you place a small stick of this charcoal into a pitcher of your choice and pore water into it.  The charcoal is a natural purifier that sucks the toxins out of the water.  But we would face the same issue as the Brita with this method.  Not enough water produced at a single time.  Not to mention the sticks have a shorter lifespan and they are made out of carbonized oak tree branches.  I really didn’t like the idea of adding to the amount of trees that are cut down every year; not to mention the chemicals that are probably emitted from the factories that do so.  So no no, for the charcoal.

Here comes the Berkey.  Now my husband was already familiar with the Berkey system.  He used to live with some friends that were the ultimate hippies (and still are!) and they had used this method of water filtration for years.  So over the past couple years he had been putting the idea of owning a Berkey into the back of my head.  I looked into them from time to time but they never really moved me.  It wasn’t until I learned that recycling wasn’t as straight forward as it seemed (sorry I can’t pin point exactly what a read or watched to learn this, but there is great information out there) that I started to lean towards ordering the Berkey.

The systems come in about 6 different sizes and they are made from stainless steel and a minimal amount of plastic (I’d say a 90/10 ratio).  They do not use any electricity and are fairly easy to maintain and clean.  You can get systems that have 2-4 filters and the filters can last up to 4 years or longer (depending on the model).  The website actually has a formula you can follow to figure out just how long your filters will last (look under the FAQ section of the website)!  The main body of the system is very sleek and modern looking.

We got the Big Berkey model, which is their most popular size, and it takes up very little space on our counter top.  I literally just set it up today, which took about 30-40 minutes from unboxing to 100% set up.  The instructions were fairly easy to understand and the website has more in-depth instructions if needed.  The most time consuming part of the process was “priming” the water filers.  The unit itself goes together without even using any tools.  They system is totally silent and so far the water tastes amazing!   Crisp, clean and almost sweet!  I enjoy room temperature water for pretty much everything I use water for, so I can pore and enjoy the water right from the spout.  My husband has to have cold water, so we just fill up his metal canteen and put it in the fridge.  The unit sits on our raised bar counter top and our faucet has a hose on it that I can use to refill the reservoir when needed.  Currently I am very happy with our choice to purchase this item and wish I would have done it years ago.

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I would love to hear from anyone else who has fallen in love with Berkey!  I hope to do an update about our system in maybe 3-6 months.  I really don’t foresee anything negative to come out of this item because it’s simplicity and easy of use.  And even though I love seeing our recycle bin full every week, I am looking forward to it being a little more empty because of the lack of plastic bottles!

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