The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 17, 2007

The Penguin – on again, off again

I’m leaving for Maryland in a few hours to visit my family, bond with the siblings and parental units, and perhaps casually mention my birthday wish list (in case they wanted to get started saving up a few months in advance.) Because I saw the cutest thing online, and it’s the first real luxury item I’ve desired in a long time…

Is this not the cutest thing ever? Okay, the creature on the right is a real penguin. He’s not on my list. The creature on the left is a Penguin Carbonator from Soda Stream.  [2018 Update:  It looks like the Penguin model has been discontinued and replaced with the Crystal sparkling water maker.]  Unfortunately, he might not be on my list anymore either. But before I tell you why he’s off, let me tell you about why he was on in the first place. Besides the fact that he’s so cute.

  • The Penguin (or Crystal) carbonates your own tap water so you don’t have to buy soda in disposable bottles.
  • The Penguin (or Crystal) comes with two reusable glass carafes with fizz-preserving stoppers, instead of plastic bottles like other carbonators.
  • The refillable aluminum CO2 cartridges are returned to the company and exchanged for new ones, so no component of the system is ever thrown away. In fact, all you purchase is the CO2 itself. The cartridge remains the property of Soda Stream and must be returned, empty or not, after five years.
  • No electricity, batteries, or other energy source is required to operate this appliance.

So what’s the problem? Well, the first drawback is the price. The Penguin costs $250!!!  [2018 Update:  The Crystal model is still pricey but well under $250 on Amazon.]

Still, it couldn’t hurt to add it to my wishlist, right? But then I looked more carefully at what comes packaged with the Penguin. In addition to the machine, four cartridges, and two carafes, you get twelve plastic sample bottles of soda flavoring syrup. I wouldn’t use the syrup anyway, plastic bottles or not. And while these are free of high fructose corn syrup, I’d rather flavor my fizzy water with a little lemon or splash of fruit juice.

So I called Soda Stream to find out if I could buy the Penguin without the soda syrup. No go. There was just no way to take it out of the already packaged box before shipping. Okay, what if I mailed the syrup bottles back to Soda Club after I opened the box? Honestly, the rep said, they’d probably throw them away.


So why am I spending an entire post on a product that I’m probably not going to purchase? Because I still think it’s a good idea for anyone who drinks a lot of soda. In fact, I think that the less expensive carbonators with the reusable plastic bottles are a great idea too if they will save hundreds of disposable bottles from being produced.

For me, I guess soda is not a big enough priority to invest in a machine like this if it also comes with a bunch of plastic. I just wanted a penguin on my kitchen counter. So what do you think?

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15 years ago

We got a cylinder with compressed CO2, regulators, plastic tubing, and a quick disconnect setup that screws onto a plastic soda bottle from the local home brew supply place. Turn it on and shake and it carbonates. Refill the cylinder at the welding/gas supply place when empty. You could also use a keg to store the water rather than the plastic bottle, you can’t use glass because of risk of exploding due to the pressure. I then pour the water into an old glass bottle with a cool rubber gasket/ceramic/wire closure (used to hold an Italian lemonade) for storing the water.
-John C

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Hi Serinlea. Unfortunately, soda cans do contain a plastic liner. You can read about it here:

But even if they didn’t, think of the energy and materials it takes to manufacture each can and the energy it takes to recycle each can. Then, think about the energy it takes to transport the liquid in each can to the store.

Now, compare that to the energy and materials to create on machine that is used over and over again, the aluminum cans of CO2 that are refilled and replaced only a few times per year, and the energy saved because no liquid needs to be transported.

I think that overall, having a soda machine and making your own is much more energy-efficient and resource-saving than buying cans. And the fact that the cans actually do contain plastic is another reason to avoid them.

Now, if having caffeinated soda is one of those things you can’t live without (as cheese is for me), you can buy soda syrup. It would come in a plastic bottle, but since it’s concentrated, it would require a lot less packaging and energy than buying soda cans, which is water with a little soda syrup mixed in.

15 years ago

Hi! Just found your great blog; you have some really useful ideas!

One question on the soda thing though: maybe I’m missing something, but in my personal plastic-avoidant soda consmption, I’ve just switched to buying cans. 100% truly recyclable containers. I make a concentrated effort to bring cans to work with me, and if I forget, I go without my caffeine fix rather than buy a plastic bottle. This seems a lot simpler to me than going to the trouble of buying a carbonator and making your own. (I can’t even imagine how someone would do that if they wanted a non-decaf drink?)

Anyway, I can already tell this site is going to be a great resource for me…I’m off to read back posts…Thanks!

15 years ago

We got the Edition One (plastic bottles) this summer, and love it! Here in New Orleans, a nice cold glass of fizzy water hits the spot on a hot humid day. I could not justify the extra cost for the Penguin, and the carafes and carbonizers for the Penguin are smaller than those for the other models. We gave the syrup packets to friend who drink soft drinks.

15 years ago

Thanks for posting this. I never knew personal carbonator existed. It’s so CUTE! I want one. $250 huh? I better put on my wish list, and one of my relatives or friends may feel generous one day.

15 years ago

aw. you should still get it. i’ll trade you cupcakes (plastic free!!) for the syrup flavoring. because after your email..i’m thinking of buying one…well not the CUTE EXPENSIVE one but maybe one of the lower end models. have fun with the family and enjoy your time off!!

heather t
15 years ago

I say, Freecycle. But I was thinking the other way around. If all you really want is a cute penguin on your kitchen counter, see if anyone has a cute figurine they are willing to give up.

Radical Garbage Man
15 years ago

I’m sure the syrup is quite shelf-stable. You always hoard it pending a diet cola or orange pop craving guest and then show off your largesse: “I have several spare soda syrups in the cupboard just in case you want some.”

Now you have the secret of my waste minimalization strategies: NEVER THROW IT OUT! (I mean, you could totally need it someday)

15 years ago

I was going to suggest FreeCycling the syrup as well. What a GREAT idea and truly, how incredibly cute. Have a great trip, and maybe your family will all pool their money and buy you a penguin. A girl can dream, right?

The Green Cat
15 years ago

I’ve got the Edition One from Soda Club (which uses plastic bottles) but I love it! I drink a lot of seltzer. Not only does bottled seltzer cost more and use plastic bottles, but it also uses quite a bit of fuel in transportation (water is heavy!). I say get the Penguin (or the Edition One) and then Freecycle the syrups. They can be used to flavor any plain or bubbly water so someone might want them.