Plastic Free July is currently going on…you can read about why I got on-board here.
About 6 months ago we moved into a new place and our tap water didn’t taste great. I had committed to cutting plastics and began looking for a filtering system that was simple, effective, inexpensive, AND didn’t involve plastic filters that would need to be disposed of.
Then I read about Kishu Binochotan (or biochar) charcoal. This is a form of activated charcoal.
Kishu charcoal is not the briquettes used to barbque, or the powdered type found in activated charcoal capsules. This is actually a branch from a specific kind of oak tree that is sustainably harvested in the Kishu region of Japan. The branch is charred at a low temperature for several days, then heated to a high of 1,000 degrees in a kiln. After a rapid cooling off process the piece of charcoal has an almost metallic feel to it, and is a natural water filtration solution.
This charcoal, sometimes called white charcoal, has many applications, including water purification. After going through the process the charcoal is extremely porous, and it draws toxins and pollutants from water onto it’s surface where it bonds on a molecular level with the charcoal. Simple, effective, safe.
The science behind activated charcoal is nothing new or mysterious. Most water treatment facilities use some sort of activated charcoal in their process, and many home water filtration systems, including those name brand filtering pitchers, have charcoal filters. Doctors use activated charcoal to safely remove poisons and toxins from the body.
Dr. James R. Self, Ph.D of Colorado State University Soil, Water, Plant Testing Lab had this to say about the efficacy of Kishu charcoal…
“Kishu Charcoal has been found to be effective at reducing lead, mercury, copper, cadmium and chlorine, over a period of time.”
“This pure form of carbon readily adsorbs or bonds with toxins, principally metals, at the molecular level. Kishu Charcoal has been found to be effective at reducing: lead, mercury, copper, aluminum, uranium, and molybdenum to name a handful of those we tested. In addition, Kishu Charcoal imparts three minerals: Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium.”
Most filtration removes the bad AND THE GOOD minerals…this can leave water tasting flat. The Kishu charcoal, on the other hand, releases calcium, magnesium, and potassium into the water. Other sites note negative ions are also created as part of the bonding process, and the PH of the water is somewhat neutralized…all of this adding up to a clean, crisp taste. I was a bit skeptical…but my water (and coffee) does taste much better after I started using the sticks.
When purchasing Kishu Charcoal make sure you are getting the real thing. As with everything else, once the trend started imposter or sub-standard charcoal appeared on the market.
I purchased this brand, partially because of their packaging. Here is their website blurb on that…
“We are so proud of our packaging. We took special care and research to create a completely biodegradable package: our label is made from paper that is FSC® Certified, SFI® Certified Sourcing, and Rainforest Alliance Certified™ and printed using the most environmentally friendly process available. The clear sleeve is made from wood pulp and is completely compostable.”
So, once your charcoal arrives all you need to do is boil it for 10 minutes to activate it, let it dry, then drop into a glass pitcher of tap water. After 2-3 hours you have clean, filtered water. I have two glass pitchers, each with two sticks in them…I drink and use a lot of water…and with two pitchers I can have one ‘in process’ while I use the other one.
Every 2-3 weeks you’ll need to reboil your sticks to refresh and sterilize them. They will be good for 4-6 months if used continuously. You’ll know they are reaching their limit when your water isn’t tasting as great.
But wait…these amazing sticks aren’t done yet. They are still good for filtering air in your fridge, as an additive to garden soil, or you can toss them in your compost. Absolutely, no waste.
While I’ve included the link to Amazon, depending on where you live you might be able to purchase these at a local health food store and avoid the shipping waste. I recently found them near me, and I heard a rumor that some Target’s are beginning to carry them. While shipping isn’t ideal, Amazon is making an effort to move toward more sustainable packaging…and feedback from customers is key. You can check out this link, or look up their Frustration Free Packaging program to find out more.
You can also purchase them from Life Without Plastic, and support their store.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Activated charcoal, taken internally, not as a filter, has risks and can interact with medications. I know that it is a popular ingredient currently in ‘detox’ recipes. Do your homework, consult with your doctor, be safe when using activated charcoal in pill form.
Also, this charcoal does not remove bacteria. Tap water is free of bacteria, due to municipal water treatment…however in situations where there is a risk of water contamination..such as during a natural disaster or when backpacking…the water will need to be boiled to be safe.
-Photo of bottle on beach by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash