Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Every plastic bottle you throw away will certainly go somewhere, but only a handful of them are actually recycled and reused. Plastic pollution is a serious problem most people ignore in exchange for the convenience it offers. That’s why a huge number of them unsurprisingly end up in landfills and in the ocean. Corinna Bellizzi is eager to solve this problem, and she sits down with Robert Koenen to talk about how he helps address such a massive issue. The Founder of Boxed Water Is Better shares how they contribute to lessening needless plastic by creating eco-friendly and biodegradable water containers. Robert also explores the benefits and dangers of aluminum, why you should be wise in choosing companies to support, and why most water brands are only out there for marketing.
About Robert Koenen
Rob Koenen is the Chief Revenue Officer and Sustainability Lead of Boxed Water Is Better; the first national company to offer a sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. Rob is charged with expanding Boxed Water’s core message and empowering consumers to make a statement that “sustainability matters.” Rob’s extensive marketing and leadership experience is rooted in story-telling with innovative campaigns that span multiple communication channels. In his role at Boxed Water, Rob leads the brand’s trial and awareness efforts, digital opportunities, and retail experiences. In prior leadership roles, Rob has built true lifestyle brands for food, apparel and footwear companies.
Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/boxed-water-is-better
Guest Website: https://boxedwaterisbetter.com
00:00 – Introduction
01:07 – Rob’s Origin
05:07 – Introducing needless plastic
08:41 – Boxed Water
15:29 – Brands and loyalty
18:23 – Aluminum arguments
23:50 – Water brands
29:52 – Vote for companies with good intentions
32:42 – Robert’s hope for a sustainable future
39:09 – Final Words
44:22 – Closing
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Address Plastic Pollution One Boxed Water At A Time With Robert Koenen
Did you know that 9 billion plastic bottles are created each and every year and only 5% of them ever get recycled? You guessed it. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the ubiquitous use of plastics and how you can minimize your plastic footprint. On this journey, I’m joined by the Chief Revenue Officer and Sustainability Lead of Boxed Water is Better, Rob Koenen. Rob is charged with expanding Boxed Water’s core message and empowering consumers to make a statement that sustainability matters.
His extensive experience is rooted in storytelling through omnichannel campaigns. In his role at Box Water, Rob leads the brand’s trial and awareness efforts, digital opportunities and retail experiences. In prior leadership roles, Rob has built true lifestyle brands for food apparel and footwear companies. All industries are also making the move to more sustainable living. I am so pleased to introduce you to Rob Koenen. Rob, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Corinna. Nice to meet you.
In our initial conversation, we had a bit of a debate but before we get into that topic in particular, I would like to start with your origin story. What brought you here?
I’ll start with the Boxed Water story. Boxed Water has been around for many years, believe it or not. We were the first sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles in aluminum cans. We are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It happened years ago when some young individuals saw the ubiquitous plastic everywhere.
They were at a concert and started to look at different alternatives. Us being in Michigan, we came up with the idea of using a carton. Cartons are made of trees. You can grow trees. Bottles are made out of plastic. You can’t grow plastic. You can’t grow more aluminum. It’s a truly sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. I have been following this company from the beginning.
My journey is that I went through your typical life where you find your job and make your job. I’ve worked at companies like Timberland and UGG. You get to a point in your life where you realize, in my case, the world doesn’t need me to help them make more shoes. It would be nice to try to help with some of the real problems going on in this world that of which I created when I was young, which is plastic pollution and what we can do to walk away. One million bottles a minute are being made.
These numbers keep me going in this job which is fascinating. Five percent of the bottles are recycled in plastic in general. That’s down from 8%, despite all the conversations that we’re having. The human race is not doing a very good job. What gets you thinking is that it takes twelve minutes on average to drink a bottle of water. That bottle, when it ends up in a landfill or the ocean, lasts 700 years before it breaks down.
It never breaks down as you know. It becomes microplastics. While it’s breaking down, it starts to resemble food. Marine animals are eating it and dying, eating this pollution. You step back and think, “Seven hundred years.” If Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, grabbed a bottle of water, drank it and threw it out, chances are that bottle would still be in existence. That’s something that every day, here we at Boxed Water are trying to fight. More importantly, raise awareness in education and get people to realize that there’s an alternative.
