The Coronavirus has changed some of our familiar routines. You might worry where this will lead and when it will end. But it is also an ideal time to change our habits: to develop healthy ones and let go of those that don’t serve us. Neither you nor your environment. How do you make choices? Wait until you have found something that moves you. We really love this poem by Martha Postlethwaite, so we’d like to share it with you:
“Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is yours alone to sing falls into your open cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worthy of rescue.”
DO NOT TRY TO SAVE THE WORLD, BUT DO SOMETHING THAT MATTERS TO YOU
I have a new hobby: plogging. This means running while picking up litter. The word plogging is derived from ‘placka’ (to pick in Swedish) and jogging. We all want clean parks, streets and forests. What if we collect not just our own trash, but also our neighbours’? Be prepared, plogging is addictive!
In a few months I hope to run my first marathon. Therefore I try to run three times a week. To make it more challenging I started to pick up trash along the way. It felt a bit weird in the beginning, but now it’s part of the drill. Tiny plastic candy wraps, cans, cigarette boxes and of course many empty plastic bottles. I invite you all to give it a try. Running for a cause while sweating a bit more! When I don’t feel like running (quite often!) I walk while picking up trash. So for those who are not into running, try trashwalking instead. Tip: bring your own bin bag in areas with fewer trash cans.
GLOBAL CLEANUP INITIATIVES
Do you want to participate in a group? Try one of these initiatives:
World Cleanup Day – coming up on Saturday September 19, 2020 (worldwide event). Its goal is to raise awareness of the global waste problem and help in finding sustainable solutions to the global trash problem.
Trashpackers brings tourists in touch with local communities to gather litter. Last year, 10.924 people joined the challenge. Anyone can create a new Trashpacker Event.
Many countries organise their own beach cleanup tours, although some events are cancelled this year because of Covid-19.
Both World Cleanup Day and Trashpackers aim to better understand the scale of the global waste problem by visualising the data collected. So when you join, please help the organisation by using their app to register the collected waste.
JOIN US ON WORLD CLEANUP DAY
Do you want to join the Refill Ambassador cleaning team in Amsterdam on World Cleanup Day? When: Saturday, September 19, 2020. Please send us a message.
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.
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.
On a beautiful sunny autumn day, refill ambassadors Hella and Félice went for an “open tap challenge” In the city center of Amsterdam: would venues open their tap for people, passengers of all kinds, just to have their water bottles filled? And so we approached cafe, boutique shop and supermarket staff.
Besides improving ourselves each time at enthusing merchants of their potential in reducing single use plastics, we got to know this lovely quarter better. What a high density of coffee shops!
Many people we spoke with supported Refill Ambassadors’ ideas, but they would need to check with their bosses if we could paste a “Refill” window sticker, or add their site to the “Refill” app to chart free water points. Some merchants did not hesitate to join the refillution – no big deal; tap water is for everyone!
We could say our challenge was a success by adding 5 new refill stations – free water points for everyone. People who cross a doorstep for a refill may just as well become customers!
WELCOME, NEW REFILL STATIONS:
Thank you for spreading our tasty water to the people. Do you own a bar, café, restaurant or shop and do you want to open your tap to the public? Become a refill station! Please contact us, so we can help you.
Refill Ambassadors has won the first round DESIGNSCAPES Open Call. Great news! The price is a €5.000 reward, and a great convidence boost. Now more than ever, we want our project Refill Ambassadors to become a success. Because we believe refilling your bottle becomes the norm once water refill points are trustworthy, widely available and easy to find.
DESIGNSCAPES (Building Capacity for Design-enabled Innovation in Urban Environments) is a H2020 European project approved under the topic CO-CREATION-02-2016- User-driven innovation: value creation through design-enabled innovation.
The overarching aim of the DESIGNSCAPES project is to exploit the generative potential of urban environments in the highest possible number of European Cities to encourage the uptake and further enhancement and up scaling of Design-enabled Innovations by existing enterprises, start-up companies, public authorities and agencies, and other urban stakeholders.
WHAT WE DID
For this DESIGNSCAPES feasibility study, we have been:
Identifying the main stakeholders and how they are related.
Gaining insights in attitudes towards refilling, barriers and stimulations.
Conducting a pilot with 5 business to create water refill stations.
Understanding the role of design in “consumer refill behaviour”.
Putting existing refill points in Amsterdam on the map.
