Environmentalists have long pointed to the numbers to explain their alarm and opposition to the bottled water industry. Taken as a whole, bottling water in plastic containers releases 2.5 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year.
Producing just one-year’s supply of bottled water means burning 17 million barrels of oil. That’s enough fuel to power 1.3 million cars for a year. Then there’s the pollution problem. The majority of plastic bottles used for water are recycled but millions still end up in landfills or litter the landscape. Plastic bottles are floating in the oceans and running down rivers.
All this and many point out that, just a few years ago, buying water in a plastic bottle seemed absurd considering that most people already have access to water from a tap. In the past, if they wanted to bring water with them, they filled a Thermos, canteen or kitchen bottle.
There are other environmental issues as well, such as major corporations being accused of pumping public-land aquifers to dangerously low levels.
That’s why it’s surprising that a new company that is earning high praise from environmentalists is a bottled water company. In fact, this firm is being held up as a role model for how to operate an eco-friendly sustainable business.
The company is Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Bottled Water. It’s the brainchild of Ryan Emmons, a young entrepreneur who was determined to build a bottled water company that solved every negative environmental problem associated with the industry. Emmons was well aware of the dismal reputation of bottled water – but he firmly believed he could build a sustainable brand and create a model that would make bottled water the perfect eco-friendly operation.
Doing so meant solving the key problems. The first was the plastics issue. For the first time ever, Waiakea Water is selling its product in a bottle that is a cutting-edge material that looks and feels like plastic but is actually a highly biodegradable material that will dissolve completely – leaving no waste behind — if it is never turned in for recycling.
The bottle was developed by Manuel Rendon, a chemical processing engineer who founded a company called TimePlast. He spent years conducting experiments and with more than a thousand trials to develop a plastic bottle that could biodegrade at room temperature. Waiakea is the first bottled water company to adopt the Timeplast bottle.
Other issued needed to be addressed as well – such as the fuel it takes to ship millions of bottles of water from the factory to store shelves. Waiakea accomplishes this through advanced logistics techniques which leverage empty cargo spaces in ships and truck.
It also aggressively pursued carbon offset activities to balance out the energy it does use by creating natural green infrastructures in the form of planting millions of trees to act as greenhouse gas-absorbing agents.
Waiakea Water does more. It has partnered with the nonprofit Pump Aid to help it supply freshwater resources to areas in the world where people are suffering from a lack of clean water.