While Hydro Flask touts an environmental focus in the consumer-facing aspects of the company, there remains to be a large gap in the company’s efforts to provide transparency about product materials and supply chain, which creates difficulties in assessing the sustainability of the products themselves. Moving forward, Hydro Flask can improve by integrating more information about materials, sources, and the production process in brand and product descriptions. In fact, this improvement in transparency can help to build more trust between the sustainability-minded customers and the brand itself.
Compared to other leading companies also creating vacuum-insulated stainless steel reusable bottles, such as S’well, Hydro Flask is relatively similar in price range. In general, S’well bottles perform better in keeping drinks warm by utilizing triple-wall insulation rather than double-wall insulation. However, Hydro Flask makes up for these disadvantages in providing more variations in bottle sizes, mouth sizes, and allowing different lid options for different functions. While Hydro Flask encompasses a more simple aesthetic with a variety of solid color options, S’well is more aesthetically diverse providing exterior options ranging from imitation teakwood and marble to designs created from artist collaborations.
Ultimately, the best bottle depends on the different priorities of each user. While there is some importance in how a Hydro Flask bottle is made, at the end of the day, how an individual uses the bottle over its lifetime is also critical. Considering the material and distance required to make a bottle, a plastic bottle is certainly less carbon intensive to produce than a Hydro Flask. However, the environmental value of a Hydro Flask comes from the number of possible uses over its lifetime, which exceeds that of a plastic bottle. So, if you only take one sip of water with each bottle over its lifetime, the Hydro Flask will be extremely harmful to the environment, but with over 500 uses in its life cycle, the Hydro Flask will be significantly more environmentally friendly than a plastic bottle. A vacuum-insulated stainless steel reusable bottle can certainly keep your drink cool over a period of time, but it is just as important to maximize the use of each bottle to keep the planet cool as well.
A typical Hydro Flask bottle is made of 18/8 pro-grade stainless steel and it is also BPA-Free and Phthalate-Free. 18/8 stainless steel indicates that the material is 18% chromium and 8% nickel. However, aside from this information, Hydro Flask discloses very little about the material that makes up the bottle, with no information about what the other 74% of its stainless steel is made of. The lack of accessibility in information regarding the materials of each bottle raises many questions about transparency and the true sustainability of the bottle itself.
However, compared to aluminum bottles on the market, stainless steel seems to be the better option in terms of material. One benefit of using stainless steel over aluminum, which Hydro Flask highlights in product descriptions, is that it does not require a plastic liner inside the bottle. Whereas, for many aluminum bottles, BPA from the plastic used to prevent leaching of aluminum can also leach chemicals into the drink, which can bring health risks. If you are particularly clumsy with your bottles, damages to your aluminum bottles, including high temperatures from dishwashers, can compromise the plastic which leaches more BPA. To ensure that you minimize constant damages and waste, stainless steel bottles are your best bet.
Although, it is important to note that at the end of a Hydro Flask bottle’s life, you may not be able to recycle your stainless steel bottle curbside since the makeup means that it is harder to process at recycling plants. Make sure to check with your local recycling facilities to see how you can sustainably dispose of your bottle.
While a HydroFlask may dent and its color may chip away, it tends to remain functional despite exterior imperfections.In fact, on average. a stainless steel bottle lasts around 12 years depending on use. And the Hydro Flask bottle carry a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects for the life of the product. Despite the long expected life cycle of each bottle, Hydro Flask continue to release new colorways and collections including the myHydro option which allows customers to customize their own bottle. This marketing strategy to encourage users to prematurely part ways with their old bottle or own several at once calls into question the true life cycle of each bottle and its environmental impacts.
As there is little information on the material make up of the bottle, there is even less accessible information on how the bottles are made. The most visible information about its production process is the words “Made in China” printed at the bottle of each bottle, which is not stated on its website. The lack of transparency not only raises concerns about sustainability in the industrial processes in the making of these bottles but also the labor practices involved in bringing a bottle to its customers.
However, based on the provided information about the presence of chromium and nickel in each bottle, through available research data, we can also better understand just how sustainable the manufacturing process can be. As with many of the raw materials in items we use everyday, chromium and nickel are not materials acquired using sustainable practices. Nickel mining is a process often characterized by high sulphur dioxide emission as well as air and water pollution, which increases deformities, respiratory problems, and other health risks for the local populations. Chromium similarly creates significant air and water pollution issues, health risks, and causes destruction of surface land layers. And as these raw materials often come from countries outside of China, the transportation process of these materials from its origins to manufacturers also contributes a large amount of carbon footprint to the production of these bottles. And this does not even begin to include the shipment to global stockists for retail after production.
While these kinds of environmental harms in the manufacturing process are undoubtedly also present in a majority of our daily essentials, it does not make any sustainability issues in the supply chain of a Hydro Flask bottle excusable. Though the environmental intention of the end use of these bottles may help to offset some damages in the production process.
Hydro Flask is a company founded in 2009 with the purpose of utilizing double-wall vacuum insulation technology to create more stylish bottles than that of traditional thermos. The brand values revolve around the environment and a general love for the outdoors. These values are reflected in the brand’s work in sponsoring surfing competitions and implementing their Parks for All program. The Parks for All program supports non-profit organizations that work to build, maintain, restore, and provide better access to parks for all. Since the founding of the program, it has supported over 92 non-profits and donated over $1.5 million to create more accessible parks.