The research conducted was a combination of literature analysis, expert
interviews, consumer research, and a pilot. 16 expert interviews were
conducted with different organisations already committed to reducing single-use
plastics. A creative session was organised with six Dutch
changemakers. Mindmaps were created upon thoughts and notions related to the
main relevant stakeholders: users, refill station owners, water suppliers and
refill app makers. To better illustrate different consumer types four persona
On June 19th the second edition of National Refill Day will take place. The awareness campaign was invented by not for profit organisation City to Sea to encourage people to carry a reusable water bottle and refill on the go.
National Refill Day in the Netherlands
Refill Ambassadors will be joining National Refill Day and spread the #Refillution in the Netherlands. On June 19th free refills will be provided in Amsterdam, and everyone will be invited to share their refill experiences with us. To get involved in the chat around this day online use the hashtag #NationalRefillDay #PlasticFree #Refillution. More information is coming soon!
Plastic bottles consumption in the Netherlands
According to the Rijksoverheid, 1.4 billion plastic bottles are being used annually in the Netherlands, equivalent to more than 80 plastic bottles per person per year. Help! 750.000.000 of these bottles are small plastic bottles. There is no deposit on small plastic bottles.
Refill Ambassadors will be one of the speakers at the Zero Waste event on April 13th at The Green House, Utrecht. The day starts with a delicious vegetable breakfast from chef Peter Scholte, followed by an interactive program full of inspiring speakers and workshops on the theme “Zero Waste” organized by Plastic Diet and The Zero Waste Project.
PROGRAMME ZERO WASTE EVENT, APRIL 13TH
10:00 am Walk-in with a vegetable breakfast from chef Peter Scholte
11:00 am Interactive program with various speakers and workshops
14:00 pm End of program
Price: € 19.50 including service costs, vegetable breakfast, coffee and tea, tour of The Green House and extensive program with inspiring speakers and workshops.
Registration: Due to the great success of last year and the limited number of places, advance registration is required. You can buy your tickets here.
ABOUT THE GREEN HOUSE
The Green House is a restaurant, urban farm, green hub and terrace. From April 8 to 13, The Green House celebrates its first year anniversary and this is celebrated with all kinds of activities around sustainability and circularity. The Zero Waste event will be the week’s final activity.
Can a simple and cheap water filter be the solution for people to switch to tap water? We tested the TAPP 2 Click during our research trip in Andalusia.
WHAT KIND OF WATER FILTER IS THE TAPP 2?
The TAPP 2 Click is a biodegradable water filter (Activated Carbon Block, 1-2 microns) that you connect directly to the faucet. It strongly reduces bad taste, chlorine, lead, microplastics and a wide range of other contaminants (see detailed description). By using a switch you can choose between filtered water and regular tap water.
The filter works as a kind of printer: the cartridge has to be replaced every three months (or sooner, once you’ve reached >1500 Litres). It is cheap: €89,- for the first year (device + 4 cartridges) and €60,-/year afterwards (4 cartridges).
With a green button on top one can activate a Bluetooth connection and connect the product to the ‘TAPP app’. In the app you can see how many plastic bottles you have saved, and it gives a reminder when to change the cartridge.
The TAPP 2 Click was tested in the Lemon Garden Hostel in Seville and Cádiz Inn Backpackers Hostel. A short written explanation – in English and Spanish – was added on how to use the filter.
We observed how people used the filter and asked 50 people about their opinions:
In both hostels, we managed to connect the TAPP 2 to the kitchen faucet in only one minute. The product could not be attached to the tiny bathroom faucets.
Overall responses were very positive. 45 preferred the taste of filtered water, 4 people could not really tell the difference, and 1 person preferred the taste of unfiltered tap water.
About 1/3 stated the filtered water resembled the taste of mountain water.
Some participants were confused about the button on top (made to activate Bluetooth connection). They were pressing the button in an attempt to get filtered water, instead of using the switch on the side.
Some participants opened the tap too far, causing the water to flow too quickly though the filter (with unfiltered water this is not a problem).
We also tried the TAPP 2 Click ourselves and really liked the taste of filtered water. Even though tap water in Cádiz and Seville is relatively good, we could clearly smell and taste the difference. We think the TAPP 2 is a great product in areas where tap water is potable yet not very tasty. When used intensively it also saves money on plastic bottles.
The product is very simple, but a little explanation is desired. Therefore we feel that the TAPP 2 Click is best used in households, small bars, cafés, AirBnB’s and smaller hotels/B&B’s. But not in places where users randomly walk in or out.
