The Ultimate guide to water bottles: Our A-Z on reusable water bottles

The Ultimate guide to water bottles: Our A-Z on reusable water bottles

Looking for the ultimate guide to reusable water bottles? Then you are in the right place.

This is our complete guide with everything you need to know. Let’s dive right in: 


A is for aluminium reusable water bottles
B is for bisphenols
C is for corporate branding
D is for durability
E is for Easy eco-friendly swap
F is for fast fashion
G is for glass reusable water bottles
H is for Handy hydration
I is for insulation
J is for James Dewar
K is for Keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold
L is for lead
M is for money
N is for no unnecessary single use plastics
O is for OHELO
P is for plastic reusable water bottles
Q is for quality
R is for reduce, reuse, recycle
S is for stainless steel reusable water bottles
T is for tap water
U is for usability
V is for vacuum insulation
W is for Where in the world are vacuum flasks made?
X, Y and Z

A is for Aluminium reusable water bottles

Aluminium reusable water bottles are one of the metal bottle options on the market. Though lighter and cheaper than stainless steel they do have a few major drawbacks to consider.

Pros of aluminium reusable water bottles

• Aluminium is a lightweight choice.
• Aluminium is a cheaper alternative to stainless steel.
• Aluminium is 100% recyclable and endlessly recyclable.

Cons of aluminium reusable water bottles

• Aluminium is a reactive metal that can be toxic to people. Aluminium bottles thus have additional thin plastic epoxy/resin coating inside to prevent direct contact with your drink. Over time these liners can deteriorate leaving the aluminium exposed. As they are plastics, they can also leach microplastics and chemicals like BPA into your water. This lining can also lead to flavour transfer to your drink.
• Not dishwasher safe.
• May dent when dropped – not as durable as stainless steel water bottles.
• Heat retention is not as good as insulated stainless steel bottles.

Aluminium reusable water bottle in reusable carrier

B is for Bisphenols

Bisphenols are chemical compounds that are commonly used in making types of plastics and epoxy resins.

The one that most people are familiar with is bisphenol-A or BPA.  It is a common ingredient for polycarbonate plastics, which are typically used for reusable water bottles (and baby bottles among others). Epoxy resins can be used to coat aluminium bottles and metal cans to prevent rusting and metal contamination with the contents. Small amounts of BPA have been seen to leach from plastics into the food and drink stuffs that they carry.

BPA has been shown to have hormone mimicking properties, with similarities to Oestrogen.

Scientific studies have linked this to a range of health problems. Due to this it is banned in multiple regions for baby products. However, technically is still allowed in products aimed at adults.

Many companies now use BPA-free materials due to the hormone mimicking properties that have been scientifically proven, to make their products safer for the end user.

What are they using to replace the BPA? Sadly, BPA is commonly replaced with other bisphenols, typically BPS or BPF. The average consumer is not as aware of these chemicals and what health implications they may have. However, early studies show that these chemicals have the same hormone mimicking properties as BPA.

You can reduce your exposure to BPA by not reheating food in plastic containers and reducing your use of plastic containers and canned foods. When choosing stainless steel, ceramic or glass alternatives be sure to check if they are simply marked as BPA free or if they are also free from BPS and BPF. Our recommendation would be to choose a BPA-, BPS- and BPF- free stainless steel reusable bottle.

An infographic showing the problems of BPA

C is for Corporate Branding

Most companies will have a need for some bespoke branded merchandise at some point. This can be for conferences and other in-person events, for employee perk programmes or for customer gifting.

With climate change and the problem of single use plastics being at the forefront of current news, this corporate gifting has had to move to more sustainable products. The days of the unnecessary branded plastic gift are over.

Company branded reusable water bottles or coffee cups can let employees and customers know that the company has sustainability values.

Some companies will just go for the cheapest option. They will simply be price focussed and will not be as concerned to find reusable bottles and cups that have also been made in the right way. Water bottles can be made in good and bad places – some companies cut corners around materials and manufacturing practices which means the people in their supply chains are unfairly treated. Sadly, some companies talk the talk but don’t walk the walk when it comes to sustainability policies and will just select a cheap reusable option and call it a sustainable choice without looking into who made the product and how they were treated.

But then there are those companies that understand the reusable water bottles they buy as branded merchandise don’t just have a carbon footprint but have a social and economic impact too. These companies will want proof that the branded bottles are not only a reusable option, but that they are made of the right stuff and in the right way. They will want to check independent certifications and audits to confirm that the branded merchandise is truly a sustainable choice.

There are a range of internationally recognised audits that water bottle companies can use to show they are offering truly sustainable options when it comes to corporate branding. For instance, at Ohelo we hold a 4-pillar SMETA report. The 4 pillars of a SMETA report are Labour Standards, Health & Safety, Business Ethics and Environment. For companies looking for truly sustainable merchandise, these independent audits provide complete transparency and show we are manufacturing in an ethical and responsible way, resulting in truly sustainable reusable water bottles.

