We wanted to write a blog about the principle of the Zero Waste Hierarchy. But sometimes other people already have done the job in such a good way that we do not have much to add. So instead of creating our own content based on experiences and existing literature, we invite you to check the image below and to read this blog about the zero waste hierarchy. Enjoy reading!
Good news for refill lovers in the Netherlands: you can now use Google Maps to find the nearest public water tap! For example at train stations, squares or in a national park. Just search for ‘water tap’ on Google Maps. Almost 2.000 water taps are already in the system, thanks to Dopper.
GOOGLE MAPS VS. SPECIALIZED WATER REFILL APPS
Even though we are not the biggest fan of Google, we are happy with this new development. Fact is that Google Maps is the most used navigation platform in the Netherlands. So we hope more people will find their way to a water tap.
In 2018 we wrote a blog about different refill apps, and the need for a global system. For example The Netherlands may be a small country, but there are different refill apps/platforms (Drinkwaterkaart, Publiek Water, etc.). Some apps like Refill and mymizu cover multiple countries and also include refill stations in private places, such as bars and restaurants. We support the organisations behind these refill apps to continue their hard work. Because they raise awareness and save single-use bottles!
However, the problem is that these apps are less well-known. Plus people are used to one navigation app (Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc). This is the main reason that we as Refill Ambassadors did not create our own app.
NEXT STEP: EUROPE
Back to our main topic: using Google Maps to find public water taps. The refill points are currently only mapped for the Netherlands. Dopper wants to roll it out across the whole of Europe. And hopefully it will become available worldwide soon. But for now: check the overview of other refill platforms to find refill stations in other countries.
Can I drink the tap water in Valencia? Yes, you can. The tap water in Valencia may have a strange taste but it is perfectly safe to drink.
WHY DOES TAP WATER IN VALENCIA TASTES STRANGE?
The water in Valencia is a hard water, due to the amount of calcium and salt, that find their way into the supply from the mountains. Furthermore, the tap water is filtered and chlorinated. Chlorine, a very common disinfectant, is used frequently in water treatment plants in Spain. And it makes water taste and smell differently.
WHAT ARE MY ALTERNATIVES?
You can just drink the tap water if you’re not bothered by the taste! If you do not like the taste of the tap water, there are a few options.
- Many locals and tourists buy bottles water. It’s expensive and causes lots of plastic waste! Not the preferred option…
- Look for filtered, refigerated water fountains. Now there are only three of them, located in the city’s busiest spots: the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, on the Malva-Rosa seafront, and in the City of Arts and Sciences, in the Turia. Hopefully more of these fountains will be installed soon.
- Use a water filter. This can be a simple jar; a filter connected to your valve; or something installed to your household’s water system. Carbon filters (e.g. Brita, Tapp Water) are quite cheap and very efficient at reducing or eliminating chlorine.
- Our favourite: go to one the many natural springs in the mountains. Many villages in the hills around Valencia have one. Bring as many empty jars as you can and sit down for a meditative refill session!
We’d like to share some background information about these natural springs. The so called ‘aguaderos’ collected the water from the springs, filled the carts with pitchers and went down to the city and the villages to distribute it from door to door. The trade of aguadero was perpetuated until recent times, when cars were replaced by trucks or vans. However, many ancient water fountains still exist in the mountain villages around Valencia (and in many other areas in Spain) and the water tastes delicious.
TAP WATER IN VALENCIA – YOUR OPINION
What do you think about the taste of tap water in Valencia? How does it compare to your home country? Leave us a comment below.
We have all seen images of dead sea birds with their stomachs full of straws and bottle caps. Or a turtle entangled by a plastic wrapping. According to IUCN, at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans annually. Redusing single-use plastics is not enough: the fishing industry needs to drastically change too. What you can do? Stop eating fish. The documentary Seaspiracy explains why.
SEASPIRACY: SAVE THE OCEANS, STOP EATING FISH
- Industrial fishing has wiped out 90% of the world’s large fish.
- 70% of macro plastic at sea comes from fishing gear.
- Plastic straws only comprise 0.03% of plastic entering the ocean.
These are three of many claims made in Seaspiracy. The documentary depicts the fishing industry’s impact on our oceans and marine life. I am shocked!
