WATER REFILL APPS: AN INVESTIGATION

Going on holiday? Or looking for refill stations in your neighbourhood? Bring your durable bottle and use a refill app to find the nearest refill station. We searched in the two main app stores and found >10 different water refill apps plus some online refill platforms. How do you know which refill app to use? Refill Ambassadors is here to help you!

HOW DO WATER REFILL APPS WORK?

The apps described in these blog are all free to download, in English, and they make use of your GPS to determine distances to the nearest refill station within their database. However, these apps greatly differ in scope and approach:

    • Global vs local: some apps show refill station across the globe, others only have refill stations in one specific city or region.
    • Public vs private: some apps only show refill points in public areas (drinking water fountains), others also in venues (e.g. restaurants, bars).
    • Free vs paid refill: some apps only show free refill points, whereas others (also) feature paid ones.
    • User input: some apps allow users to manually add or suggest new refill points.
    • Branded bottles: some apps are linked to the brand’s own durable bottles.
    • Extra features: counting the number of bottles saved, opening hours, earning points for discounts, etc.

COMPARING REFILL APPS

We tested all different apps and refill map websites. Some really amazed us, others did not function very well. Read our descriptions below.

‘GLOBAL’ REFILL APPS

Refill includes >30.000 free refill points in public areas and local venues across the U.K., and elsewhere in the world. Users can easily add new refill points and track how many bottles they have saved. (HQ: U.K.)

RefillMyBottle depicts refill stations around the world, mainly across South-East Asia (HQ: Indonesia). Interestingly, this app also displays paid refill points. Venues can sign up easily. RefillMyBottle collaborates with the project RefillNotLandfillAsia, which also have a map of refill points on their website.

Closca has more than 200.000 refill stations across the world. Users can collect points to get discounts on products for each bottle refill. (HQ: Spain).

mymizu logo

mymizu displays almost 200.000 refill stations around the world, with new refill points being added every day. (HQ: Japan).

Tap shows free refill points in local businesses across the globe, mostly in Canada and the U.S.A. We think it has a nice lay-out and some cool extra features, but adding a new refill station is rather time consuming. (HQ: U.S.A).

refill app find water

Find Water is based on the idea of mapping drinking water sources across the globe using Open Street Map. The app is still in its 1.0 version. (HQ: unknown).

‘LOCAL’ REFILL APPS

Canadian based BlueW.org shows over 27.000 free refill stations on its website, mainly across Canada. Refill stations include public and private tap points. The map can be easily accessed through your mobile.

Choose Tap features thounsands water refill venues in public areas and local businesses, mainly in Australia. You can help them grow by adding new refill points.

Water for free promotes the refilling culture across Hongkong. It features free refill points in public areas and local venues. Users can add new refill points. Water for free also offers a ‘fountain rental service’.

BluHop™ was initiated by a (at that time) 14th year old Indian boy. The app shows refill points in India (free and paid). These include water vending machines, drinking water fountains and our other refill partners.

Zero Waste Sofia maps around 1.000 water fountains and some refill stations in venues across Bulgaria. The map is placed on the website (not as an app) and users can suggest new stations. The blog has amazing zero waste tips.

RefillNZ has over 1.100 refill stations on the map in New Zealand. The app is for iOS only; Android users can use the map on the website.

Give me tap! is a social enterprise that serves clean drinking water in Ghana for every bottle that is being sold. With a Give Me Tap bottle, you get free water refills in >800 stores in >150 cities, mainly in the U.K.

Publiek Water has listed alomst 400 refill stations in venues (shops, bars, etc.) across the Netherlands

Drinkwaterkaart shows over 1.500 public fountains in the Netherlands. The map is available online (not as an app). The websie also displays free toilets and free swimming areas.

Find Drink Water shows free public fountains in some part of the Netherlands. The map is incomplete.

Tap Water Ljubljana shows, as the name suggests, a handful of free public fountains in Ljubljana (Slovenia). We found a similar app, NS TAP WATER for the city of Novi Sad, Serbia.

The concept behind Reefill is to offer refill subscriptions for $1.99 / month (chilled and filtered water). Target area: New York City. The app is currently undergoing improvements and does not display refill stations.

WHY IS THERE NO REFILL AMBASSADORS APP?