Ohelo insulated water bottle co-branded with WWF logo - bottle held in hand with artic background

D is for Durability

How durable a reusable water bottle is really does matter. It is related to both its impact on the planet and your wallet.

A circular economy is one where we cut out waste by choosing reusable products that are built to last and that use renewable energy in their production processes. At the end of product life it is then recycled into another product, creating a closed loop system.

If a reusable water bottle breaks within a couple of months use, then it is not as sustainable as a water bottle that lasts for years.

This can also impact your wallet. If you are shelling out for a new water bottle every couple of months that is going to add up. Suddenly that cheaper choice is not looking so good, is it? By investing in a higher quality reusable water bottle that has been built to last you can save money in the long run.

E is for Easy eco-friendly swap

Plastic pollution is a big problem for the world we live in. Making small, sustainable changes to our lifestyle can help protect our planet.

In the UK alone we still use 7.7 billion plastic water bottles a year. 3.25 billion of those ARE NOT recycled and end up as waste.

In the UK single use plastic water bottles add an extra 350,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases to the environment. Single use plastic bottles make up 10% of plastic found on the foreshore of the river Thames. More than 8 million tonnes of plastic a year is making it into our oceans.

There are so many shocking statistics showing how bad single use plastics are for our planet.

An infographic showing the plastic pollution problem with statistics

One of the easiest swaps to make is to say no to single use water bottles and to choose a reusable water bottle instead. With many different reusable options out there, some are more environmentally friendly than others.

Together we can make a difference!

F is for fast fashion

Fast fashion is not just limited to your hoodies!

Fast fashion can be thought of as any mass produced item with low prices that are achieved by cutting corners along the way.

Most of us understand the problems surrounding fast fashion – from the use of inferior materials to unsafe work environments, from unfair treatment of workers who may be paid less than minimum wage to child and forced labour.

It is important to understand that all of these problems sadly exist within the reusable water bottle market and are not limited to your clothes.

When looking for a new reusable water bottle think about who is making that bottle. How are they treated? How are they paid?

What materials are being used to make that bottle? Do those materials have negative effects for either the workers or the natural environment? Are they built to last or are they going to break within a couple of weeks use?

Cheap water bottles come at a price. Personally, we don’t think that is a price worth paying.

Naturally the best example we can give is our own personal experience. When we were launching Ohelo we did our own online research and due diligence before going in person to meet a wide range of manufacturers. Some of those we met were offering prices that were less than ½ what we now pay for our goods, but that price came at a cost. They were quite shocking places yet making for some big UK names. The conditions workers were subjected to were awful, they were working with inferior materials and price was the main focus.

It costs more to pay staff working wages. It costs more to correctly maintain factories so that the health and safety of workers is prioritised. It costs more to make a quality reusable water bottle with better materials. It costs more to use more environmentally friendly materials. It costs more to protect the surrounding environment from pollutants and other negative impacts of the manufacturing process. It costs more to make water bottles in a responsible and ethical way.

Not all reusable water bottles are created equally.

Some differences are not visible – they are in how that product was made, who made it and what it was made from. Choose an ethically made water bottle to ensure everyone in the supply chain is fairly treated.

G is for glass reusable water bottles

Glass reusable water bottles are generally made from borosilicate glass.

You can find both insulated and non-insulated options of glass bottles. Drinking a coffee from a non-insulated glass bottles will be comparable to drinking a coffee from a glass at home – it will cool down quickly, so you need to drink it straight away if you want it hot. Insulated glass bottles are air insulated rather than vacuum insulated. They won’t keep a drink as hot as a vacuum insulated steel bottle. This is because the heat will be transferred through the air by convection.

Pros of glass reusable water bottles

• Glass is a safe material that won’t impart chemicals or flavours into your water.
• Glass is 100% recyclable and endlessly recyclable.

Cons of glass reusable water bottles

• Easily broken if dropped – not as durable as stainless steel water bottles.
• Heavy compared to other materials used to make reusable water bottles. 

Glass reusable bottle by the sea

H is for Handy Hydration

Staying hydrated is really important for our health. Drinking enough water can help us regulate our body temperature, help our brain and other organs function correctly and help us fight infections. It can also help us sleep better and improve our skin.

Knowing the common signs of dehydration can help you get your water intake right.

Current UK guidelines are to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day (or 1.6l-2l). As we are all different some of us may need to drink more water than others. The amount you need to drink can depend on how active your lifestyle is, size and age. It can also change depending on temperature and humidity – you sweat more on a hot day as your body tries to cool itself down, which means you need to drink more to replenish those fluids you are losing – not such a problem when it’s cold outside.

