At Passion Passport, we believe in the power of travel as an exploration of the self, insofar that there are as many different and wonderful ways to roam this earth as there are kinds of people living on it. That said, regardless of how we choose to do our traveling, we have reached a critical juncture in our global community where important decisions must be made on a daily basis in order to protect the world we so cherish. While the manifold effects of climate change on our ecosystems and vulnerable populations ought to be a cause for concern for everyone who desires a healthy future for our planet, the travel community in particular must wrestle with the fact that what we love to do the most — travel — can have direct consequences for our environment. If an activity that represents a cornerstone of your identity simultaneously puts that identity at risk, what do you do?

These are the kinds of questions we are inspired to ask by our partnerships with companies like LARQ, who are doing their part to make sustainable daily decisions more approachable and appealing. In the hopes that ecological responsibility becomes a habit for as many people as possible, LARQ has designed a self-cleaning water bottle for the masses. The guiding principle behind their development of a self-cleaning water bottle is that clean drinking water is a right, not a privilege. In the same vein, we must remember that travel is a privilege, not a right. The distinction is incredibly important, because how we choose to use our privilege affects other people’s abilities to exercise their rights. You might wonder how your use of a reusable water bottle has an impact on global water supplies, but in order to understand you must take a broader view.

A diver swims in crystal-clear ocean water.

By supporting companies, countries, and charities with clean-water initiatives, we can empower them to leverage their privileged position to a greater extent and thereby create the healthier, more ecologically egalitarian world we all want. That’s why we partnered with LARQ to celebrate some innovative campaigns around the world that are leading the way towards a cleaner future.

But before we do that, it’s best to take stock of the exact challenges that we face. After all, excessive water usage is a problem across several industries that requires intentionality at all levels, from the individual up to the organization. There’s also the conundrum of how we consume the water, because a fast-paced world’s reliance on single-use plastics is killing the ecosystems that give us the resource, our water, in the first place. Only 9% of all plastics ever produced have been recycled, and considering that 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans each year, it’s undeniable that we need to step up our game.

When the conversation about plastic pollution entered the mainstream last year, we mainly saw images of marine life whose livelihood had been threatened by straws and plastic rings, which notoriously led companies like Starbucks to ban single-use straws by 2020. Many were quick to criticize such bans as empty displays of eco-marketing, but the fact is that the conversation was off-base from the start. Besides just killing our wildlife, plastic in the oceans can poison our water supply by clogging sewers and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests that carry dangerous diseases like malaria. Starting with a straw ban is a better first step than it gets credit for, but it is very much the first step. An outright ban on plastic bags and water bottles will need to be considered if we continue to produce and consume them at such alarming rates, as some speculate that our current recycling infrastructure is unable to cope with the volume of materials it receives. We have to reduce our dependence on these products at the source.

How do we do that? With a problem of this magnitude, we will need to get creative, and we will need to be persistent. We will need to make decisions at home, at restaurants, at hotels, and abroad about how we use water. Even the food we eat is part of the conversation, considering the disproportionate usage of water by the meat and dairy industries. Getting a water filter for your kitchen, asking to only receive tap water at dinner, and opting for towel service every few days instead of daily are all easy enough, but there is no doubt that it is most difficult to be selective about our water when we are actually on the road traveling. Reusable water bottles are great, and not widely used enough, but they also have their limitations. If we think tap water isn’t clean where we are, whether to drink or to clean the bottle itself, we might opt for the plastic bottle just to be safe. LARQ co-founder Justin Wang wants to put a stop to that.

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“We know that pure water on-the-go and stinky bottles are the two primary pain points affecting one’s adoption of reusable bottles. LARQ’s proprietary UV-C LED technology is integrated into a beautifully designed product that delivers pure water from a self-cleaning bottle, and directly addresses these complaints.”

LARQ prioritizes ease of access to clean water because plastic bottled water is not merely a convenience, it’s also a commodification of a precious resource. When we buy plastic water bottles, we are both contributing to the waste dilemma and signaling to businesses that it is okay to charge money for clean drinking water, something literally every human needs to survive. With their #HydrateLike initiative, Lonely Whale is leading the charge to push back against this standard and simply make it more socially acceptable to reach for tap water, filtered options, and reusable water bottles. You might think of reusable bottles, especially ones with filters or the ability to clean themselves, as luxuries, but it’s quite the opposite. Bottled water costs 2000x more than tap water — imagine how much that adds up over time. With that money, you could buy reusable bottles for you and your entire family.

A person walks along a rock pool near the sea.You also might think that clean tap water is a strange thing to advertise in the travel or lifestyle space, but if we are going to shift societal perceptions about drinking from the tap, it’s important to tap (excuse the pun) into enthusiasm for our water and normalize reaching for the faucet. At the very least, you can get people interested in the safety and cleanliness of their local drinking water, which could lead to future activism. Inspired by Iceland recently launched the Kranavatn challenge, cheekily advertising a premium, meticulously filtered drink that is, in fact, just their tap water. Most importantly, they stress the idea that it is available everywhere, for free.

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In the same vein, an offbeat source of local pride in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee is not the blues music or barbecue, but our tap water. Some say the mineral-rich aquifer on which Memphis sits makes “the sweetest water in the world,” to the point where my friends and I routinely joke about missing the great-tasting water since we’ve moved away. I hope that my city will follow in Iceland’s footsteps and make a campaign about our water, because knowing that I could turn on the tap and drink healthy water has made me much more conscious of how I hydrate everywhere I go in the world. 

“You are what you drink, so drink brilliantly.” LARQ’s mission statement sums it up — for those of us who have the power and privilege to decide how we drink, reusable bottles present an opportunity to normalize readily-available water and thereby positively affect the cleanliness of all future drinking water. If we first adapt in our own lives, institutions will have no choice but to adapt on a larger scale. If that’s not enough to convince you, there is the simple and undeniable fact that being greener on-the-go is cheaper. An unfortunate consequence of traveling being easier than ever before is that convenience enables commodification, just as it does with plastic water bottles. And, given the privilege to travel more now than ever, there’s never been a more crucial time to make bigger changes to protect our planet.  LARQ understands and embodies this through its partnership with 1% for the Planet — by contributing to projects that clean up and protect our planet, we can ensure not only a planet to travel, but also a planet that offers access to pure water on which we can thrive for centuries to come.

This piece was produced in partnership with LARQ. If you’re interested in supporting LARQ’s mission and grabbing one of their self-cleaning bottles for yourself, click here

Words by Joseph Ozment