Seaspiracy is causing a lot of debate. Some people say the statistics are false or outdated. I am not a journalist or fact-checker myself. But I recommend you to watch this documentary. Even if some statistics are exaggerated or wrongly estimated, you still get an idea of the problem. And it provides solutions what you can do as consumer to make a change. Numer one: stop eating fish!
REDUCTION OF SINGLE-USE PLASTICS IS STILL IMPORTANT
Film director Ali Tabrizi also states that a global campaign to ban the use of plastic straws “was like trying to save the Amazon rainforest and stop logging by boycotting toothpicks”. We acknowledge that plastic straws and other single-use plastics is only one part of the problem.
The fishing industry needs to drastically change its methods to catch fish. Sustainable labels like MSC or ASC need to examined. And we as consumers should cut down our fish intake. Many communities still depend on fishing for their livelihoods. Or for food. Therefore, we need to make a transition.
Still, we think refusing and reducing single-use plastics remains equally important. To save our marine life and precious resources. So we as Refill Ambassadors will keep raising awareness. For example where to find public fountains.
We are curious to hear your opinion on the documentary Seaspiracy. Hurray, please leave your comment behind!
Good news for Brazil: the first water refill initiative has started! RefilMe provides free, cold and filtered tap water. After seeing lots of plastic on beaches while traveling, sisters Flávia and Isabela wanted to make a change in their own country Brazil and they founded RefilMe. Read this blog to learn more about this project and their approach.
INTERVIEW WITH FLÁVIA VITOI ROSA DE SOUZA, CO-FOUNDER OF REFILME (IN BRAZIL)
What is RefilMe?
F: RefilMe is a new start up aiming to reduce plastic waste in Brazil. We do this by offering free, cold water refills and by creating awareness.
Free, cold and filtered water, amazing! Especially when you think about the hot weather in Brazil. Why, where and when did you started RefilMe?
F: The idea started while we were traveling in Bali, Indonesia. There was a lot of plastic on the beach. We could not drink the tap water and had to buy plastic bottles or look for refill stations. We wanted to do something similar in Brazil. We started in the city of Cuiabá and Vitória in December of 2020. We designed the machine and the app and website ourselves. The first machine was placed in Cuiabá in December ’20. Right now we are also present in 3 other cities. And we want to spread more in Brazil.
THE REFILME FREE WATER REFILL MACHINE
How do people respond so far?
F: So far so good! Users are happy because it is free and the water is cold. In one park we had to temporarily remove the machine and several people are asking when it’s coming back.
Let’s hope it will be back soon. How do consumers know where the machines are located?
LEARNING BY DOING
Sweet! So you are Brazil’s 1st refill app?!
F: Yes, we think so. We do not know about another one.
Great to have you on board of the #Refillution! And cool that you did all this work so far. You seem to be designers, activists and business women altogether. What is your professional background?
F: Haha, thank you. I am a chemical engineer with a master in sustainable development. My sister Isabela is a process engineer. And we developed new skills during the past year.
THE REFILME BUSINESS MODEL
We are curious about your business model. The water is free but the machines are not. How does it work?
F We have a partnership with a start-up accelerator. And we work with sponsors, for example private water treatment companies or a shopping mall. The sponsor pays for the water machine. We give them advice where to place them.
TAP WATER IN BRAZIL
Interesting business model, maybe suitable for many refill initiatives all over the world. Another question. The machines chill and filter ‘normal’ water. Can you drink tap water in Brazil?
F: Yes, tap water in Brazil is potable in most places. The normal tap water has a bit of a chlorine taste. Our machines use a carbon filter to remove this flavour.
Good to know! Are there any public fountains in Brazil?
F: Yes they exist. But the water can be warm and some fountains are not maintained well. And now with Covid people trust them even less.
Do you also face difficulties due to the situation with Covid?
F: Well, it is challenging because the lockdown rules change all the time. Luckily our machines are touchless. You just need to use the RefilMe app.
Even more reasons to enjoy the RefilMe cold water. Good luck Flávia and Isabela and enjoy the adventures ahead!