But it can be hard to drink enough when you are busy. If you are rushed off your feet at work or out hiking with limited options for refreshments it can be a real struggle to drink what you need.

A reusable water bottle can be a handy way to stay hydrated no matter what your schedule looks like:
• Sit it on your office desk to act as a constant reminder to drink that water.
• Use it to check how much you are actually drinking over the course of a day by counting how many times you refill it.
• Take it with you to the gym to ensure you hydrate during your workout.
• Take it to go – carry a reusable water bottle with you to ensure you stay hydrated whether you are out with friends or off on a solo hike.
• Choose an insulated water bottle to keep your water ice cold all day long – always better than drinking lukewarm.

Ohelo insulated water bottles are the best example when it comes to handy hydration. Durable, reliable and easy to use. 100% leakproof so they can be popped in a bag. Dishwasher safe makes them easy to keep clean. Handy handles make them easy to carry. You can easily fit ice cubes in to keep your drink refreshingly cold. They are stylish enough to sit on your desk without fear of judgement. Even better, they are the UK’s only lead free insulated water bottle brand (check out “L is for Lead” for further information).

I is for Insulation

When it comes to reusable water bottles you can choose from no insulation at all (single walled bottles), air insulated bottles or vacuum insulated bottles.

Single walled bottles can be made from plastic, stainless steel, aluminium, or glass. They don’t keep your drink hot or cold. Most single walled water bottles can only be used safely with cold drinks. The exception to that would be a bottle made from borosilicate glass which may be safely used to hold a hot drink without shattering, but it will not keep that drink hot.

Air insulated water bottles will keep drinks hotter for longer than a single walled bottle, but not for as long as a vacuum insulated bottle. Air insulation is commonly used in glass water bottles and also in water bottles made from a range of bioplastics such as bottles made from bamboo or recycled plastics.

Vacuum insulation is typically used for metal water bottles. We will explain more about the technicalities of this later in the “V is for Vacuum Insulation” section. There will be 2 layers of metal that are separated by a vacuum layer (a layer with no air). This vacuum layer allows these insulated metal bottles to keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold than any of the other reusable options.

J is for James Dewar

Sir James Dewar was a Scottish scientist who invented the very first vacuum flask.

Dewar worked in cryogenics – the branch of Physics which looks at the behaviour of materials at very low temperatures. His studies looked at the behaviour of liquid gases. Pushing gases to such low temperatures that they become liquid was a really expensive process, so it was important that he could keep them liquid for long enough to run any experiments.

In 1872 Dewar developed a vacuum insulated goblet with Peter Tait to keep substances warm. 20 years later he was looking into a similar idea but this time to keep things cold.

The Dewar flask he came up with was 2 glass bottles, one inside the other, that were joined at the neck and had a partial vacuum between the 2 glass layers. This meant the inside flask was insulated from the surroundings, keeping its contents cold and reducing the speed the liquid gas evaporated.

An imageshowing the Dewar flask - the 1st version of the vacuum flask invented by Sir James Dewar

Dewar improved his first design by narrowing the neck and putting a silver lining on the outside to further reduce heat loss. He exhibited his Dewar flask at the Royal Institute on Christmas Day 1892.

Now due to a quarrel with Alfred Nobel over another patent, Dewar never patented this invention. It was patented by 2 German glassblowers in 1904 who went on to adapt it for commercial use and formed the Thermos company.

K is for keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold

Have you ever wanted an ice cold drink at a picnic on a sweltering summer’s day? Or walking to the office on a cold winter’s day do you long for a nice hot cup of coffee?

What if you could take an ice cold drink with you to the beach and it still be icy cold hours later?

There is a way. The vacuum insulated water bottle. Vacuum insulated water bottles keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold for a long time. The vacuum layer insulated your drink from your surroundings so even in the baking sun your iced water will stay nice and cold.

While the vacuum flask was originally developed to keep things cold, it is just as good at keeping hot drinks hot. This allows you to use it for a whole range of refreshments – from iced tea to a hot cup of tea!

L is for Lead

Did you know that almost all insulated metal water bottles still contain toxic lead?

Lead based solder is commonly used to seal in the vacuum layer of your vacuum bottle.

Why is this a bad thing?

It is toxic to both people and the environment. It is already banned for personal use and for use in electronics by the EU, but vacuum flasks somehow escaped that legislation.

When lead solder is used by insulated bottle brands, the people making those reusable water bottles are exposed to this lead every day as they handle the small balls of lead solder during the manufacturing process. This lead can be toxic to them and their environment.

Can you be exposed to lead from your insulated bottle?

The vacuum solder point on an insulated bottle is generally covered in some way. This can be by a base cap on the bottle (look for horizontal line close to the base of the bottle), a metal or silicone disc covering the bottle base or simply with a paint coating. There are ways you could still be exposed to this lead material:

When the vacuum layer is put in the bottle you get trace amounts of lead coating all the bottle surfaces – if you do not wash well enough before using you can be exposed to trace levels.