You have me when it comes to plastics. I’m very concerned about the fact that so much of our food continues to be packaged in plastics. Even trying to go to the store and get a package of blueberries or something to that effect, dealing with a clamshell. That’s even in locally sourced fruit. I’m here in Santa Cruz County. Watsonville is where many of the raspberries and blackberries that I even see when I’m on vacation in Hawaii. It comes from there. We have these standard clamshells. They’re used for every single package. I bet you can get through a raspberry container in about 60 seconds.
It’ll take many years to decompose, the fact that that also ends up not being recycled, even though it’s made of virtually identical plastic. I went to Costco and noticed that they had pomegranates that were taken out of the fruit in these little plastic containers that they’re selling at what might appear like a good price and discount to you when nature creates the best possible package for that pomegranate in the first place.
It might be a little tedious to eat but that’s half the joy of it. You’re digging into it. You’re exploring this amazing fruit. The pomegranate itself keeps those kernels fresh for a long time. We’re introducing plastic in places that we shouldn’t. In the case of plastic water bottles, I had assumed that by 2023, we were producing far less.
I had assumed that by 2023, the recycling equation was getting a little bit better, at least for the standard clear plastic that we are told so many times over is recyclable, reusable and not downgraded too far, could end up being my graduation gown from Santa Clara University. I got my MBA a couple of years ago and on the packaging for it, it says, “This is made from a soda bottle,” for example. Given your experience also on the textile side of things, what do you have to say about this?
It’s amazing. I’ve done so much research since I’ve been here. Every day, there’s a new learning. Much of what you say is true. We, as a community, were plastic blind. I do this for a living so I would encourage everybody at one moment to stop. Next time they go to a store, from Costco to their natural food store, stop in the beverage aisle, blink your eye and look at the miles of plastic that you will see. Not only miles linear but also stacked up.
One of the things that is very disconcerting is that you don’t know. I grew up saying, “What’s wrong with plastic? You can recycle it.” For food-grade recycling products, you can only recycle them six times before it degrades and then you cannot recycle them anymore. It’s not even infinitely recyclable. I am encouraged by a number of things. I’m an older individual. I’m encouraged by everybody I see who’s the younger generation who’s talking about this.
When I was growing up, this was never an issue. We never talked about it and that’s why I jokingly say, “I’m trying to clean up after my mess.” The fact that when we do our research, 70% to 80% of people under the age of 40 and 40 seem to be the cutoff, are aware and prefer to make a move away from plastic or at least in embracing and will spend their dollars like your show suggests, “Spend your dollars. Your dollar is your vote on sustainable companies.”
The textile industry and the fashion industry, I am overwhelmed by their positivity. There are companies like Rag and Bone, Madewell, DVA, DVF and AG Jeans who have all stopped giving out plastic bottles in their stores and are giving out Boxed Water. One of them said to me, which is wonderful, “We give out plastic bottles and a lot of our consumers recoil and say, ‘This is like handing me a pack of cigarettes. What are you doing?’” The awareness is there.
The other story I always like to tell is about AG Jeans. This is insane. They used to go through six million gallons of water every day in making their denim. They spent a couple of million dollars on a reverse osmosis machine that cleans out all their water so all their water is reusable. This costs them a couple of million dollars. There are so many industries that are doing what’s right and spending the extra money because it’s the right thing to do. The best part about it is when they launched this, it was so successful and the consumer feedback was so good.
They’re a for-profit company. Their sales were so good that they are doing more, offering more and going even more back upstream into other areas where they can use more renewable materials where they can recycle their denim and so on. The voting of the dollar is what matters. I can give you a number of companies that have said, “We did this little pocket program and it was so successful that we’re expanding it across the line.” There’s a lot of hope ahead.
Let’s talk about the materials that you are using in Boxed Water. I had assumed like a milk carton that it isn’t recyclable or compostable because they tend to be coated with things like waxes and things like that. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about that? What makes it different? I have a couple of stories to share.
I will call out something that you mentioned last time we spoke that is important. Our name is Boxed Water is Better and that is specifically and humbly said, “We are better than plastic and aluminum. We are not better than refillable.” Our carton is refillable but the best thing you can do as a consumer is go to the sink. If you have a Brita, use your filter and make sure your water is safe. You can have it tested for free at your local municipality but refillable is the best.
