If you’re planning a Memorial Day weekend get-together or getaway, you’ve definitely thought about refreshments. I hope that you’ll also think about the environment, wherever you may be celebrating the holiday. The need for a solution for drinks on-the-go that won’t pollute our environment with bottles is far from news, as the movement to increase the use of reusable/refillable water bottles has been gaining momentum for years. However, as the movement grows, so does the annual American appetite for drinks sold in plastic bottles – currently clocking in around 50 billion bottles, the production of which requires 1.5 million barrels of crude oil. The upshot? The current solution is doing ‘okay’ but it soon won’t be enough. The situation has many wondering if the edible “Ooho” water bottle may be the beginning of an alternative answer to disposable plastic bottles.
The somewhat strange-looking edible bottle was conceived by a group of Spanish design students and is based upon spherification. Created in the 1950s by Unilever and used for culinary novelties, the edible membrane is formed by dipping a frozen ball of water into a solution of calcium chloride, which forms a gelatin-like layer. It is then drenched in a second liquid derived from brown algae extract that helps to strengthen the formation. The longer the edible water bottle stays in the algae solution, the thicker and more durable the membrane becomes.
When fortified, developers describe the strength of the container as “comparable to the skin found on fruit.” I’ve bruised enough apples and bananas on hikes out west to think twice about throwing something like this in my backpack, but with more work it could be a viable option.
Speaking of ‘more work,’ the Ooho bottles most likely need improvement in several areas before enjoying more mainstream acceptance. First, the look doesn’t appeal to everyone, with some describing them as looking like jellyfish. Other engineering challenges include making the bottles re-sealable and keeping the skin sanitary so that it can be eaten.
The cost of Ooho bottles also currently remains a question mark. However, some food and beverage companies want to collaborate with the design team, perhaps helping to speed commercialization and lower costs. Moreover, with the project moving forward under a creative commons license, you’ll soon be able to follow an online recipe and create your own bottle at home!
Despite the challenges at present with the Ooho bottles, it’s great to see the creativity and resourcefulness of individuals and companies tackling a significant environmental issue related to disposable bottles. As we increasingly become a more health- and cost-conscious society, making choices like water instead of soda, and carrying reusable water bottles, solutions that are not only environmentally friendly, but also help to save money, are imperative.
Nonetheless, with traditional bottled water costing on average almost $4.00 per gallon, tap water is still the ultimate bargain at about a penny per gallon. Our tap water is readily available, pure and inexpensive, so filling a reusable water bottle to take “on the road” remains the best option.