If any of the inner bottle seams open up, then not only will the vacuum layer fail but any drink put in such a broken bottle would be in direct contact with the lead solder.

If the way that the lead solder is covered becomes damaged, then you can be exposed that way – so if the base cap comes off or the paint covering that point flakes away.

How about when it comes to recycling my vacuum flask?

We know that almost all steel vacuum flasks are labelled as endlessly recyclable. Stainless steel itself is easily recyclable and can be recycled endlessly, meaning you get no drop in material quality. The problem with most insulated flask is the presence of this toxic lead. When you come to recycle you can get lead leaching into the environment from these products, leading to further lead pollution. Many steel recyclers ban lead and lead‐containing materials from scrap loads, as just 0.015% lead can mean the whole batch of recycled steel has to be reprocessed.

The lead leaching and the toxicity to makers are both considerations that were used when this material was banned in electronics – most consumers don’t touch the inner parts of their electronics where this material is, but lead solder was banned in electronics due to the health and environmental effects.

An infographic about toxic lead being in almost all insulated water bottles and why that is bad

Why don’t we hear more about this?

Lead solder is the industry standard for metal insulated flasks. Some brands may not even know that it is used, while others will not want to draw attention to such a toxic material being present in your water bottle. Some US states now have legislation which require companies to have health disclaimers on the websites to alert users to the presence of lead and the health problems it can be linked to – you can see this disclaimer on some US brands websites.

What should we do?

When you next need to get an insulated water bottle, choose a lead free insulated bottle. Lead free solder costs more but is non-toxic.

Ohelo is the UKs only lead free insulated bottle brand – something we are very proud of. Being a lead free brand protects our customers, our makers and the environment.

M is for Money

Have you thought about the difference in cost between choosing to reuse and buying single use water bottles on-the-go? Or the cost of buying cheaper reusable bottles every couple of months vs a higher quality water bottle that lasts years?

In the UK the average cost of a 1l bottle of water is 65p, compared with only 0.1p for the cost of 1l of tap water, making bottled water a massive 650 times more expensive than tap.

The average person in the UK buys 117 plastic water bottles a year. Assuming the average single use plastic water bottle bought is a 1l size this results in a price difference of £76 a year. Quite the saving!

Obviously after reading that you want to choose a reusable water bottle, refill it as you go and save more than a few pennies.

Now you need to understand the cost of that reusable water bottle. There are many factors that feed into the cost of a reusable water bottle.

Naturally a simple plastic sports drink bottle is cheaper than a vacuum insulated steel bottle – the materials are cheaper, there are fewer manufacturing processes involved, it does not keep drinks hot or cold etc. But plastic water bottles have a whole range of problems from chemical leaching to environmental issues.

If we instead look at an insulated steel bottle, there are still a wide range of brands selling at a wide range of prices. Why is that? Are premium brands really worth paying more for than the cheaper options readily available from £10? Let’s take a look behind the cost differences:

• Materials cost – Premium brands will use more premium materials which cost more but result in higher quality products. For example, at Ohelo we use 25% thicker steel than most other brands on the market to make our bottles more durable – this obviously costs more but means our bottles last longer. We also use 18/8 food grade stainless steel for both the inner and outer bottle while other brands will only use food grade steel for the inner bottle and use a cheaper steel on the outer layer.

• Free from harmful materials - As a lead free brand we also use a lead free solder – this costs 3x more than industry standard lead solder but ensures our customers, workers and the environment are not exposed to toxic lead. We are also not simply BPA free but also BPF and BPS free. Keeping bottles toxin free may cost more but is worth it don’t you think?

• Differences in the vacuum insulation – cheaper options will be simple double-walled vacuum flasks. More premium brands like Ohelo will have triple-layered insulation (see “V is for Vacuum insulation for more”) which creates a vacuum layer that is more stable and lasts longer.

• Design and production differences – so many brands use a standard shape readily available and simply add their logo. With premium brands there are uniquely designed features to make bottles that perform better or address a certain problem that brand has found.

• Labour cost – How much are the people making an insulated bottle being paid? Is there any forced or child labour? Are they paying below minimum wage? Or are they paying a living wage to their workers? The amount a manufacturer pays their staff obviously has a knock on affect to the end product. Paying staff fairly and treating them well costs more. This problem can be seen across the world, with exposés showing warehouses and factories making cheap goods with below standard employee pay and care. There is a real world cost to keeping prices so low, a cost that was simply too high for us as a brand.

