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Is a SodaStream Really That Much Better for the Planet?

It’s certainly better than drinking from a bunch of plastic water bottles that probably won’t end up being recycled anyway

When it comes to eco-friendly personal practices, I’m split. On the one hand, the pressure to recycle and conserve energy at home feels like a false campaign on behalf of major polluting corporations to shift the onus of responsibility from them to us. On the other, the average household is pretty wasteful, and it’s not like turning off a light as I exit a room is all that difficult. Altogether, then, I like to reduce my environmental footprint where I can. 

Meanwhile, considering much of America’s current recyclable goods are ending up in landfills, more people might also be considering the environmental benefits of switching over to devices like SodaStream, which provide a seemingly endless supply of bubbly beverages without the extra plastic bottles or cans. 

But how much of an impact does a SodaStream actually have? 

Let’s break it down. 

For starters, the cost-benefit analysis of SodaStream versus purchasing soda or seltzer at the store will depend heavily upon your habits. Someone who consumes a 12-pack of aluminum cans of seltzer per week is going to factor things differently than someone who consumes multiple 16-ounce plastic bottles of soda per day.

In terms of eco-friendliness, again, though much of our recycling isn’t actually recycled, aluminum has a far better shot at being re-processed than plastic. So that choice is pretty easy no matter the volume of liquid consumed — i.e., an aluminum vessel is a better choice than a plastic one. Aluminum, however, can’t beat SodaStream environmentally

Soda-making devices work using metal canisters of CO2 and optional bottles of flavoring. SodaStream’s flavor bottles produce 9 liters of soda, while the CO2 canisters produce 60 liters of carbonation. It isn’t clear if the flavor bottles are recyclable (and once more, they likely wouldn’t end up recycled, anyway), but SodaStream has its own system of re-using the CO2 canisters, and discounts the price of canisters for customers who participate. 

Hypothetically, were you to just want unflavored seltzer water, one CO2 canister would yield the equivalent of 169 12-ounce cans. Even if all those cans were recycled, the SodaStream would be the more environmentally-friendly option in that it requires far less energy to transport. Because rather than having to ship the added weight of the liquid (you know, to grocery store shelves), SodaStream seltzer just utilizes your tap. 

There are plenty of other variables involved, like how far you’d have to drive to purchase canned or bottled sodas and whether you used bottled water for your SodaStream. If you’re the type to only buy a 2-liter of soda a few times a year, it would probably end up being more wasteful to purchase a plastic machine you might not use much. But if you’re someone who almost exclusively consumes carbonated beverages and wants to cut back on your trash production, a SodaStream would make sense. 

Because while it’s not your fault that American recycling is in such bad shape, what’s the point in contributing to it if it can be avoided?