FOLLOW REFILME BRASIL
What a nice and inspiring conversation we had. It feels Isabela and Flávia take care of all parties involved, starting from the user that is looking for free, cold water. While also taking into account the sponsors’ needs. If you have tips for RefilMe or want to collaborate, don’t hesitate and get in touch with the sisters.
Did you know that refill can start from home?
Some parts of the world are still going through lockdowns ue to COVID-19. Wherever you are, we encourage you to stay safe at home as much as possible. But if you ever need to go out or when things get back to normal, we’d love to remind you of the many alternatives to single-use!
It’s not only about refilling your water bottle but about all other things you can refill and reuse especially when going for groceries. There are many home delivery services that now provide refills too! Or if you go out for a take-away, bring your boxes, go for a walk and pick it up on the way home.
Together with other initiatives around the world – including RefillMyBottle, refillnz, mudfishnoplastic, ThantMM, RefillTheYangon and waterid_ – we remind you that #RefillStartsFromHome.
SHARE YOUR #REFILLSTARTSFROMHOME TIP
Let’s be an inspiration to others and share with us how you are living the #refillution at home! Please share your number one refill tip – how to refill starts from home – in the comment below.
Last week, it was World Cleanup Day. In total, 39.324 people took part in the Netherlands, and hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. I also assembled a small team to clean the streets and parks in my neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Within a few hours, we collected 4 big bin bags. Many people praised us and it felt rewarding. However, five days later the streets were littered again. This made me wonder about the effectiveness of these cleanup events and organisations. Do they help or do they harm?
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PLASTIC LITTER?
The Amsterdam municipality claims if 25% of the Dutch would clean up 1 piece of litter per day, there would be no more litter. There is even a campaign “Elke dag eentje” (one piece every day). This sounds fantastic, but it’s not very realistic. Furthermore, one could argue who is responsible for doing so: civilians or the Fast Moving Consumer Good industry?
To dive into this topic I did not have do my own research. This month, Tamar Stelling (author at The Correspondent) highlighted several issues around the plastic industry. Since her article“Briljant bedacht: hoe de plasticindustrie het idee verkoopt dat de burger z’n ‘eigen’ plastic op moet ruimen” is in Dutch, we’ll give a brief summary here.
The article frequently quotes Rob Buurman, director of Recycling Network Benelux. In his opinion, the (Ddutch) government perpetuates the story of the plastics industry: that the problem with plastic is mainly that citizens leave it lying around. “As long as there is the idea that we should clean up our plastic waste” ourselves “, the government is not thinking about legislation to prevent plastic waste – and it should.”
WHAT ABOUT CLEAN UP ORGANISATIONS?
Rob Buurman feels clean-ups and other end of pipe initiatives legitimize the lack of action of politicians. For example The Ocean Cleanup wants to clean up 40 thousand tons of plastics from our oceans in five years. This may sound like a lot – and it’s better than any organisation has ever done – but it’s only 0.0008 percent of 5,000 million tons of ‘loose’ plastic. Buurman: “The more successful Boyan Slat is in the media, the less it matters what you realize in terms of government policy. Because you have made the problem private, you have placed it with individuals in society, instead of with the government. “
COMPLETE BAN ON DISPOSABLE PLASTICS
So what kind of measurements could politicians take? Soft measures have not been very effective. For example in the Netherlands there is a mandatory price (e.g. €0,05) for plastic bags. Disposable paper bags have not been addressed. And many shops, bakers and greengrocers still sell everything in free disposable bags. Similarly, my cleanup day was not too effective in the end. Tomorrow, new litter will be on the streets.
The article advocates a complete ban or mandatory environmental tax on disposables (which is done in Ireland). It will be easier to enforce. The good news is that a 15 cent deposit system on small plastic bottles will be introduced next year in the Netherlands. Plus a production ban by the EU will apply for disposable plastics such as plastic cutlery, cotton buds, stirrers and straws. Last week our cleanup team found lots of these bastards, which made us wonder: why clean your ears on the streets?
PRODUCERS SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD
Governments are not the only ones to take action. The article suggests producers should take more responsibility, as they can make choices that consumers cannot make. Which products they market, how they design them and how they collect waste, whether or not in collaboration with other companies.