• Environmental costs – Have you thought about where the water bottles are being made? How does the manufacturer protect the environment and their staff from any toxic materials? Are they using renewable energy sources to make their goods? Working with an environmentally responsible manufacturer costs more – but it means your supply chain is more sustainable. Another point to think about here is how long will your insulated water bottle last? If it is cheap and/or badly made it may only last a couple of months before you need to buy another one. This has a massive impact not just on your purse but the environment as more materials and energy are needed to make another bottle. In the long run, it is cheaper and better for the planet if you buy better and buy less.

N is for No unnecessary single use plastics

Plastics can now be found in the most remote places on the planet, from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana trench.

Single use plastics are a big problem and a great example of “throwaway culture”. Designed to be used once and then thrown away.

If plastics are not properly recycled, they take 100s of years to break down and even then microplastics are left behind. Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic measuring less than 5mm in length.

Half of all plastics produced are designed to be single use products.

Plastic pollution is damaging to wildlife and the environment.

How big is the problem?

The amount of plastic in the oceans is due to outnumber living organisms by as soon as 2050.

More than 8 million tonnes of plastic a year is making it into our oceans.

That is the equivalent of dumpling a rubbish truck full of plastic into the ocean every single minute. In the last ten years, we have produced more plastic products than in the previous century. Plastic waste makes up 80% of all marine pollution.

An infographic on the single use plastic problem

Plastic bottles make up 1/3 of all plastic waste in the sea. 2.5 billion single use coffee cups are used every year in the UK. Only 0.025% of those are currently recycled.

7.7 billion single use water bottles are used every year in the UK. That’s enough to stretch around the world 46 times!

PET bottles are becoming more widely recycled, but we still only recycle 57.7% of them. Globally 1 million single use plastic bottles are bought every minute. The world also uses 500 billion plastic cups every year.

Obviously single use bottles and cups are not the only single use plastic items causing this problem.  

Up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

Perhaps surprisingly, cigarette butts — whose filters contain plastic fibres — are the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment. If we look more closely at our oceans, it is plastic bags and plastic water bottles that are the worst plastic polluters. Other problem plastic items that are commonly found are cups, food wrappers, plastic food containers cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers.

Animals are mistaking plastic for food. A turtle can be killed by eating as little as 1 piece of plastic. It is estimated that 52% of all sea turtles have eaten some plastics. 1/3 of fish surveyed in the English Channel had plastics present. Numerous whales have been found to have kilograms of plastics in their stomachs.

A Cuvier's beaked whale found on the coast of the Philippines is most shocking (so far), with over 40kg of plastic inside.

Microplastics are quickly becoming a hot news topic as they are found in more unexpected places. Microplastics have been found in remote areas around the world, including the Artic ice shelf. Microplastics can now be found in the air that we breathe and even in human blood. They are in the food we eat and the water we drink.

The highest concentration of microplastics is found in bottled water, with significantly more microplastics found in bottled water than tap water.

The full extent of the impact microplastics have on our health is not known yet, but early studies show they could be linked to a range of health problems.

It is really hard to remove plastics from the ocean. It is easier to stop it reaching our oceans before it gets there by reducing our use, improving waste collection, recycling efforts, and banning unnecessary single use plastics.  

We can all do our bit. Some easy ways to reduce the amount of single use plastics are:

• Carry a reusable water bottle with you and refill as needed
• Choose a reusable coffee cup and say no to that single use one
• Swap out single use plastic bags for reusable carriers
• Say goodbye to cling film and opt for beeswax wraps or airtight containers instead
• Buy loose fruit and vegetables
• Opt for plastic free shower bars instead of liquid soap
• Make your period plastic free by choosing one of the many planet friendly options

O is for Ohelo

We founded Ohelo after seeing remote beaches completely covered in plastics. We were frustrated by the reusable bottles and travel mugs that were available on the market at the time. Bottles that would leak, that didn’t last long, that were hard to carry and even harder to keep clean. Travel cups that would spill everywhere, that had a tiny drinking hole to line up with and that would smell. These problems were what drove us to our solution.

We designed our water bottles and travel mugs to make our everyday better. We made them 100% leakproof. We made them dishwasher safe, so they are easy to clean. We designed them to work well, look good and do good.

Our water bottles are made with 25% thicker steel than standard to ensure they are tough and built to last. Our travel cups have a detachable strainer that allows them to be used with loose leaf tea, protein powder, fruit infusions or even a G&T.

We then took some further steps to ensure all our products were truly sustainable. We are the only lead-free insulated bottle brand in the UK – making our bottles safer for people and planet. We ensure our products are ethically and responsibly made by working with a responsible manufacturer and holding multiple independent ethical manufacturing audits. We also donate 5% of our profits to charitable organisations.

Say Ohelo to doing things differently. Discover our range of stainless steel insulated water bottles and travel cups today!

Ohelo reusable bottles USPs graphic


P is for Plastic reusable water bottles

Standard plastic reusable water bottles are made from some form of thermoplastic.

