Americans consume an average of two and a half cans of soda at work every day, and although cans are the most recycled packaging in the United States, only 58 percent of aluminum cans are recycled, which is better than the 31 percent of glass that is recycled, 29 percent of PET plastic bottles, and 6 percent of asceptic cartons. If you like bubbly water, you have options.
You can make soft drinks at home, saving money and the environment. You can make naturally fermented soft drinks using champagne yeast or the same yeast that you use for baking bread, or you can purchase CO2 cartridges to force carbonation into water. Like commercial soft drinks, these will retain their effervescence if kept in a tightly closed container, so you can take them to work.
Home soda makers have grown in popularity over the past few years and are now available in many department stores, as well as online. They require no batteries or electricity and use bottles that are BPA free and can be reused for several years. You simply carbonate water if you want sparkling water, or you can add various flavors to the carbonated water to create cola, lemon-lime, root beer, and other popular soft drink flavors. Some of the less expensive syrups may contain artificial ingredients, but all-natural options are also available.
The CO2 cartridges are returned when empty, and they are refilled and resold, meaning zero landfill waste from them. Plain tap water makes up most of the soda, and one 500 ml container of syrup makes twelve liters of soda, saving fifty cans or six two-liter plastic bottles from the landfill or recycling center.
If you want more natural ingredients in your soda, add fruit juice to the carbonated water with or without additional sugar. For a stronger flavor, add concentrated fruit juice to the sparkling water. Concentrated soda syrup is also available through multiple sources online. Be sure to check the ingredients because some are naturally flavored and others include artificial flavors and colors; some have artificial sweeteners, while others have pure cane sugar or no sweetener at all.
Homemade soda can be put into a keg for large parties. Mix up the water, sugar, and soda flavor and pour it into the keg. Hook it up to the carbonation source and follow manufacturer’s directions for dispensing.
You can also make soda using yeast to create natural carbonation. Although the finished soda does contain a very small amount of alcohol, it is less than 1 percent. When making homemade soda with yeast, put it in plastic bottles to ferment. If too much pressure builds up during fermentation, the bottle could burst, which could be dangerous if you are using glass.
Natural fermentation takes a day or two to occur, so you have to plan ahead, but the process is quite simple. Combine 1/2 cup of sugar with a quart of water and 1/8 teaspoon of yeast in a repurposed plastic soft drink bottle. The sugar feeds on the yeast and ferments, which causes gas bubbles to form. You can add commercial flavors or natural lemon-lime juice, or crushed ginger for ginger ale.
Savings: The sugar and yeast for a liter of soda costs only 16 cents, so based on the cost of whatever you use for flavoring, a batch of homemade soda can easily cost half as much or less than commercial soft drinks.
This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life by Deborah Niemann.