The article also sheds light on the NGO Alliance to End Plastic Waste. Plastic producers and waste processing companies such as Procter & Gamble, Shell, DSM, ExxonMobil or Pepsico aim to put in a billion euros, to be spent on clean-up campaigns, new recycling technology and better waste collection infrastructure. The founding companies behind this self-styled alliance to end plastic waste are among the world’s biggest investors in new plastic productions plants (source: Guardian). For example, ExxonMobil is building a new polyethylene production line in Texas that will soon produce 2.5 million tons of plastic – making it one of the largest plastic factories in the world. Shell is building a plant in Pennsylvania that will make 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year.
HELPFUL OR HARMFUL? SHARE YOUR OPINION
After reading the full article I had mixed feelings. I still think cleanup campaigns, events and organisations are good, because some litter is collected (and every piece counts!). Cleanup campaigns increase awareness on the huge amount of packaging we use. And even if we were to prevent new plastics from littering, we still need to clean up the mess we already made. However, I also agree with the Tamar Stelling’s article. It would be better if governments and producers invest mainly in prevention. And enforce stricter bans on disposable plastics.
I’m really curious about your opinion. Do cleanup campaigns help or harm? Please post your comment below.
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.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
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
What do you want to contribute?
Is Santiago de Compostela tap water safe to drink? Yes, it’s very safe! Last month, I walked a part of the Camino del Norte (the northern Spain coastal route). We were amazed by the beautiful scenery, but also by the large number of refill stations. And the taste of tap water was quite good. However, some water fountains were out of order and we got a bit thirsty! In addition, many hostels were closed due to Covid-19 (for the entire year). Therefore we’d like to share some tips with you.
TIPS TO STAY HYDRATED
- How much water should you bring? Take enough water with you on your walks but don’t overdo it. It’s just too heavy! We took 1 L per person. This was enough with the exception of two stages (day 4: from Deba to Markina–Xemein; and day 5: from Markina-Xemein to Guernika). So bring a bit more on remote routes.
- Pay attention that water fountains are suitable for consumption. “No potable” indicates that you cannot drink the water.
- Very important: frequently drink small amounts to stay well hydrated.
- Make sure your drinking equipment is easy to clean.
- Bring a lightweight thermos flask. Cold water is a big reward when walking 8 hours a day.
- Make sure you know roughly where you will be able to refill. Many public fountains are listed on the water refill app Closca. You can also ask the friendly locals for help. ‘Where can I refill my water bottle?’ = Non bete dezaket ur botila (in Basque) / ¿Dónde puedo rellenar mi botella de agua? (in Spanish)
Note: we walked the northern coastal route (from Irun to Güemes). We brought our own tent and camping equipment. This came in handy as many hostels were closed due to Covid-19. We heard from other pilgrims that facilities on the Camino Francés are generally better (including food, lodging and water fountains), but we do not know about possible changes due to Covid-19.
ABOUT THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO / WAY OF ST. JAMES
Each year thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago (also known as Way of St. James). This route is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain.
- The Camino Francés (870 km) is by far the most popular route. It starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France) and passes Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León. Hostels or monasteries are located about every four to ten kilometres.
- The Camino Portugués is the second most popular way. The route starts in Lisbon or Porto. From Porto there are two options: the Camino Central (241 km) and the Camino Costal (265 km).
- The Camino del Norte (the one we did) is an 817 km coastal route from Irun (Basque country) along the northern coastline of Spain. The route passes through San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander and Oviedo. It is less crowded and the hikes can be challenging. Hostels are 20 to 35 kilometres apart.
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE!
Do you have tips for other pilgrims? How much water should they take? What other gear do they need to bring? And which hostels are closed due to Covid-19? Please share your tips.
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.
What a crazy time. A few weeks ago, we were working at the office, meeting our friends, going out and playing football. These days, most of us are (working) at home. Schools are closed. The streets are empty. Due to the coronavirus, all cafés, bars and restaurants in the Netherlands are closed, with the exception of take-away. And that’s what we want to talk about today: how to eliminate single-use plastics for take-away food and drinks. Coffee to go? Bring your own cup! Pita-falafel? Bring your beeswax wrap!
WHAT TO BRING?