We did not want to include them in our A-Z as they share so many of the same issues as we see with single use plastic water bottles, both to health and the environment. We include them as this is intended as an ultimate guide to reusable water bottles. But we strongly recommend avoiding plastic reusable water bottles and selecting one of the many other options available.

Pros of plastic reusable water bottles

• Lightweight
• Cheap
• Durable 

Cons of plastic reusable water bottles

• Get smelly with use and impart flavour.
• Can leach chemicals into your drink. BPA is a common ingredient for polycarbonate plastics which are typically used for reusable water bottles. A BPA-free plastic bottle may instead contain BPS or BPF which may also leach into drinks and have been seen to have similar negative affects on health.
• Would be a source of microplastics in your diet.
• Can only use with cold drinks.
• Should only ever be handwashed due to heat causing degradation of plastic material (not dishwasher safe).
• Have significant problems at end of life. Most plastics can only be recycled 2-3 times before the material has degraded too much to allow further recycling. However, they are rarely recycled as the exact composition of the plastic is often unknown, so they often end up in landfill, where they can take 100s of years to break down. Even after plastics break down you are left with microplastics.

What about plant based plastics? Are they planet friendly?

Traditional plastics are crude oil based. Bioplastics are made from plant based materials like sugar cane, corn and vegetable oil. While they can be labelled as biodegradable and compostable the reality is not so straightforward. They need to be sent to specialist industrial facilities to be processed correctly. Even when broken down they will leave microplastics behind. Compostable plastics are not collected from kerbside in the UK and so should actually go in the rubbish bin.

Bamboo is another common plant based choice for bottles and cups that contain plastic. Bottles and cups made from bamboo can’t be made from bamboo fibres alone. They need additional plastic resins to hold them together. The chemicals used to make these cups are toxic to both people and the planet. As they contain melamine they will not biodegrade and can not be composted in industrial facilities. They can’t be recycled in traditional recycling plants – leaving incineration for energy as the only option. They can also release toxins to the drink inside – not exactly what you want!

Obviously recycled plastic bottles may seem to be better than traditional plastic bottles. As noted above plastic can only be recycled 2-3 times before the material has lost quality. This means virgin plastics must be combined with recycled plastics to make these bottles. They also have the same problems to traditional plastics when it comes to use, chemical leaching and cleaning.

Q is for Quality

Have you considered how quality is directly linked to sustainability?

Quality water bottles are made to be durable. They are built to last.

If you have a low quality bottle that breaks after a few uses or needs replacing more regularly, it is less sustainable. You will need to use more raw materials and energy to create a replacement water bottle and have it shipped to you. You will also need to use energy to recycle the broken water bottle into something new.

Sustainability is about balance – about conserving natural resources wherever possible. By choosing to focus on quality - by making less products that last longer - we put less strain on our natural resources. For sustainability a good guide is to buy better, buy less.

R is for reduce, reuse, recycle

Reduce, reuse recycle is commonly used when people talk about sustainable living and how to lower our impact on the environment.

Reduce – minimise the amount of waste that we create.

Reuse – avoid single-use items and only use items that can be used again and again.

Recycle – when an item reaches the end of its life to ensure it is correctly recycled so that it can be used to make something else rather than going to landfill.

Tips on how to reduce and reuse:

• Use reusable water bottles and travel mugs to stay hydrated on-the-go.
• Buy loose fruit and vegetables.
• Reduce food waste by planning your weeks meals. Compost any leftovers.
• Only buy what you need and use what you buy.
• Buy higher quality items that have a longer lifespan, so that you don’t need to replace them as often.
• Mend clothing that may have small holes / broken zips rather than throwing it out.
• Buy second hand clothing and sell items you no longer wear.
• Carry a reusable carrier bag.
• Donate books and clothes you no longer wear to the local charity store or sell them so someone else can use them.
• Reuse jars and pots for storage – from bulk foods to electrical cables.

Ohelo tips on how to reduce and reuse

Have you ever been confused with what you can recycle at home? You are not alone.

In the UK household recycling is devolved to local councils, so what you can recycle on your doorstep does change depending on where you live.

Our 5 recycling rules of thumb: 

1. Say no to plastic bags. They are difficult to recycle and need to be dropped at specialist collection facilities.

2. Size matters. If it is smaller than a credit card it can cause problems at the recycling centre. Make these small items larger, for instance you can put bottle caps back on bottles to make them into a bigger piece to recycle.

3. Think clean and dry. Any recyclable material that is contaminated with food cannot go in the recycling and must go in the rubbish bin instead.

4. Don’t wishcycle! Most of us are guilty of this at some point. Popping something into the recycling that we “hope” is recyclable. Don’t do it. Always double check with your local service provider first.

5. Battery power. Batteries cannot be put in your home recycling bin or rubbish bin as they contain harmful chemicals. Instead keep them in a jar and drop them at a specialist recycling point at your local recycling depot.