Refill Ambassadors wants you to find water refill points as easy as possible. Wherever you are. Without the need to download 10 different apps. We do not want to reinvent the wheel by building another app to locate your nearest refill point. Therefore we add new refill points to existing refill apps with a global coverage (Refill, Closca, RefillMyBottle and/or mymizu).

We think it’s a good thing that multiple organisations stimulate the refill movement, yet it also complicates things. Are these apps competing with each other or can they collaborate? We believe in the latter. What if data from all these apps can be combined using API? For example, you just type “water” or “water refill” in Google Maps and it will show you all nearest locations. Similar when searching for an ATM or restaurant. We believe this will be the future step.

DO YOU KNOW MORE WATER REFILL APPS?

We did our best, but probably missed a refill app or two. Leave your comment behind, so we can update this blog.

This blog is an updated version of our previous blog, published in July 2018. We added new refill apps and updated relevant data. 

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RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU: MORE THAN JUST A TOUR OPERATOR  

Today we focus on RESPONSible Travel Peru, a community-based tour operator (HQ in Cusco). While tourism contributes 10% of global GDP and accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide, the industry’s use of key resources is growing equitably. Think about its generation of solid waste, including marine plastic pollution, loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. Tourists, tour operators, tourist accommodations and (local) governments are all responsible for this. And capable to change the industry.

That’s exactly what RESPONSible Travel Peru has been doing. During the past months, they organised several sustainability workshops throughout Peru. Including tips about how to become a refill station. We got curious and asked Daniel Muñoz all about it.

INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL MUÑOZ (D), EDITOR AT RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU

Single-use plastics are still widely used in Peru. What are the biggest challenges?

D: There is a big culture around the use of disposable items. They are cheap, practical and available all over. Although the law against the use of plastic bags/cups, straws, styrofoam cups/boxes was approved last year, its enforcement is slow, and it is also being internalized in the minds of people at a very slow pace. There is still a hard-to-believe lack of consciousness among citizens and companies as well, but neither municipal government offices are doing their part (very few exceptions only). 

That is a shame. Some habits are not easily changed. Governmental rules and bans are a great help but not sufficient. Luckily, tourists and tourism facilities can make a change too. For the latter you organised several workshops. How did that go?

D: The workshops were held in various cities: Cusco, Urubamba, Puno city, Arequipa Coporaque, Nasca, Paracas, Lima, Huaraz and Chiclayo. We started months ago preparing ourselves via our own internal workshop (2 weeks) where, as a team, prepared the sustainability criteria and useful information to share with providers (transportation companies and drivers; agencies and guides; hotels and homestays; and communities that provide Community Based Tourism (CBT)). We contacted all the participants one by one, and asked them for collaboration in terms of conference rooms, snacks and lodging. 

So you managed to reach quite a lot of people. What kind of information did you share? How did your audience respond to the workshops?

D: The public was very participative. Also because we promoted participation within special segments of the workshop where we asked to mention problems faced in the area, as well as possible solutions. 

We started with an overview of global problems faced by the planet (global warming, SDGs, etc.). This was followed by a local overview and sustainable tourism approach. We explained who we are and our way to do stuff. Furthermore we looked at sustainability and tourism certifications (mostly Travelife). We gave a resume of sustainability criteria by sectors (as named above), and sustainability strategies. And then in detail about becoming refill stations.

CREATING NEW REFILL STATIONS IN PERU

That’s very good. In Peru refill stations are hard to find (and this increased our motivation to start Refill Ambassadors). For example in Cusco, there are so many hotels, bars, shops, restaurants and museums. The potential for new refill stations is huge! Let’s talk a bit more about your effort to create new water refill stations, since that is our main focus too. What worked well and what did not? Did you just ask your partners to become a refill station?

D: Yes, we started encouraging partners to implement refill stations at their businesses, first by means of the word through our workshops. That didn’t work out that well, only a couple did it right away, others only because we provided the water filters. But 25 other participants of the workshops filled out forms where they were requesting more information on how to become a refill station. So that was our next step.

We can imagine the concept of ‘becoming a refill station’ needs some more explanation before facilities actually join. Can you tell us in depth about this ‘next step’, how did you follow-up?

D: We implemented our own sustainability team, and already sent-out our first three newsletters sharing tips and relevant information, and a special one (with all the information related to refill stations) was launched as well. You can check this last one here (in Spanish). So far, about 30 new refill stations are on the way to be established.  

Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink. That means refill stations have to be equiped with some kind of water filter. Or they can be a large water tank (e.g. 20 L with deposit). Could you tell a bit more about the water filters you provided for some homestays? What type of filter is used?

This is the HUATTA family at their homestay in Taquile island, Titicaca lake (Nazava brand). A similar filter was provided to another homestay (coffee farmers) in Cusco, along our Coffee Route to Machu Picchu; and a third to a local restaurant in Cusco city with which we collaborate largely (they provide cooking lessons as part of our Meet-the-local activities).

It’s really great that you organised these workshops. And to see the effort is paying off. You at RESPONSible Travel Peru have become true experts while still continuously looking for improvements. Can you share some other sustainable travel tips?

Sure! Here are some tips we promote among our customers (we also posted about being environmentally responsible during a trip):

  • Travel light (and to use that space to bring donations).
  • Embrace the slow-travel philosophy. Really get to know the destination and meet the locals
  • Use ground transportation as much as possible (and to fly the least);
  • Bring reusable bottles and zero-waste kits
  • Eat local and slow food.

Daniel, thank you so much for your time and keep up the good work.

LEARN MORE

RESPONSible Travel Peru is a community based tour operator since 2009. Its founders wanted to tackle ‘the problem of welfare projects and defined periods specific to non-profit organizations, which seek to train small entrepreneurs and rural communities, but that at the end of the management fail to achieve self-sufficiency’ (read more). Over the years, RESPONSible Travel Peru has become much more than a just a tour operator: they are a great source of inspiration for travellers, tourist facilities and other tour operators in the world.

All images provided by RESPONSible Travel Peru

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REFILL AMBASSADORS: 2020 AMBITIONS

On behalf of the Refill Ambassadors team: happy new year! I hope you started the new decade with a bright mood and lots of water refills. In this blog I’d like to briefly reflect on the past year and share our plans for 2020 with you. But above all: thank you for your interest in our project. I’m glad you found us on the web, since we do not use any advertising. When I founded Refill Ambassadors two years ago, I did not expect to make so many ‘refill friends’ in a short time. Together we can create a #refillution!

ACOMPLISHMENTS REFILL AMBASSADORS IN 2019

  • We gave personal advise – through mail, phone and face to face – to people from all over the world (from U.K., to Ghana, Peru and all the way to Myanmar). Individuals and small organisations willing to make a change, as well as restaurant/shop owners, and bottle brands. For example ‘how do I start a refill station?’ ‘how can I create a refill movement in my city’ or ‘which refill app should I use’?
  • We conducted an elaborate research on the worldwide ‘refill app market’ and consumer attitudes towards refilling, for which we received the Designscapes 1st open call (€5.000,- grant). This money is used to cover our basic expenses.
  • Our website got updated with >10 new refill projects, which are added to our refill initiatives overview.
  • We started the Open Tap Challenge, a campaign to create more refill stations in bars, restaurants and shops within Amsterdam. In addition we added around 350 public fountains to the Refill app.
  • We joined the World CleanUp Day on September 21st, together with thousands of volunteers.
  • We tested out two different water filters (TAPP 2 and SteriPEN)
  • I welcomed three new team members: Félice, Roos and Madelief

OUR AMBITIONS FOR 2020

  • We want to continue the #refillution, by convincing 1.000 new venues to start a refill station, and to raise awareness on refilling among consumers. Hereby we want to collaborate with several tourism industry associations. We signed the Tourism Plastic Pledge and we are looking forward to learn and inspire others.
  • We want to add ‘how to guides’ to our website, thereby helping more people to start a refill station, become an ambassador or how to use refill apps. Note: we’ll investigate what’s already out there before reinventing the wheel. Tips are more than welcome.
  • We really need to improve our website, e.g. making it mobile proof. If you want to help us and can do this (almost) free of charge, please let us know!
  • Who are the people behind new and established refill initiatives? We will write more ‘behind the scenes’ stories.
  • Our Ambassador Madelief will be on the hunt for refill stations in South East Asia during her travels.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 2020?

We are curious to hear what you are up to this year, with your organisation or as an individual. Please leave your comments behind. Do you want to collaborate with us in 2020, or would you like to have your organisation interviewed for our blog? Please send us a message.

Looking forward to hear from you,

Hella

Hella Hekkelman, founder Refill Ambassadors

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