Reusable cup/bottle for your coffee to go
The choice is endless! Personally, we’d like to keep a separate reusable bottle we call them your BBF) for water refills and a smaller reusable mug/cup for coffee to go. Not all cups/mugs/bottles are suitable for hot drinks, so check beforehand when buying one. Secondly, pay attention to the washing instructions, as some are not suitable for dishwashers. Last but not least, choose for something that lasts long and does not leak.
Food storage containers
Again, there are many good options here. Zero-waste sisters Jessie and Nicky always carry a mason jar with them. If you prefer something lightweight, you can choose for example recycled plastic (look for BPA-free). Steel is very long-lasting, but not suitable for microwaves. For sandwiches/pitas, you can bring reusable beeswax wraps. Eating in the park or on the train? Bring your own cutlery!
HOW TO ESCAPE PLASTIC BOXES/PAPER CUPS?
- Be prepared: bring your reusable items when going out for the food hunt. You can always stack a foldable reusable bag under your bicycle seat or as a key hanger.
- Feel proud: never be embarrassed about you bringing your own packaging. Feel proud instead!
- Be quick: when ordering, immediately ask the staff to pack it in your containers. Make sure to show it to them (people tend to have a bad short-term memory when hearing things, but this improves when seeing things). When ordering a cold drink, say no to the straw.
- Pay the right price: use a waterproof marker to write the weight & volume on your containers. So in case you buy food per kg, they can easily deduct the container weight from the total. Furthermore, look out for discounts. Some places offer €0,25 discount when you bring your own cup for instance.
DO YOU HAVE MORE TIPS?
We would love to hear more stories how you can avoid single-use plastics. Please share your experience below. For the coming weeks: good luck, keep your distance and stay healthy! And a big applause to the medical staff worldwide.
Why would you sign up as a refill station? Because it really is an effective way to tackle plastic pollution at its source. But that’s not the only reason. Please read the story of eteaket, a beautiful Tea Room and Concept Store from Edinburgh, Scotland.
REFILL STATION STORY: ETEAKET FROM EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
BEING A REFILL STATION FITS THE ETHOS
Did you ever think about the waste of all those tea bags we’re using worldwide? Numerous tea bags have been found to contain particles of plastic. A single plastic tea bag can shed billions of particles of microplastics. Luckily this is not the case at eteaket. The team is constantly looking for ways to minimize their environmental impact and to help their customers do the same. For example, the tea is packaged in biodegradable Nature Flex and their tea bags are made from soilon, a cornstarch-based material that is fully biodegradable. The outer packaging for their tea bags and looseleaf canisters is also completely recyclable. And they are members of the Ethical Tea Partnership. Signing up as a refill station fits perfectly with the “eteaket ethos”.
SIGNING UP IS SUPER EASY
Being located in the UK, the team decided to list their two venues on the Refill app. Registering on the Refill app was straightforward and simple. Christine (store manager):“it took less than three minutes (the time it takes to brew a perfect cup of tea!). The Refill app was recommended to us by one of our customers!” Their advice to other businesses would be to take some time out today to join a movement which is good for you, good for your customers and good for the planet.
The copper sink in the middle of the room is where free water refills are available.
TAP WATER QUALITY IS AMAZING
We cannot yet speak of a wide ‘refill movement’ in Scotland, but it would be the perfect setting for the #RefillRevolution. At eteaket, they realised Scottish Water is some of the best in the world. Why add more waste to the landfills when you can enjoy world-class water straight from the tap?
BEING A REFILL STATION ENCOURAGES BIGGER STEPS
Putting your tap on the map is super easy and it helps to reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles (made from PET). It fits well within a bigger plan to reduce the impact of single-use packaging. eteaket encourages its customers to minimize plastic waste, by offer a 25p discount if people bring their own reusable cup. Yeah! They also sell a range of travel mugs in-store, including keep cups, bamboo flasks and Mei Li Tea Time travel flasks.
The large assortment of reusable cups and travel mugs @eteaket
Christine: “A loose-leaf takeaway tea for only £1.65 is simply an offer too good to refuse; delicious, ethical and the perfect antidote to the ever-changing Edinburgh weather! With over 35 teas to choose from, what are you waiting for? Call into our store on 111 Rose Street for a life-changing cuppa that’s good for the planet!”