Our handy recycling guide has all the tips you need to become an expert recycler.

Do you know how much plastic is actually recycled?

In the US, a staggering 91% of plastic waste is landfilled or incinerated! The EU is at the forefront of recycling, yet it still bins and burns 58% of plastic packaging.

Here in the UK the percentage of plastic bottles recycled each year has been at 57% for the last 5 years.

Much of the plastic that is sent for recycling is really downcycled to make material such as clothing fibres. 35% of recycled PET in Europe becomes synthetic fibres and strapping. Each time synthetic fabric is washed it releases plastic microfibres into the water system.

The plastic that truly is recycled, is usually only recycled 2 or 3 times. This is due to plastics polymer chains being shortened and reducing its quality. After that they are binned or burned.

It is best to avoid plastics and instead look for options made from endlessly recyclable materials. For reusable water bottles avoid the plastic sort (for more reasons than this) and instead opt for a stainless steel water bottle or a glass water bottle.

S is for stainless steel reusable water bottles

Stainless steel water bottles are generally made from 18/8 food grade stainless steel. 18/8 stainless steel is an iron based alloyed metal that contains roughly 18% Chromium and 8% Nickel. The Chromium gives the metal it’s stainless quality and helps prevent corrosion and rust. The Nickel improves its strength and durability.

You can find both insulated and non-insulated options of steel bottles. Single walled steel bottles should only be used with cold drinks and will not keep the drink cold but offer a super-light option for those not concerned about drinking lukewarm water. Vacuum insulated steel bottles keep you drink hot and cold for long periods of time.

Pros of stainless steel reusable water bottles

• 18/8 food grade stainless steel is a safe material that won’t impart chemicals or flavours into your water.
• Stainless steel is easy to clean making it a hygienic option for water bottles (this is why it can be commonly found in hospitals and commercial kitchens).
• Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and endlessly recyclable.
• Steel is a very tough material making steel bottles very durable.
• Vacuum insulated options allow you to keep your drink hot or cold for hours.

Cons of stainless steel reusable water bottles

• Most vacuum insulated steel bottles are not dishwasher safe.
• Almost all vacuum insulated bottles still contain lead. Lead is toxic to both people and the environment (see “L is for Lead” for more). Does it surprise you that such a toxic substance can still be found in almost all insulated metal bottles?

Ohelo are one of the only bottle brands in the world to be using a lead free solder material in our stainless steel insulated bottles – ensuring they are not only safe for you, but for our makers and their environment. We also make all of our bottles to be dishwasher safe, making them super easy to clean.

Ohelo black insulated water bottle being held by hand coming out of the sea

T is for Tap Water

Out top reasons to choose tap water to stay hydrated:

1. It’s better for the planet.7 billion single use plastic bottles are bought every year in the UK. They have a massive carbon footprint – every year in the UK the bottled water market is responsible for adding 350,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases to the environment. Mineral water bottles make up almost half of all bottles found in the river Thames.

2. It’s cheaper. A 1l bottle of water costs around 65p in the UK compared with 1l of tap water costing 0.1p. Making tap water is 650 times cheaper to drink! The average person buys 117 bottles of water a year. This amounts to a cost difference of £76 a year. That’s a big saving you could make by simply refilling your reusable water bottle with tap water!

3. It’s safer (UK specific – always check local water quality). Tap water has disinfectants added to protect against bacterial infections. Bottled water does not and can be contaminated as soon as it is opened. Single use PET bottles can leach harmful chemicals, such as BPA, into your water (this is also true for reusable water bottles which is why we do not recommend using plastic water bottles whether reusable or single use). Bottled water also has significantly higher levels of microplastics than tap water.

How about when you are travelling?

Many countries we choose to travel to, especially in Europe, also have tap water that is safe to drink. Much of the developed world, including UK, USA, Canada, Japan and much of Europe has tap water that is very safe to drink. Sadly, the number of countries where tap water is unsafe to drink far outweigh those where it is safe. An analysis of information available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website suggests only 55 countries have tap water that is safe to drink, with 160 countries without safe drinking water (Note: these safe/unsafe lists are specific to tourists / travellers and do not make assumptions over whether water is unsafe for local populations).

Countries where you can and can't drink tap water

When travelling it is important to do your homework on tap water. Check to see if it is drinkable in the main towns and cities of your destination. If you are travelling to very remote areas take extra precautions to ensure the water you drink is safe.

U is for usability

Have you ever left a reusable water bottle in the kitchen cupboard because it is difficult to use? Does it leak all over your bag? Or do you end up carrying it like a relay baton due to the lack of a usable handle? Can you easily fit ice cubes into your bottle, or do you have to buy a specialist skinny ice cube tray (or chisel ice in the kitchen – we’ve all been there!) Is it difficult to keep clean?