We say, “We’re a bridge product in between having to go and reach for a plastic bottle. We encourage everybody to be using the refillable.” One of the most common misconceptions is that we are the same as a milk carton. We are not. Our materials are covered in wax and you’ll know the difference because in milk cartons, you always find in the refrigerated section in your grocery. You will find us in the non-refrigerated area, as well as refrigerated because we’re what you call an aseptic carton.
An aseptic carton is a carton that can be stored outside of refrigeration and remain fresh. Your soup cartons, wine in a box and juice boxes are all aseptic. In basic terms, that means that there is a thin layer of plastic. Our plastic is bio-based. It’s based on tree waste. Our plastic cap is using waste. Not a not-for-profit and a cash crop but the waste from the newspaper industry.
Oil is extracted from the tree pulp that’s wasted and created this cap but there’s a thin lining of plastic. There is a layer of paper and a thin layer of aluminum. The aluminum is one-tenth the thickness of a human hair so it’s extremely thin. The whole product is then folded together and like origami, it’s folded and shipped flat, which reduces the carbon footprint. At our refilling station, we pop them up and then fill them up with water. That’s how the box is made.
As a result, it is 100% recyclable. It is recyclable in 64% of American households. Another thing that we’re working on as a disruptor brand is we’re working with all the recycling groups and municipalities across the country that are interested in it. Many years ago, this carton was only recyclable in about 50% of households. In 2023, it’s up to 64%. I’m pleased to say California is at 79%. People who live in California, hopefully, you included, live in a town or municipality where this carton can be recycled. Our goal is to get to 100%. It’s 100% recyclable and BPA-free. The water itself is eight times reverse osmosis filtered. It’s won awards for its crisp clean taste and that’s all I can say about that.
It was a lot. I feel like you went over this specification sheet for what your boxed material is, which is nice. It’s comforting because I didn’t know that you had any plastic. I also didn’t know that the boxes contained aluminum. I do happen to know that they are recycled here in my municipality. The reason I found that out is my husband kept coming home with your Boxed Water carcasses. I’m calling them carcasses because he littered his truck floor with them. I’m going, “What is all this?”
He tossed it in the blue bin and I’m like, “I don’t think these are recyclable.” We can’t recycle tetra packs here, which is what most of the nut milk comes in. It’s one of those things that puts a bad taste in your mouth if you have to put that in the garbage as opposed to the recycler. He gets them free at his work. He works for a company called Joby Aviation.
They’re doing electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The idea is that this will be the Uber of the sky. The whole concept is saving millions of people two hours of commute time a day. They could get in one of these long-term lives in the day of the Jetsons and be transported to a Hilo pad or a parking lot and then get in an Uber for the last mile or walk the last mile. Who knows?
It’s cool that they give out Boxed Water as opposed to plastic bottles.
It fits with their entire ethos because they are trying to be a company that is both carbon negative and that helps to be part of the solution to our global climate crisis while also solving transportation issues for people. It’s interesting work. He loves his job. Most of the people that work there are also Patagonia fanatics. They all have their Patagonia jackets and things that they wear. I’m told that they have moved to North Face as the brand that they love and some of their employees are like, “I want Patagonia.”
Do you mean the company moved and the people are still saying, “Let’s not move?”
No, for their promo items. They get t-shirts and jackets when they sign on as an employee perk and things like that.
We had to stop using Patagonia. Patagonia as a company said they no longer are going to do any cross promotions or promo items and it makes sense because their point was, “We don’t control it.” I’m making this up but I like Exxon. They don’t want Exxon in their logo on the same shirt but I was informed that they’ve changed their mind and they will be offering them again. I had one of our employees tell me this because they wanted to use Patagonia so it is curated. Your husband’s company surely will be allowed because it has a good mission. I’m not speaking on Patagonia’s part. Legally, I don’t know what their criteria are.
I don’t either but it’s interesting because people have become so entrenched in the brand. Some of them have started to feel that way about Boxed Water too because they hate using plastic bottles when they’re out. I also noticed that your brand is offered at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There are other locations like that in my local area where I’m like, “That’s interesting, Boxed Water is Better but what about aluminum?” We get to have this debate again. I know that your Boxed Water also includes some aluminum.
