Open Water is the lost sheep of the flock of the plastic bottled industry. You are about to discover everything about aluminium, the most recyclable material of the beverage containers. Aluminium packaging is more sustainable than you thought!
1,500 plastic bottles are used in the U.S. every single second! Open Water is the most sustainable water between the bottled options. Crisp & refreshing, responsibly sourced, served in a premium look aluminium bottle. As a bonus, it’s freaking cold!
Jess Page and Nicole Doucet explain their entrepreneurial venture and all you need to know about the recycling rates of plastic, glass, carton and aluminium, the infinite recyclable option.
How did you start to work on this social entrepreneurial project?
The idea for Open Water came about back in 2009 after Nicole, and I saw a documentary about plastic pollution. Everyone knows it’s an issue, but that film opened our eyes to the extent of how bad it really is. 1,500 plastic bottles are used in the U.S. every single second! Obviously, bottled water is a massive contributor to this waste stream. This was at the time that reusable bottles were gaining steam, so there was already a perfectly eco-friendly solution. Even so, bottled water sales continued to grow as people looked for healthier alternatives to sodas and increasingly valued the convenience of an on-the-go option. That led us to come up with a product that offered the same comfort as traditional bottled water but with a highly-reduced impact. We explored plant-based plastics, glass, cartons, but none of those came close to aluminium. Aluminum is lightweight, recycled 2x more often, and is infinitely recyclable. We knew this was the pragmatic solution we were looking for and jumped in to bring the product from idea to market.
We find the name Green Sheep water very funny! Why?
ATTENTION UPDATE: The brand has recently changed his naming to Drink Open Water
It’s definitely a little odd! We wanted our name to be very different from the rest of the bottled waters out there because our product was. We decided that we were like the black sheep of the industry… but in a green way. So, green sheep. It may be weird, but it’s also very memorable 🙂
You are pioneers in using aluminium for water packaging, what are all the benefits of this material?
Aluminum is lightweight, which is excellent for reducing shipping emissions. It’s also shatterproof, so it’s safer than glass, which is a concern in many instances (like events, for example). Most importantly, though, aluminium has the highest recycling rate out of all beverage containers. In the U.S. it’s about 70%, more than double that of glass, plastic, and cartons. It’s also infinitely recyclable, so it can be recycled over and over again without losing quality or volume. In fact, nearly 75% of all aluminium ever produced is still in use today. It’s a super efficient material, has a premium look, and as a bonus gets cold faster!
What is the main difference between using plastic bottled water and the aluminium bottled water?
When you use a plastic bottle, chances are that bottle will end up in a landfill or the ocean where it will break down into smaller and smaller pieces but never truly biodegrade. These pieces end up being eaten by sea life, potentially harming them, or if fished, ending up on our plates. Even if it does end up in a recycling bin, plastic is never truly recycled. It’s actually downcycled into lesser quality materials that, in turn, will most likely end up in the landfill. Aluminum, on the other hand, will probably be recycled—rates are as high as 89% in some U.S. states! That means that, with very little energy, that material can go into making another identical bottle or can, without losing any volume or quality along the way. It’s nearly 100% efficient in the recycling process.
Is aluminium also more sustainable than glass, for example?
The glass is also infinitely recyclable; however, it’s much, much heavier. This means higher emissions during transportation. The scrap value for aluminium is also the highest of ‘recyclable’ materials and is actually what funds many curbside recycling programs. This is what leads to such great recycling rates—because there’s real money to be made through its recollection. Glass recycling rates are better than plastic (about 34% vs 29% of the time), but again, aluminium is more than double that.
How recyclable is the aluminium, and how would you suggest consumers do use it to make sure it doesn’t end in the landfill?
Aluminum is the most recycled and recyclable beverage container. To ensure it doesn’t end up in a landfill and continues to be used in cans and bottles, just drop it in a recycling bin!