So many design properties of a reusable water bottle can affect how usable it is. With so many generic bottles being the same off-the-rack shape they have the same usability issues too.

This is where premium brands stand out from the crowd. Designing their own bottles from scratch (though some are marketing machines that have gone the off-the-rack route sadly, making it hard for normal people to know if what they are buying is worth it), they address issues they personally had with other products.

Here at Ohelo it was really important that our insulated water bottles and travel cups addressed many issues we had with other brands that were around before us. We were fed up with bottles that would leak, that would break after a couple of months, that were hard to clean. Single finger carry loops that were painful to use when the bottle was full. Or no carry strap at all leaving you carrying water like a relay baton. Travel cups that had a tiny hole to drink through, that would spill everywhere and that smelt funny.

For us we wanted water bottles that would make our every day better. 100% leakproof. Dishwasher safe. Easy to carry. Bottles we could fill with ice from the freezer and pop in our car cupholder. Insulated bottles that kept our drinks cold for hours and hours and that were built to last. Bottles that were big enough to take a decent drink with us but not so big that they were too heavy to carry when full. The ultimate reusable water bottle. So that’s what we made.

V is for vacuum insulation

What is a vacuum flask?

Put simply, a vacuum flask is made up with two bottles, an inner bottle and an outer bottle. These bottles are joined at the neck. The air molecules that fill the space between these two bottles is then removed to create a vacuum layer. A vacuum is a space with no matter, no air molecules, nothing. This reduces any heat transfer by conduction and convection as there are no molecules to transfer the heat. The most heat transfer occurs at the bottle neck where the inner and outer bottles are joined together.

This is why many vacuum flasks can be said to have double-walled vacuum insulation.

Diagram of a vacuum flask

Have you ever wondered what the difference between double-walled and triple-layered insulation is?

Cheaper vacuum insulated bottles will simply have this double-walled insulation we have just talked about.

Triple – layered insulated bottles go one step further by adding a copper layer to the inner bottle. This extra copper layer faces the vacuum layer. The copper layer improves the quality of the thermal insulation by preventing heat loss by radiation.  It also helps to prevent the degradation of the vacuum layer by preventing gases released by the stainless steel from reaching the vacuum space. The additional layer of copper creates a much higher quality product with better performance and durability.

Ohelo steel insulated water bottles have triple-layered vacuum insulation to help them perform better and last longer.

W is for Where in the world are vacuum flasks made?

Every vacuum bottle or flask in the world for personal use is now made in China, with the exception of a small factory in India.

This may be surprising to hear given the vacuum flask was invented by a scientist in the UK and commercialised by 2 German glassblowers who founded the Thermos company.

When we founded Ohelo we contacted lots of manufacturers and industry bodies to find that only scientific vacuum instruments are now made in Europe. Not even the USA or Japan have facilities that can make vacuum insulated flasks anymore. It may be that they were all priced out of the market in the 1980s by the manufacturers in China.

But the UK has a good steel industry so why can’t they make steel vacuum insulated bottles?

The steel part of the bottles is not where the problem lies. To put the vacuum layer between the two layers of the bottle you need specialist ovens. These ovens heat the bottles to certain temperature, they then remove the air from inside the ovens (and thus inside the gap between inner and outer bottles) before heating more to allow a small piece of solder to melt and seal the vacuum layer into the bottles.

If all insulated bottles are made in China, are they not all created equally?

No. Just like every other country in the world there are good and not so good factories in China. Working with a responsible factory that treats staff well and has correct safety procedures in place will cost more no matter where you make things in the world but will always be worth the extra cost.

Here at Ohelo we have personally visited and inspected our manufacturer's facilities ourselves just to make sure they are up to our high standards! Furthermore, we hold various independent, internationally recognised inspection reports on our manufacturer to ensure high levels of product safety and quality control as well as the safety and wellbeing of those making our products. Our workers rights and wellbeing are vitally important to us.

We hold a 4-pillar SMETA report which shows we are manufacturing in an ethical and responsible way. This report covers everything from workers’ wages and health & safety in the workplace to gender equality, workers’ rights to representation, no forced labour, no child labour and more. We also hold a range of other certifications: ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 and ISCC Plus.

Some other manufacturers we visited would have allowed us to make our products at ½ the cost we now pay for our goods, but they were quite shocking places (that were manufacturing for some big UK names), but we will not compromise on worker wellbeing. Some will sell cheaper as they will be making in the cheapest facility possible with inferior/less safe materials.

X, Y and Z?

Yes - an A-Z guide should have these three letters included. But there were no clear options for us to include here.

 Similar Posts

1. Does your insulated reusable water bottle contain toxic LEAD?
2. Did you know that most insulated bottles still contain LEAD!
3. What is the best way to clean your stainless steel water bottle?
4. Understanding BPA free water bottles: what is used instead of BPA and is it safe?




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