Let me give you two quick things, if you don’t mind because you touched on two things that I’d like to mention. One is about brands and loyalty. There are two things that we do that set us apart. A lot of companies, especially in the beverage industry and you know them, will hire celebrities and people to talk about their goods and say how great it is. Pete Davidson is talking about SmartWater and that was Jennifer Aniston.
A few years ago, we decided not to go that direction. We didn’t feel like that was an authentic approach. Every time you post a picture of our box and put it online on your social media feed with the hashtag Better Planet, we will plant two trees in a national forest. Our money is going towards trees. We’ve planted almost 1.5 million trees in 2023 for free for that reason. The only reason why I bring that up is because that, to me, is the Patagonia mindset. You make a great product but people buy your product not because it’s good but because they know your money is going to something good.People buy your products not just because they are good, but because they know their money is going to something good. Click To Tweet
They’re like, “We know that they protect our lands and do so much more.” The secret to our success is that we’re more than just a box of water. People know. It’s beautiful because if you go to #BetterPlanet, there’s a whole community of people, artists and parents teaching their kids about reforestation, planting trees and sustainability.
More companies need to do this because the consumer is voting with their dollar and it’s more than just a pretty picture of a model drinking your product. It’s like, “That’s all fluff. What’s going on with your product and brand?” I wanted to bring that up because before we move on, that’s an important piece of what you’re trying to convey. “Research the brand, find out what values they have and then vote with your dollar based on that.”
If you have to go out and buy water for any reason, you’re using one that’s more responsible. I’m also heartened by the fact that when I go to most airports, they tend to have refill stations. I can travel with my water bottle. I have one that’s branded with my show name. It enables me to open conversations with people as well. It’s not that difficult to do.
I’m encouraged by the fact that in spaces like in Paris, France, they have refill stations for the public. There are fewer people going out and buying a plastic bottle to then end up putting it in the recycle bin but you never know what happens with it or throwing it in the trash because so many people do that too.
You go to Yellowstone and see more plastic bottles stacked up than anything else. It’s very disturbing. Thank you for that. I wanted to sneak that in and then we can talk about the other side of the coin, which is aluminum and the aluminum cans, which we also feel is not a good alternative for the sixteen seconds it takes to a drink bottle.
Many companies from Coke and Pepsi and others are saying, “Plastic is bad. Consumer, we’re glad you’re aware of that. Here’s the alternative, which is aluminum.” We believe that 60% of cans are still made with virgin aluminum. Aluminum is still made from bauxite and bauxite is not a renewable material. It’s something that is not sustainable and is as bad for the environment as plastic.
We could debate about just as bad but as it stands, one of the things that we shared in this initial conversation we had was I was like, “I don’t think it ends up being as much litter in the oceans as you see from the plastic world.” With that being said, most of the ocean plastic waste that we see is coming from the fishing industry and most people don’t know that. The land mass, essentially, the size of Texas or France that’s floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is mostly fishing nets.
Ghost nets they call them.
Some of them end up getting lost in storms so it’s a non-intentional loss. In other cases, they just leave them because it’s beyond repair and too much weight or hassle to bring back. They end up collecting at these spaces then any plastic that does float at sea ends up connecting to and becoming a larger part of this mass. That’s essentially like its own island at this point. I was not aware that we were seeing some of those same issues with aluminum cans at the bottom of the sea. I pushed back in our initial conversation like, “I’m not sure this is a problem. I don’t see cans in the oceans.” You found a study to share with me. Do you want to talk about that?
You were great because what’s beautiful is we learned from each other. You said the aluminum’s pH is neutral. That goes back to it can’t be worse than plastic because plastic has problems and affects the pH. It’s fascinating to me so I went and looked. One of my beliefs that I’ve seen is that aluminum cans are being dumped in.
We don’t talk about aluminum as much as plastic because aluminum doesn’t float. It goes to the bottom of the ocean and you raised a great point. You’re like, “I scuba dive and I’ve never seen it.” At the same time, we know that the cruise ships are dumping cans and everything out in the areas where we don’t dive so it is happening. More importantly, what I found was the University of Pennsylvania did a study and it’s fascinating.