The weather in Amsterdam (HQ Refill Ambassadors) is pretty similar, so we know very well what tea can mean to you on a miserable grey rainy day!
READY TO SIGN UP AS A REFILL STATION?
We hope this story encourages other venues (bars, restaurants, shops, etc.) to list as a refill station too. It is fun! You can even economically benefit from it: new visitors enter your place for a free refill and might buy something else.
- All you need is a tap, tank or jug with clean water.
- Take a picture of your venue and list yourself to one or multiple refill apps.
- In addition, it really helps to put a window sticker or poster, so more people take notice.
In countries where tap water is non-potable, you can still become a refill station. By using water filters or by serving water from large tanks (e.g. 20 or 50L, on deposit). In these countries it is more common to charge a small fee for the water refills. Please drop us a line if you have any questions how to do this or what to charge.
In addition to Refill there are some other amazing refill apps with global coverage (like RefillMyBottle, Closca, mymizu). Ad there are some ‘local refill apps’. All of them are free to use and for signing up as refill station. If you doubt about which apps to sign up to, please contact us.
LEARN MORE ABOUT ETEAKET
Picture Copyright Chris Watt
eteaket was founded in 2008 by ex-lawyer Erica Moore. After a life’s too short moment, Erica travelled the world in search of quality loose leaf tea. Now 11 years later they have their Tea Room on Frederick Street in central Edinburgh, they export worldwide, wholesale across the UK and they have their Concept Store on Rose Street.
Christine: “We saw younger tea drinkers wanting somewhere contemporary and inviting to visit and learn more about tea. When we designed the store we asked our customers what type of things they would like it in. As a result, you can smell every tea in store, sample our teas from our cold brew station, enjoy a hot brew from our tea siphon and find unique and quirky tea accessories.
We have found it to be a great space for people who want to learn more about tea, it is fantastic for tea tastings (which we hold for free every Wednesday from 12-12.30), tea master classes and events based around wellness. We often have free Saturday morning Yoga or events with independent Scottish brands like Isle of Harris Gin (which is available to purchase via their click and collect service in store). If you find yourself in Edinburgh make sure to pop in and say hi. We would be delighted to take you on a journey into the world of quality loose leaf tea.”
Picture Copyright Chris Watt
Note: other images provided by eteaket
Italy is Europe’s 1st country when it comes to bottled water consumption per capita and the world’s 3rd country (after Mexico and Thailand). Therefore we are extremely pleased to inform you about Europe’s latest refill program: Refill Italia (Refill Italy)! Last year, they launched in close collaboration with Refill.org.uk. What are they up to? And how can you help? We spoke with Margeritha Cavalleri, co-founder of Refill Italia.
INTERVIEW WITH MARGERITHA CAVALLERI (M)
Why did you start this project?
M: Enrica and I both felt this kind of project was lacking in Italy, and it was time to make a real difference. We know each other for over twenty years so it was really nice we could start this project together.
Nice! Bottled water consumption in Italy is huge, so we’re glad you two initiated this refill project. Why did you decide to collaborate with Refill?
M: We prefer to collaborate instead of reinventing the wheel. By working with Refill we can learn from their >3 years of experience in the field. The Refill app works well and it saves us a lot of time and money because we don’t need to build our own app.
Italy is a large country, where do you start?
M: We are going to focus in Lombardy first, using Milano, our city, as a pilot project. But we really hope Refill Italia will widespread fast, reaching all other regions.
How do you finance this project?
M: At the moment we do all the work voluntarily, next to our regular jobs. Of course it is quite a challenge and sometimes it is hard to find the time, but when you are driven by passion and enthusiasm…
You must be very motivated! We face the same challenges at Refill Ambassadors, we do all the work for fun (free), and combine this with our own regular jobs. How many refill stations have you added so far?
M: Around 600 in the first four months. In England more than 22.000 Refill Station have been registered in the App so far.
That’s a very good start. We hope more Italians will add refill stations soon. What are your next steps?
M: We have great ambitions! We want to reach public places with a huge number of people on the road and water bottles on the go, such as metro and train stations!
Last question: how can people help you with Refill Italia?