GET YOUR OWN TAPP 2
Excited? The TAPP 2 Click has been developed by TAPP Water, a young startup based in Barcelona. Get yourself a nice present and order the TAPP 2. With the coupon code ‘refillambassadors‘ you get €5,- discount on your order at TAPP (apply this code in the first step of the check-out).
When travelling, you easily use a dozen single-use plastics per day. Coffee-cups to go, plastic bags, plastic water bottles, plastic straws, plastic toiletries, etc. Spain and single-use plastics go hand in hand. But there is light in the end of the tunnel. During our research trip in Seville we found some great plastic-free shops and restaurants. We’ll tell you all about it!
This beautiful store has everything you need to carry food and beverages. Also a wide range of wooden toothbrushes, soaps and cloth diapers. The founder Sonia Sánchez explained us all about their product assortment and vision. Definitely worth a visit (check the opening hours first), as the neighbourhood is really nice too. Don’t miss out on Mercado de Feria, next door Palacio Marqueses de la Algaba, or the free Flamengo nights in Taberna Gonzalo Molina.
Located in the same street as El Jarillo Lata, this vegan restaurant has tasty vegan food that comes with a bonus: free chilled tap water. The water tap is connected to the beer tap’s cooling system. We’ve seen this in more bars and really like this. So don’t hesitate to ask for a cold glass or bottle refill. Water with gas is served in glass bottles.
Located in a cute market (Mercado del Arenal), this place has delicious cakes, pastries and main dishes. And lots of tea. You will not find any single-use plastic bottles here, Veganitessen is happy to provide you a fresh refill from the tap (self-service).
READY TO EXPLORE?
Our little plastic-free detour has brought us to some beautiful places outside the main attractions. You can be part of the change. Fill your durable bottle when you leave the hotel. Ask for refills in the bar, restaurant or use a refill app to find the nearest refill point. Be pro-active and you can manage to travel without plastic bottles in Spain. Buena suerte.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Spain? Yes! At least 99.5% of all public tap water in Spain is safe to drink. According to a recent study, Seville has the best tap water of all big cities in Spain. Do people – locals and travellers – actually drink from the tap in Seville (in Spanish: agua de grifo)? And where can you refill? That’s what our Ambassadors Hella and Michal are trying to find out. Time for a quick update from Seville, Spain.
DO PEOPLE DRINK TAP WATER IN SEVILLE?
So apparently tap water in Seville is the best in Spain. We don’t know if this is true, but we agree that Seville’s tap water is good compared to other places we visited. It has a slight chlorine taste, but one quickly get used to this.
Many people seem to drink tap water at home or in the hostel, but they buy bottled water in restaurants or when on the go. These insights were confirmed by employees from several venues. Still, some people choose not to drink the tap water, like Monica (tourist from Northern Ireland): “I feel bad about buying plastic bottles, but I really don’t like the taste of tap water here.”
PLASTIC BOTTLES & REFILL PLACES IN SEVILLE
What do we see on the streets? Our observations:
Single-use plastic water bottles can be found on every corner: in the grocery store, kiosk, tourist shop and ho(s)tel. Even so claimed eco-friendly venues usually sell single-use plastic bottles. Read the next blog for some found some positive exceptions.
Most restaurants and bars serve water in single-use plastic bottles, unless one specifically asks for tap water. Note: Andalusian cafés and bars are required by law to provide free drinking water to customers (as part of a regional government plan to improve the population’s health).
There is no deposit on plastic water bottles (only on >20 litre gallons).
Some venues (usually more luxurious) offer glass bottled water.
There are bars and restaurants with a tap water jug and glasses available for self-service. If not, you can ask for it. A few bars serve cold tap water.
Public drinking fountains can be found in many squares and public spaces, also in touristy areas. These fountains have signposts indicating it’s safe to drink. The public drinking fountains are sometimes hard to spot, and sometimes unsuitable for bottle refills.
PLASTIC BOTTLES FOR SALE ON EVERY CORNER
Many tourists buy single-use plastic water bottles out of convenience. You can find them on any street corner in town, for usually €1,- (for 0,5 L). Hostel staff and shop workers stated they sell a lot more water bottles in summer, when it gets really hot. In supermarket the water is cheaper, around €0,45 for 0,5L (cold water). Prices for large bottles can go down to €0,65,- for 5L (unchilled).
Overall, we think Seville has decent tap water, so whenever you’re visiting this beautiful city, ask for agua de grifo! If you want cold water, you still have to buy plastic bottles in most bars, restaurants or kiosks. We see a gap for cold water refill stations, and an overview of all refill points. In addition, the taste of tap water can be improved by using filters. We are going to test a filter for our next blog, so stay tuned!