They said that the aluminum when it’s mixed with salt water and various other conditions, hurts the freshwater algae. Algae are food but also generate oxygen for marine life. This is what is amazing to me as somebody who’s not a marine biologist. In salt water, it affects marine life and can asphyxiate marine life that uses gills to breathe so fish and others.
It does so because somehow, it affects the pressurization of the water that goes in and out of the gills. It is harmful to marine life by virtue of it staying long-term in the water. The other thing that this study said that I hadn’t realized is not only is it the pollution from the cans that we throw in there but also what didn’t even occur to me is the runoff and all the materials from the smelting and the red mud that’s created when you’re doing the removal. The strip mining is what’s causing a lot of the bleed-off and killing a lot of the algae in the ocean.
You look at this can and think it’s so benign but what it takes to make this can? One of the stats that we’ve been able to dig up is that 33% of the world’s electricity is used in the creation of aluminum. I won’t say aluminum cans. The extraction, the strip mining, as well as, the smelting, the rolling and then the molding require a tremendous amount of heat as well as electricity to create it. There’s an enormous carbon footprint to that side of it. To have a can of water, the math doesn’t add up.
The big distinction here is around reusable versus single-use. I do think that aluminum, generally speaking, poses a better alternative to plastic when it comes to multi-use things. I think about things like the supplement bottles that I have that I can spray in my mouth or even I’ve seen some creative use of aluminum in personal care products. If you think about these items and say, “This is recyclable.” One of the benefits of aluminum that is recycled is something like 99.9% of it can be used again as long as it goes through that recycling.
Every time you recycle anything, be it glass or plastic, there’s energy use. Where is that energy coming from? There are chemicals that are used. Where are those chemicals coming from? Is it something where it’s melded with virgin material? Does it lose some of its tensile strength? All of these things have to be considered.
As we build the future that we want to live in, we need to think about the use of materials, the reuse of materials and whether when we create a new version of it, is it recycling or is it downcycling. While there is some research that’s happening at the university level that is budding and interesting around potentially even returning the plastic to a virgin state so that it can be reused with that same application again, we’re not at a commercial scale for those things. I’m not confident that that’s the best path forward either.
There can be unintended consequences from any of these technological advances in a way. Notwithstanding things like the mining of box sites and things like that as well, which I don’t think we generally think of. Jason Momoa did a brand of aluminum canned water. There was a big PR blitz around that. People are glomming onto it because they like Jason Momoa and it sounds like a good story. Perhaps, not the best.
I’m forever perplexed at how many water brands there can be. This is something I shared with you before but at Expo East, I was touring the aisles and this one brand stopped me in the tracks. There have been more water companies coming out that are making their water look like beer cans, the liquid death example or maybe it looks more like an energy drink. In this case, I saw one called Beaver Water. I was like, “What is the story with Beaver Water?” I stopped and talked to one of the founders and they told me that they were a tongue-in-cheek play on words with a woman’s beaver. I’m like, “I don’t resonate with this brand. You bros with your flat hats should maybe go on some other adventure.”
I’m saying I don’t like that brand and the ethos. I don’t think they have any reason to exist. There are so many brands like that out in the world, taking up shelf space and getting people to think that they’ve got a better solution when it’s just marketing. I want to tease through that for our entire readership and say, most of the water brands out there are purely marketing. They aren’t doing things to make the world better or provide a solution.
The thing I do like about Box Water is Better connects to the fact that you are planting trees and providing a different solution that is more mindful. When we are continuing to put people in a situation, we want them to identify with a brand to supposedly make the world better by solving the plastic problem when maybe those individuals should use a reusable bottle.
I agree. That’s so well put all the way around. The Beaver Water thing leaves me speechless.
I gave you the link. You looked at their site. What did you think?
I hope more consumers feel like me and don’t spend any money on that.
I hope they fail miraculously. I don’t care if they’re wrapping a bow on it and trying to do some good for the world like make it a cost marketing thing but it all comes across as BS to me. I hated them. I left my skin crawling when I met them in person and looked at the site after the fact.
As a human and somebody who lives, this is 2023. When you say these things to me, I’m like, “In the 80’s when we were morons, that had a chance to succeed.” I can’t even believe people are thinking this way in this day and age after all we’ve gone through. My wife and I were talking about the MeToo movement. I was talking to her about this water that you discovered and I showed her. It boggles the mind that people are still thinking like that.
