The bottles in my bag

“Steel not plastic, please”
In 2008, after a few months of chatter in coastal cleanup news sites about bisphenol A in plastic water bottles, I wrote about “The reason for steel water bottles.” I was slow to react and it was only last year when I made “The switch to a steel water bottle“.

Immediately, I wished I had done it earlier – a steel water bottle is free of the smells and taste of plastic. I even preferred drinking from the steel bottle than from a glass or ceramic cup at home. So I went ahead and bought a higher capacity 1.1 litre bottle for field trips as well.

The only problem I’ve encountered is unscrewing the steel cap during a seminar. Steel against steel in a quiet room makes for some pretty screechy noises so that time, I decided I’d drink after the seminar was over!

Toting my own water bottle has allowed me to waive off offerings of plastic bottled water everywhere I go, reducing waste. And it’s scored bonus points more than once in a busy restaurant – while harried waiters scrambled to cope, I was happy to leave them be and reach for my steel water bottle to sip in contentment.

Flu arsenal - flask and canteens

My soup kitchen
When Thai Express cheerfully presented with a smaller capacity steel bottle, I meant to give it away, not knowing it was different. Then one morning, when fighting a cold, I grabbed it and filled it with hot water just before dashing out of the house. Six hours later, steam arose when I opened the cap; it was still very hot! Oho, it must be double-walled; what a great flask!

Since this discovery, I use the Thai Express flask to hold a spicy south Indian soup called rasam which I imbibe regularly when hit by the flu. Rasam powder is available in Mustafa’s or any small India provision shop and takes ten minutes to prepare. It has a similar effect to Tom Yam soup on a stuffed nose which I also take and is critical during a flu to get me through a two hour lecture in a cold LT or some meeting.

Reducing paper cup waste and that 50 cents coffee discount
I started using a personal flask for take away coffee to cut down on waste generation – this was already a habit with some consumers more than seven years ago in the US . However, the mug I had lying around was too messy. Then Starbucks started displaying a variety of flasks, all of which had a slight concavity for a grip, a spill-resistant lockable top and a non-slip base. Certainly also very useful for commuting. When they brought out a stainless steel tumbler, I was sold. I’ve had a cuppa or two on the front seat of the top deck of a double decker 95 riding to campus for a small moment of bliss!

The tumbler costs about $30 but Starbucks and Gloria Jean at least (not sure about others) give you 50 cents off your coffee when you bring your own cup. After 60 drinks (probably about four months for me), the cost of the flask is redeemed. This seems ideal for any regular coffee drinker but shiploads of paper coffee cups are still being trashed. At U Hall Spinelli’s in NUS, for example, the tumbler I offer the barista is easily the exception rather than the norm.

Perhaps nudging Starbucks and Gloria Jeans and any others into actively promoting their existing 50 cents discount for ‘personal’ coffees might help get this practise off the ground. I imagine people who move around with bags, would find it an attractive option even without the green motivation.

The weight of the bottles, in addition to my MacBook Pro, is surprisingly tolerable. I’ve even walked Southern Ridges with the lot after an evening meeting at Harbour Front. If I added my foldable Totes “Stormbeater” umbrella to the mix, though, I’d notice!