We’re thrilled to announce our upcoming trip to Andalucia, Spain! Research will be conducted from mid-November to mid-December and includes the cities Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla. The goal of this trip is to analyse existing water refill infrastructures, future challenges and opportunities.
REFILL STATION PILOT
Besides our research we we will approach eco-friendly businesses: ho(s)tels, shops, cafés, restaurants and tour operators to conduct a pilot. This means they become a refill station for a couple of weeks. They will offer water refills to customers and/or passengers, for free or for a small fee. Hereby they help to save single-use plastics. We will add the venue to two refill apps (Refill and Tap) and help them with in-store communication. And hopefully they want to continue after the pilot ends.
This will be an interesting opportunity for venues to reduce their footprint, as well as engage with the community and attract new customers.
IS TAP WATER IN SPAIN SAFE TO DRINK?
Nowadays, 99,5% of tap water in Spain is safe to drink. However, bottled water consumption in Spain has grown to around 6-8 billion plastic bottles in 2017. Most people do not like tap water due to its chlorine taste. We will tackle this problem by using the TAPP2 water filter to improve the taste of tap water. This is the World’s First Biodegradable Smart Water Filter.
HELP US SPREAD THE #REFILLUTION IN SPAIN
Do you know a place in Sevilla, Granada or Malaga or surrounding areas that we can approach for a pilot to become a water refill station? Please send us a message. We are looking for eco-friendly:
This week I was one of the speakers at the “Plastic DieetKickoff” (Plastic diet) in Rotterdam. A great opportunity to present Refill Ambassadors and to share tips on where to refill your bottle. I also got inspired myself. How much plastic packaging do I use? And what can I do to reduce this?
WE ARE ADDICTED TO SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
Plastic bags, coffee cups to go, plastic straws. Plastic packaging is everywhere. The idea of the plastic diet is to avoid single-use plastics as much as possible for one month. By doing so, we raise awareness and hopefully change our addiction to plastics.
Some pioneers show it is possible. Nienke Binnendijk from BlueCity has been living almost entirely “plastic-free” for about two years, while Jesse and Nicky Kroon from Het Zero Waste Project adopted a zero waste lifestyle.
Time for some self-reflection… Some measures to avoid single-use plastics are already part of my daily routine. As refill ambassador I use my BBF (Best Bottle Forever) instead of buying plastic bottles. When shopping, I try to bring my own bags and jars. These are baby steps. The amount of plastic packaging still entering my house or used on the go is considerable. Some of the groceries I buy are pre-packed, magazines come in a plastic wrapper, and almost all caring and cleaning products come in plastics. Plastic is also inside some products I use on a daily base, like facial scrubs or toothpaste.
For the first time of my life, it’s time to go on a diet. This month I will try to avoid products involving single-use plastics. That’s going to be hard, but I’m really excited to join this challenge!
READY TO START YOUR PLASTIC-FREE MONTH?
It’s the first week of September and you can still sign up for the challenge. You will receive tips and exercises to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. All communication is in Dutch. Looking for another language? Find your free tips here:
The increasing consumption of single-use PET bottles is a global problem. This leads us to the difficult question: where to begin? Europe, Africa, Asia? You name it. Refill Ambassadors could work in any country. The possibilities seem endless.
WHERE CAN WE MAKE A BIG IMPACT?
Ultimately, our goal is to have refill points across the globe. We take step by step. We will start in one area, in one country where our ambassadors can make a big impact. This means, we will work in a place:
where tap water is potable, but not preferred to its taste and image. In these areas, most tourists currently buy plastic bottles every day.
with many hostels, restaurants and shops catered to tourists. That’s our target group. We believe refilling becomes the norm once water refill points are trustworthy, widely available and easily found.
where we can speak (or learn) the language. So we can do our research and communicate with local hotel-, restaurant and shop owners.
where it’s (relatively) safe. We want our ambassadors to feel free.
AND THE WINNER IS… SPAIN
So back to the question, where to begin? For now we decided to start in Spain. Why Spain?
With 81.8 million international visitors, Spain was the world’s second most visited country in 2017 (according to the World Tourism Organization). Infrastructure and facilities for tourists are excellent. In almost any Spanish town, you can enjoy a cafe latte and vegan banana cake while calling your mum with free Wi-Fi. However, it’s still incredibly hard to refill your bottle with tasty water. We see it as our mission to expand the network of refill points and spread the word.