I hope more consumers feel like you and me. Not only it fails but even goes back and says, “What are you doing?” I hope no retailer picks it up. If a retailer picks it up, go to the retailer and say, “What are you doing? You should not be carrying this.” There are a million brands. If you follow our feed on Instagram or comment, we always say haters are going to hate about 10% of our comments because we’re not the best. There’s still single use. There are still problems.
Our cap was made out of Petro up until about a few years ago when we finally figured out a way to make it plant-based. We’re not great but we’re better. Half the time, I want to say to the people who are writing us saying, “I hope you’re putting as much time and effort into writing Tide or these beaver guys,” we’re trying to do the best we can. There are people out there who are trying to take advantage of the situation and say, “I’m doing this,” but they’re not. It super frustrates me. My mom used to say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” With social media, it becomes not only you go unpunished but you get publicized.It is often said that no good deed goes unpunished. But with the dawn of social media, you get publicized when you do something wrong as well. Click To Tweet
Maybe I will send this episode to them after the fact and say, “Haters might hate. I have my reasons.” I don’t think that you should be out there trying to do this tongue-in-cheek messaging. It doesn’t serve anybody.
With everything that we’ve gone through with women’s rights, it plants the wrong seed and sends the wrong message. Frankly, they’re trying to play off the success of liquid death and death has done a great job of carving out this niche of irreverence and tongue-in-cheek. There are other ways of doing what they’re doing better without offending 51% of the world’s population.
Our audience is likely to go check them out. Don’t buy it, please.
Instead, buy Boxed Water. The other thing I was going to mention that is cool is to vote with companies that are doing this. I’m going to give a plug. Alaska Airlines has gotten rid of all their plastic bottles and they’ve gone to Boxed Water. Here’s how ubiquitous this is. They hand out these little 250 milliliter bottles that you’ve seen when you’re on a plane. Guess how much plastic they go through one little bottle at a time in a year? They go through 1.3 million pounds of plastic every just 1 little bottle at a time.
They came and switched to us. I can’t tell you but they’re spending upwards of $1 million more because we’re more expensive than plastic. They’re doing it because it’s the right thing. They’re the second most posted thing on the feed. Businesses moving people and people are talking about the box as opposed to plastic a huge groundswell.
If a company spends more money, it doesn’t look good on the balance sheet but if the consumers come back and say, “Thank you for doing what you’re doing. I’m going to use you more than the other person,” that is the incentive to get that makes a change. That’s when change happens and other airlines get on board. It is a million pounds every year. It’s a lot of plastic that you never even think about because it’s this big.
Having us all make an impact is where we need to be focused. I’m going to do something for my readers. For anybody who does share this episode and that could be the link on your social media but tag #BetterPlanet and #CareMoreBebetter, I am going to enter you into a contest to win a beautiful double-walled bottle that I make with Care More Be Better so that I can send that to you. I want to do 5 so that’s a total of 5.
Each of them costs me about $20 to make but they’re beautiful bottles. They have a logo for Care More Be Better on them with a simple message like, “It’s important to care about social impact, sustainability and regeneration.” #BetterPlanet to touch on you and #CareMoreBeBetter with this episode share. Perhaps you even have Boxed Water with you so you can plant two trees and be entered to win a water bottle.
How kind. That’s very nice of you. That’s so beautiful. Thank you.
I’m most active on Instagram and Facebook so I would say sadly the Meta platform but if you post it anywhere, I track those things and we will head forward there.
Once a month, we go online. We count up the number of boxes we see so we’ll also come back to you and see how many we’ve got. Frankly, we will be sharing this. We don’t need the can and the refillable but we’ll be sharing this as well across our feed so that we get more people to hear this message. It’s important.
Thank you so much for joining me. This has been so much fun. I wanted to offer you a couple of questions as we prepare to wrap. One is I like to offer my guests the opportunity to paint a picture of the better, more sustainable world that you hope to create and part through your work or even on a personal level. What is the future that you want to see?
I say this flippantly but it’s true. I’d like to be out of business. I honestly wish that there was a day when people all are walking around with their refillable and that there is no water aisle because it’s crazy. That’s from a micro point of view but from a macro point of view, I want to see a day where it’s not just about water. It’s about everything.