M: We are in constant need for volunteers who want to help, by spreading the voice and involving bars, restaurants and owners of public spaces. To have more information just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
HELP REFILL ITALIA TO GROW
Alright Italians and tourists, we got a mission: bring your reusable bottle and look out for refill stations. If you cannot find any in the Refill app (or another refill app you may be using), try to encourage bars, restaurants and shops to become a refill station. Ask if you may add them to the Refill app, so other people know the new refill place exist.
Visit the Refill Italia website to learn more about the project. Use the hashtag: #REFILLit
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,
What if tap water is potable, but not very tasty? Use a water filter! It’s almost one year ago since we tested the TAPP 2, a simple and affordable biodegradable water filter. Since then, TAPP Water has been working on the development of new products and their website. Time for a close look at this innovative company. Oh and we have a nice present for you at the end of this blog!
BECOMING TRUE WATER GEEKS
The TAPP team is growing fast. And so does their knowledge. They consider themselves to be ‘water geeks’. We like the fact they share valuable info on their website, e.g. about different filter mechanisms and tap water quality around the world. For example Can I drink tap water in Ibiza? Or in Hong Kong? The website also has a ‘3-minute water filter type test’ ☺.
Information on water filtering @ tappwater.co
The TAPP team (image: TAPP)
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT TAP WATER
The 25 team members gained lots of insights regarding misconceptions about tap water. Silvia Gennaro (PR, Affiliation & Partnerships Manager) shared a few stories with us. For example many universities are engaging with their students giving them reusable bottles to refill and avoiding single-use plastics. However in countries where these universities are, many still refil the reusable bottle with water that comer from plastic bottles. (e.g. using 1,5 L single-use plastic bottles from the supermarkets).
Silvia: “Italy has extremely pure water sources. It’s even famous for exporting bottled spring water, like San Pellegrino. However, Italy is the world’s 3rd country when it comes to bottled water consumption per capita (after Mexico and Thailand), the first one in Europe. Tap water tests in Milan and Rome show the water is very clear and safe, yet people buy bottled water because they have false beliefs.”
Furthermore Silvia told us some people believe they get kidney stones from drinking tap water, even though many studies show it is not true. Overall, tap water provides a perfect mixture of sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Even more strange: healthy humans buying low mineralisation bottled water and mineral supplements! Strange!
TESTING FILTERED TAP WATER
Last month, TAPP demonstrated their water filters on a local food and artisan market in Barcelona, their hometown. During the event, they conducted blind-tests with filtered and non-filtered tap water. Visitors were amazed by the difference in taste. “Amazing!” “It tastes really good, I’m going to buy it”. Something we also concluded with our own user test (50 participants).
GET YOUR OWN WATER FILTER – SPECIAL OFFER
All in all, we feel TAPP is a cool company striving for big changes. They really want to re-educate people in the way we consume and drink water. Most importantly, they offer sustainable, affordable water filters. The TAPP 2 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.
Do you want to get your own filter? With the coupon code refillambassadors you get €5,- discount on any order at TAPP (apply this code in the first step of the check-out). In addition, our project receives a very small percentage when you use this TAPP discount code. We’ll use this money to cover our operational costs. Happy refilling!
In this blog I share my experience with the SteriPEN adventurer Opti, which I used when hiking in the Dolomites, Italy. You might wonder, can’t you drink tap water in the Dolomites? Yes, in most places you can. Sometimes directly from the mountain stream. However, there are some areas where tap water is not potable. For example in some mountain cabins also known as ‘rifugio’s’, we could not drink tap water (listed in the end of this blog). Luckily with our SteriPEN we didn’t have to buy any single-use plastic bottles. In this blog, we explain how it works.
WHAT IS A STERIPEN?
The SteriPEN is a portable gadget which uses ultraviolet light to sterilise water and make it safe for drinking. The device kills the DNA of harmful microbes, viruses and bacteria. According to the manufacturers, 99,9% of all harmful enemies are killed. The SteriPEN does not filter metals or chemicals.
USING THE STERIPEN
Several models exist. We bought the SteriPEN adventurer Opti for our trip. This device only has one button. Click once (for 1 L) or twice (for 1/2 L) to activate the UV light. Then stir around in the bottle until the green light flashes. And done! In case it did not go well, the sensor gives other signals to warn you.