What are the quality standards of the still and sparkling water, and where does it come from?
Our still and sparkling water are both responsibly sourced from a natural aquifer in the U.S. Midwest. The quality of the water is outstanding, and people constantly comment on how crisp and refreshing it tastes.
With your purpose of saving the oceans from plastic, how are you giving back? In which locations do you focus?
We are 1% of the Planet members. What that means is we commit 1% of all our revenue to nonprofit giving. We’ve chosen to focus on ocean conservation and cleanups, specifically through the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider operates worldwide and is a champion for policy and awareness of issues facing our ocean and coasts.
Why does so much plastic end in the oceans, and how can consumers contribute to avoiding plastic use?
Plastic ends up in the ocean because it has a very low recycling rate. Part of the reason for those low rates lies in the fact that it’s cheaper to produce new plastic than it is to recycle it. Even if recycled, it has a limited life. To prevent further ocean plastic, it’s important to be conscious of single-use plastic in our daily lives. Lonely Whale’s #stopsucking campaign is a great example of activism and shows how small changes can truly make a world of difference. It’s a matter of being aware of our day-to-day habits—and fixing them. Also, go out and get involved in a local beach cleanup!
How much plastic do you estimate you have already saved?
Open Water has diverted nearly 10,000 pounds of plastic. This is equivalent to almost 200 barrels of oil, which is great, but truly just a drop in the bucket. To have a more significant impact, we need people to regularly and continually choose aluminium over plastic. Each small decision helps, but we need lots of little better choices to have a real impact.
Do you sell worldwide or are you focused on the United States? Where can we find the aluminium bottled Open Water?
Because we’re based in Chicago, and we want to produce as locally to where we distribute as possible (to keep emissions as low), our focus, for now, is exclusively in the U.S. As we grow, we’ll expand our production locations to match our reach and continue to keep transportation emissions to a minimum. For U.S. customers, we’re available in about 15 states. You can also always order online, and asking the manager of your favourite store or café to stock Drink Open Water is a great way to help us expand and divert even more plastic bottles.
How does social entrepreneurship look like for you?
We think that business is a great vehicle for initiating change. We hope to create something that is not only sustainable concerning our product, but also in terms of our business model. To have the most extensive impact possible, we need the resources to continue operating and expanding.
What have been the biggest struggles in your entrepreneurship venture with Open Water?
The bottled water industry is full of some of the biggest brands in the world: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle. It’s tough to fight through the noise and get our voice and mission heard. That being said, our products are truly very different from what else is out there, and we’ve found that customers who genuinely want the most sustainable option are eager to work with us.
If you could turn back, what advice would you have given to the 18-year-old self?
If we could start again, I think we’d be more conscious of the fact that nobody cares as much about your project as you do. We are our best advocates, and because we’re so passionate, it’s easy to forget that other people and companies have other priorities. They aren’t putting the same attention to detail and care as we do. Aside from that, though, I think some of the missteps we’ve made are valuable to understanding the market and business in general. Our mistakes have taught us lessons in the most real of ways.
What is your vision, how do you see the Drink Open Water project to evolving in the next years?
We’re super excited about the future of Drink Open Water. There are some amazing partnerships in the works, and it’s awesome to see our brand and products gaining momentum. It’s proof that customers and retailers want a more sustainable plastic bottle alternative, and glass and carton just aren’t it.
If you could write a message for other social entrepreneurs on a big wall, what would it say?
Do things the right way, even if it’s harder and more time-consuming. Then once you’ve proven it works, figure out how to scale it for the largest impact possible. And don’t be afraid to have limited experience—if it’s important enough, you’ll figure it out!
And what would be the message for the consumers?
Plastic is suffocating our environment, and the consequences are already evident. It’s up to every one of us to make a choice that can make a positive difference. Demand better.
If you the U.S. is a bit far away you can check out another fantastic brand that is disrupting the way of packaging water… 100% biodegradable!
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