You start going down the rabbit hole like, “I don’t want blueberries and clamshells. I don’t want a roll of plastic bags to put my apples in. I don’t need a bag to put my apples in. I can put it in my little cart. I can put it on the wear and buy it. I’m going to wash it at home anyway so stop pushing this stuff on me because I’ve become this robot or Automatron who’s grabbing the plastic and putting the apples in and going.
I grew up in a time when smoking was okay and in the world I live in, if you see somebody smoking a cigarette, you go, “You say it to yourself but you shouldn’t be smoking. You should know better than that.” I want to have a day where that happens across the board when people are using plastic bottles and plastic bags. I see that day because the younger generation is the ones who are pushing this change. I’ll do one more thing because this is the other big thing that drives me nuts. I want to see a day when the recycling industry is subsidized so that it’s not a profit margin, whether you recycle a bottle or not.
The biggest issue that we face when I talk about 64% of Americans live is these recycling companies and they say, “It’s not profitable because I have to take it and then resell it, especially with plastics. Since there’s so much out there, it doesn’t make sense. It’s a lot cheaper for me to throw it away.” I step back and think to myself, “When you think about the national interest, we subsidize Amtrak, the postal service and the tobacco industry.”
To me, it’s not that much of a stretch to say, “Let’s help them subsidize this industry.” Everything does get recycled and it’s not 5% of what we make. After decades of us talking about recycling cans, only 35% to 45% are being recycled. Half of them aren’t even being recycled. Part of it is not people. People want to recycle. It’s this infrastructure of an industry that we’ve created, where it’s not profitable for the hauler to turn it around and get it recycled.
This touches on the overall issue we have with packaging. The reality should be that the manufacturer has a stake in making sure that the end life of their product is responsible. We get thinking in a way of the cradle as opposed to cradle to grave with the grave being a landfill. If you have another secondary use and we get to the world where we refill things, go spend time in Germany and you’ll see the norm there.
You might get your Pellegrino water bottle as an example. It’s in a glass. When you’re done with it, you take it back to the store for a redemption value that’s significant enough that people automatically return them. You return them to the store. You get that back with your grocery bill or maybe at the end of your shopping visit might be, something like $6 or $7 that you could spend on groceries. It’s all part of that redemption value. I’m doing that with the milk that we buy. I don’t buy milk anymore for me but my husband still likes dairy. I get the local Straus Farms glass bottle and each of those has a redemption volume of 350 or something like that.
I have 6 or 7 of them. I return them to the store and get that credited toward my grocery bill. We need to move in a direction where that is more than the norm again. We’re seeing consistent reuse of packaging and even when we produce something as I do in my work life for Orlo Nutrition. This is a Miron violet glass bottle. It’s quality. We create it with quality so that in the end, the consumer can keep it, refill it and reuse it. When it reaches the end of life and they wanted to repurpose this as a little jar for their flowers or something like that, they could do that and worst case scenario, recycle it.
You’re thinking through the entire life of something as opposed to the short-term in which it’s in your hands and of use. That’s where all of our thinking needs to go. The diehards out there like me might be saving your running shoes to later donate so they become high school tracks but most people aren’t doing that and most of those shoes end up in garbage landfills. If we can think through each of these industries or the things that we consume and start to envision that if something leaves our home curbside, it’s likely ending up in the garbage.
If we can change how we think about it and then invite less junk into our homes, this means doing two things, consuming less and consuming mindfully. That’s the end of the story. I don’t necessarily want to see Boxed Water run itself out of business. I don’t think that’s very likely at this stage. Perhaps, one day you pivot to some new reusable and foldable bottles. It can end up in your purse or notebook and be your water bottle on the go, still, Boxed Water is Better.
One of the things down the road is biodegradable. We’re still not biodegradable. I would love to get to a point where we are.
That’s hard to do because of its shelf life. I’ve been on the manufacturing side enough to understand the challenges that you face and when it seems like, “Let’s be so simple.” There are so many things that stand in the way of a product succeeding that way. I love the heart and the intention. I look forward to staying connected to you, Rob. I want to thank you for your time. As we get into this close section, I offer you the floor one last time. Is there a question I haven’t asked that you wish I had or a closing thought that you’d like to leave our audience with?
