Plastic-free, zero waste water filtration

We’ve been testing out this system for 6 months+, and I really like it. There are pros and cons but it works well for us so I can’t see us switching it up any time soon. The best part – besides getting nice yummy water – is that the entire thing is plastic free and zero waste!

We drink a lot of water and I know the tap water in my city is safe to drink – and many people are fine with it as is! – but I just don’t love the taste or mouthfeel, if that makes sense. I don’t want any barriers to drinking lots and lots of water! So, we filter our water before drinking it.

Even our 15 month old daughter likes the filtered water better now. My husband tried to fill up her water bottle with tap and she shook her head, walked over to the fridge and tapped on the door. Ha! #wecreatedamonster

Plastic free, glass and metal, charcoal, water filter, zero waste, eco-friendly, safe and non-toxic way to filter drinking water at home!

Here’s our set-up:

glass drink dispenser* (also a great selection at Target*) with a metal tap* (yes, we had to buy our metal spigot separately)
kishu charcoal filter*
Tip: large or extra large sizes work best depending on the size of your container

[UPDATE >>> Looks like you can now also buy charcoal filters at Target*. I believe the sticks online are smaller to go with this bottle*. You could put a few in your larger container or grab a glass water bottle and use these sticks to purify on the go!]

That’s it!

We keep the glass dispenser on a shelf in our fridge, but you could leave it on a counter if you prefer room temperature water. We had to move the shelves in our refrigerator around a bit to account for the height of the vessel but it wasn’t a hard process.

When you first get your charcoal, just drop it into the water. Feel free to boil it first but it shouldn’t be necessary. Depending on the size of the vessel, it will take a few hours (up to 12, we found) to filter the water. The Kishu brand filters come in a cardboard box with a compostable clear sleeve inside.

Glass water dispenser for zero waste plastic free water filter system

PROS: The pros are clear. This system is easy to maintain, looks nice, is plastic free and safe for your family, and doesn’t produce waste. Plus, it’s a pretty low initial investment cost compared to some other more eco-friendly systems and if you don’t end up using this system forever, finding another use for a sturdy glass drink dispenser should be relatively easy. Or you can sell it or give it away. It’s not a specialized piece of equipment or jug built for one kind of thing.

There’s not very much maintenance. Certainly not as much as going to the store to get a new Brita or PUR filter, etc. Or making sure to have enough stored in your kitchen. Each month you simply submerge your charcoal stick in a shallow pan of water and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Empty the pan of water and allow it to dry for 30 minutes.

After 4ish months, your charcoal stick can be composted or it can be given a “second life” as a refrigerator deodorizer, etc. With other filter options, your best case scenario is doing some research and figuring out *if* you can recycle it in your area.

CONS: There is really only one con that we’ve found, and that is that the water takes a while to filter. It doesn’t flow through a filter and come out in mere seconds or minutes. We’re in the habit of filling up our big jug every night before we go to sleep and it hasn’t really been a problem as our container has a two gallon capacity.

Note that, depending on the packaging and new-ness of the glass vessel and tap you get, there might be some things going to the landfill. For me, though, even with packing materials/packaging/shipping, this is still a very low waste solution.

Another post you might like: Where to find plastic free home essentials

Where to buy plastic free home goods

Hope you enjoyed this review! Please let me know what else you want to know about how we live plastic free and zero waste! xo, Meredith

*Hi friends, just a heads up that this post contains scary affiliate links and if you click, a shark will eat you. Just kidding! Clicking my links just means you like my site and like reading my recommendations. Your shopping experience doesn’t change, but I might get a tiny commission.  If you have any questions, I’m here —> or just leave a comment. 

37 thoughts on “Plastic-free, zero waste water filtration

  1. Ok, so you just blew my mind here… We’ve been stuck in Brita-land forever, and been trying to find a way out that’s plastic-free, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, AND that cuts down on the waste (every time I chuck an old filter, a part of me dies inside lol). And here you are talking about plastic-free and zero-waste water filtration. This is genius! Definitely looks like it’ll take some getting used to, and I’m not sure if it’ll fit on my counter, but I’m sure we can find a place for it! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for visiting and the comment, Sarah! Makes me happy and remember why I share all of these things, to help someone. Also, you can use whatever sized container you want – you can even use a pitcher, etc. In my post I link to eBay search results and you can see there are lots of different sizes available to fit your needs/space. Hope it works for you – keep me posted 😉

    2. Since moving to Belize I’ve discovered Ecofiltro. Ecofiltro is manufactured from locally sourced materials like clay, sawdust and colloidal silver, a natural antibacterial. The filtered water has a lovely taste and keeps me plastic free and I have a beautiful Blue and white floral hand painted design so i’m proud to have it on display on my counter.

