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Mara Abbott Blog: Mara’s Top Travel Tip!

As another cycling season starts, I thought I would share one of my top tips for traveling.  Sometimes cycling (or adventuring!) can take you to places where you don’t trust that the water is safe to drink.  This can lead to a) inconvenience while you try to find somewhere to purchase water, b) a lot of expense once you add up the small purchases of a bottle here or a bottle there, and c) a whole lot of waste in the form of empty plastic bottles.  I confess that my primary motive to find a solution to this puzzle was the latter.  Bottles can be recycled, but they aren’t always.  Even when a bottle is recycled, it takes energy to fuel that process, and more energy to transport the full bottles to their point of sale.

In 2010, my teammate at the time and an accomplished mountaineer, Kristin McGrath, let me in on the secret she had learned from her backcountry friends:  The Steripen.  A Steripen is a hand-held device, about the size of a large carrot, that has an ultraviolet light in the tip.  When you swirl the pen around in a bottle of water, the light actually serves to sterilize the water and make it safe to drink in just a few minutes!

After six years of use, I have paid my Steripen off many times over.  Even if you only spent one dollar (or euro!) each day on a bottle of water, imagine what you could do with an extra 365 dollars at the end of a year – or, for that matter, what 365 bottles might look like in the landfill.

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