Thank you for your time. You can tell that I’m very passionate about this. I hope at least we’ve educated and gotten some people interested. I encourage everybody and this is not a pitch but go to BoxedWaterIsBetter.com because we take a lot of time to put together blogs, articles and facts. We’ve done a whole lifecycle and ISO-certified lifecycle analysis that talks about our full carbon footprint as well as ozone depletion.
We are serious about looking in the mirror and seeing the blemishes we have. Also, educating people because we truly believe that if you know what you’re doing, all we’re only asking you to do is to move your hand when you go to a store. Move it 6 inches to the right and choose paper over non-renewable materials. If you have a curious soul and our lawyers won’t let us do anything else but we try to pack as much factual information on the plastic pollution problem, more information about aluminum and as well as a full lifecycle analysis of the pros and cons of our product as well as our process. Please, plant two trees. That’s the easiest thing you’ll ever do.When you go to a store, move six inches to the right and choose paper over non-renewable materials. Click To Tweet
Thank you, Rob, for that reminder. To recap, if you use the #BetterPlanet while also having a Boxed Water pictured and you tag #CareMoreBeBetter, not only will you plant two trees but you will be entered to win one of my reusable bottles. They’re double-walled, beautiful and easy to take on the go. I noticed too that they fit in that side pocket in my backpack easily unlike some of the wider ones. I hope everyone will join.
Here’s the bottle. It simply has the logo on the front Care More Be Better with a design I created. It says CareMoreBeBetter.com on the side, with a social impact and sustainability podcast. Join the community and act. That’s my message. I’ve had this one for about the better part of a few years. It’s held up well. I’ve dropped it several times. It still isn’t dented. This is double-walled, steel and coated.
It’s beautiful. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a $80 value if you were to buy something like that.
They’re not cheap.
Our family has bought bottles like that in the past and it was $59 to $69.
They’re not inexpensive but they’re printed directly on. I have made them periodically and I’m happy to be able to share them as part of this conversation so people can remember to hydrate responsibly and also look back on this episode. What you’re doing at Box Water is better than other companies. I’m putting my endorsement out there. I won’t criticize my husband for coming home with a bunch of Boxed Water on the floor of his truck.
It’s better than it being filled up with plastic. Could you imagine?
I’d be walking down a different aisle to divorce in that case. Some people may remember from prior experiences with me when I went to trade shows and they didn’t have good recycling. I would bring an empty suitcase and come home with our plastic refuse so that I could at least recycle it at home. I’m one of those militants.
God bless you. That’s perfect.
Many of those trade shows have gotten better at what they’re doing but it always would break my heart to even take a plastic supplement bottle and see that it was being disposed of in the trash when you were done with it. It’s gross.
It’s gross for me when I see people not going out of their way. It’s so easy to put it in the recycle bin.
Sometimes it’s right next to it.
I’ve never done it. I’ve seen the aftermath but I feel like the parent would come out of me and say, “What are you doing? You should know better.”
Approach those moments with a little bit of grace. I have told this story before on another show but beach cleanups are something I do routinely. People need to be a little more mindful when they go on vacation beaches. I can almost always tell who the tourists are because they tend to leave their trash like they expect someone is employed to come to pick it up after the fact.
I have been the one to gently nudge them in the direction by saying, “I’m going to the trashcan over there. Would you like me to take that too?” To be a gentle reminder instead of judgment is a good thing. People, if they feel criticized, they’re less likely to absorb that they may have done something wrong. They’ll just get angry.
The defensive nature will come up as opposed to being open to what you’re suggesting.
At any rate. I appreciate you so much. Thank you for joining me, Rob.
Thank you. I appreciate you.
To learn more about Rob’s work with Boxed Water is Better, visit BoxedWaterIsBetter.com. Please sign up for our newsletter. Subscribers will receive a welcome gift, which is our five-step guide to getting organized and inspiring your activism. It can also serve as a great project management tool so it doesn’t have to be exclusively for that activist path. If you have feedback or want to suggest a future guest on this show, please send me an email or leave me a voicemail directly from the site too.
Click that contact button or tap the microphone icon in the bottom, right-hand corner and you can leave me a message. Review it before you send it and click send. Thank you, readers, now and always for being part of this pod and community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even solve our plastic pollution problem, clean our waterways and return ecosystems to health. Thank you now and always. Make it a great day.
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