OUR ULTIMATE DESTINATION… PERU
Our ultimate goal would be to expand to areas where water is non-potable, with many tourists and yet few refill points. Peru would be the ideal country. According to the Worldbank, the number of foreign tourists in Peru has tripled in the past fifteen years and a continous growth is expected. Tourists stick mainly to the same route, also known as the Gringo trail.
START SMALL, DREAM BIG
Most tourists in Spain can be found around historic cities, with famous attractions like the Sagrada Familia or Parc Güell in Barcelona. In each hotspot, thousands of bottles are left behind. What if tourists could refill their water bottle in their hostel, coffee bar or shop around the corner? Another interesting target are nature-lovers. What if you can get a water refill every few kilometers on all popular hiking trails?
Refill Ambassadors is ready to accept this challenge. Our next step is to better investigate tourism in Spain and chose the exact starting point. Stay tuned!
Being raised on a houseboat in Amsterdam with an average annual amount of 182 rainy days, I’m very much used to water. Clean water. All my life I used to drink tap water without even thinking about it. How different from most places in the world! This became clear during my travels in South-East Asia in 2010. My dream to start Refill Ambassadors was born on this trip.
On my first day, I arrived in Hanoi where Nick (my boyfriend at the time) was waiting for me.
N: ‘How was your flight? Can I get you something?’
H: ‘Yes, water please.’
N: ‘Cool I’ll get you a bottle.”
H: ‘Ok great, thanks.’
That was the first bottle. Many would follow. Buying a 1.5 L non-sparkling water bottle quickly became part of the daily routine. They were cheap and available on every corner.
WE ARE RESPONSIBLE TOO
The problem with routines is that you stop paying attention to it. Or wondering how things can be done differently. Until you get a wake-up call.
I was shocked by the amount of litter along the road. So many plastic bottles! Heaps of plastic were being burned, releasing a toxic smell. I realised we as tourists are responsible too. You think you’re doing the right thing by leaving your empty bottle behind in the trashcan, but what happens to it next? That was my wake-up call. Like Cruijff used to say: “You can only see it, when you get it” (in Dutch “Je gaat het pas zien als je het door hebt”).
A DREAM WAS BORN
I started to feel bad about buying water bottles. But there was no alternative. Until we visited an eco-restaurant in Vang Vieng, Laos, where we were offered to refill our empty water bottles from a large tank. Incredibly simple and very efficient. The next day we returned for another water refill and a cup of coffee.
When we arrived in Vientiane I searched for another refill point. I walked several blocks, but there were none to be found. Next town, same problem. It almost became an obsession. After a while I gave up. But a dream was born: to set-up water refill points for tourists.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS
It took me nearly 7 years to start Refill Ambassadors. I finished my studies Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft and started working for Kuyichi and onna-onna. My idea to set up refill-points was still there, but I did not make time for it. Until I submitted a project proposal for the Nudge Global Impact Challenge 2017 and won one of the wildcards (sponsored by PWN). The challenge was truly amazing and it motivated me to follow my dream. Refill Ambassadors was founded!
Imagine you are doing a beautiful hike in the Sacred Valley, Peru. It’s sunny and you’re at high altitude. You are reminded to keep drinking a lot of water. Your bottle is almost empty. Luckily there is a small café along the path where you can buy new drinks. You pay 5 soles for a new 1L water bottle, throw your empty bottle in the trashcan and continue your quest.
Unfortunately, this is the usual way. We all need to drink water, and in some countries the only option as a tourist is to buy plastic bottles. Once empty, we throw them away and loose responsibility. It becomes someone else’s problem. Strange when you think about it.
As tourism grows, so does the waste problem. We can even trace the right walking route by searching for empty bottles, just like the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. Gretel’s breadcrumbs disappeared in an instance, but plastic bottles can stay intact for 450 years.
Hopefully we will soon be able to make that beautiful hike, without leaving a trace. When there are sufficient water refill points along the way, it becomes much easier. So please read again:
Imagine you are doing a beautiful hike in the Sacred Valley, Peru. It’s sunny and you’re at high altitude. You are reminded to keep drinking a lot of water. Your water bottle is almost empty. Luckily there is a small café along the path. You refill your bottle from a large tank containing purified water. You pay 4 soles for the refill and continue your quest.
SHARE YOUR STORY
Are you into hiking? What do you do to leave no trace? Tell us about it!