  2. Thank you so much for posting about this since I actually have one of these charcoal pieces from the Life Without Plastic store but my problem has been to find a container that is large enough that isn’t made of plastic.

  3. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been looking for the link to LifeWithoutPlastic for a few days now after coming across it in a group. Our tap water here is horrible and I’ve been wanting to explore other options. I think that this is my favorite option by far.

  4. Wow! This is such a great idea! Thank you for sharing with us! My boyfriend likes room temperature water and I prefer cold water. It would be so easy to set-up two of these. One on the counter and one on the fridge! Perfect affordable solution (compared to buying multiple filter pitchers). Thanks for also including where to find the charcoal filter 🙂

    1. I’m happy to help – hope you like this system as much as I do! I agree it will be easy to set up two of these. Plus I think it’ll be nice looking on a countertop unlike the ugly plastic alternatives 😉

  5. Do you know anything about if this system removes things like fluoride, drug residue, chlorine, microbes and the like? The only thing I’ve found that’ll do everything is a reverse osmosis system.

    1. Hi Melissa- I don’t know for sure. Sounds like you’ve done quite a bit of research. Perhaps reach out directly to Kishu. Here’s what I found on the Kishu charcoal website: “This pure form of carbon readily absorbs or bonds with toxins, principally metals, at the molecular level. These toxins can be found in municipal water systems and may include lead, mercury, copper, cadmium and chlorine. KIshu has been tested to remove all of them.
      “Kishu Charcoal has been found to be effective at reducing lead, mercury, copper, cadmium and chlorine, over a period of time, as demonstrated in the graphs below.”

  6. Hi, I have a question. I have a 2 gallons jug and the X Large charcoal feom Kishu… I left it in the jar for over 24 h and I do not taste any difference. We even did a blind test.. any idea why this could be happening? Makes me really sad.

    1. An XL charcoal stick should definitely work for a 2 gal container. This might be a better question for Kishu directly ( but I’m guessing that perhaps your particular water may not have a taste change even though the charcoal stick is working, or for some reason your water requires longer filter time (but I really think 2 gals should be filtered completely in 12-24 hrs!) Reach out to Kishu, though – they will be able to help you troubleshoot! Good luck!

  7. So do we just simply place the charcoal filter into the water? It doesn’t have to be directly attached to the tap or anything? 🙂

  8. A friend of mine turned me onto these activated charcoal sticks a few years ago and I absolutely love them. I’m sure they do a lot of good, but I live in NYC which (yes, has supposedly great tap) but also has a reeeeeally old infrastructure and the water in my building was picking up god-knows-what along the way. So I bought a Berkey. (Had a Pür for a while, then did a steam distiller which was like running the A/C pricewise.) Honestly, get a Berkey. Porcelain filters, plastic-free, last literally a lifetime. Take ’em out and scour them every few years. (Trust me, you’ll see what’s really in your tap when you go to wash off what it filtered out…) And best of all, the lower collection tank is still where I put my activated charcoal sticks. So I’m still enjoying them… but in water that I know is super un-sketchy.

  9. I have a important question that wasn’t addressed which is what about the micro plastics. Since we know they are in more then 83% of the worlds tap water supply does the carbon method remove them or is there something that will ( and yes I have checked the carbon filter graph you mentioned and nothing on micro plastics). Ps I love the article and can’t wait to set one up.

  10. The science behind just throwing one of these into water and expecting it to filter the water seems lackluster at best. Good thing we live in America where most water won’t kill you. Water should have to filter through charcoal to get the purifying effect, this method is far far too passive.

    1. Hi LadyChana! Thanks for visiting. I definitely understand your concerns. However, I tasted a very noticeable difference in the before/after when we used this in our old home. I never did any testing beyond that, though. Our current home tap tastes great so we don’t use these anymore. We all make decisions based on what we’re comfortable with. If you need more robust filtering, definitely look into a Berkey or more intense water filtration system.

  11. Does this work with well water? We currently buy bottled water for a dispenser, would love this! … if it works with well water

    1. That will be up to you and will depend on what shows up in your well water that you want to filter out. Charcoal doesn’t filter all minerals in water, check out the Kishu website for more. A Berkey water filter might be a good option for you if you’re looking to filter out a lot.

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