STERIPEN ADVENTURER OPTI PRO’S AND CON’S
What we love about the SteriPEN adventurer Opti:
- Lightweight: 108 grams + batteries
- Quick: 48 seconds (1/2 L), or 90 seconds (1 L)
- Clear interface: green and red lights (unless you are colour blind!)
- Capacity: can filter 8.000 liters of water
- Value for money: prices vary from €60,- to €100,- (or around 1-2 cent/litre)
- Battery: you need CR123 batteries, which can be expensive and difficult to find
- Bottle: you need a bottle with a wide opening, otherwise it does not work
OTHER WATER FILTERS / PURIFIERS
The SteriPEN is one product to purify water. For example there is also the Lifestraw or Grayl water filter. We did not test these, but read what other travellers wrote about this topic:
How do you filter water when travelling? Share your experiences!
BACKGROUND INFO: SOME CABINS (RIFUGIO’S) IN THE DOLOMITES WITHOUT CLEAN TAP WATER (BY MACHA LINSZEN)
Our friend Mascha Linszen also travelled to the Dolomites (natural parks around Cortina d’ Ampezzo) and she kept track of tap water conditions in all cabins she visited.
“Most cabins are large and comfortable, and often well connected to civilization by means of a cart track. The comfortable cabins where we have been sitting or passing along the way have running drinking water from the tap at their disposal. In our case this involved the following cabins (DE / IT):
- Hütte Plätzwiese / Prato Piazza rifugio
- Dürrenstein Hütte / Vallandro rifugio
- Sennes Hütte / rifugio Sennes
- Schutzhütte Vodara Vedla
- Berggasthaus Pederü
- Fanes Hut
- Berghütte Lavarella / Rifugio Lavarella
In some smaller huts the tap water was not drinkable. This was indicated in different ways, and there were alternatives available:
- Seekofel Hütte / Rifugio Biella
Indicated: by means of signs (‘kein Trinkwasser’) next to the tap
Alternative: water / soft drink / alcoholic drink offered for sale
- Ucia dles Muntagnoles
Indicated: on arrival, verbal communication by the hostess
Alternative: water / soft drink / alcoholic drink offered for sale
Alternative 2: tap water at a nearby larger cabin (Fanes / Lavarella)
Alternative 3: the host lady (living in the hut) drinks from the nearby stream herself, but clearly indicates that this is at his own risk given the larger huts upstream. Two Germans who, despite this warning, drank from 4 brooks in the brook soon got stomach flu.
- Ütia da Rit
Indicated: warm tap water temperature
Alternative: water / soft drink / alcoholic drink offered for sale
Alternative 2: there is potable tap water in the kitchen – we asked the cook on the spot if we could fill our bottles.”
Have you already heard of Closca Water App? One year ago, we analysed 15 different water refill apps. Since then, a couple of new refill apps have joined the stage, including BluHop (India) and Closca (based in Spain). Triggered by the name, we checked out the Closca Water app and found more than 200.000 refill stations listed worldwide. Wow! And they have just started. Who are the people behind this organisation? How do they work? And what’s next? Read our interview with David Villalón, Product Manager at Closca.
INTERVIEW WITH DAVID VILLALÓN, CLOSCA (D), BY HELLA HEKKELMAN (H)
H: When and how did Closca started?
D: We dream of a society where cities are a better place to live in and thrive. More sustainable, friendly, green and honest cities, where we are able to reflect and change things, redesigning our environment. That is why we create products that inspire you and create awareness and a positive impact on the planet. So we started with the collapsible helmet and the #citieswithsoul movement and continued with our reusable bottle and #mylastplasticbottle challenge, and now we are developing our refill app.
The Closca water app was launched in June so we are really new. We are also a very young team, the average age is 27. We try to make a product that can make impact, and to invite other organizations to join us. Our goal is to stop the plastic problem, generate impact and to help the most people with this.
H: Interesting. And for you personally, why did you want to work for Closca?
D: The difference with Closca and other organizations is that is real. We really want to generate a real impact at the society, environment… and because of that reason is why I love working here. My role is to coordinate all the app development and roadmap while creating new features and improving the experience, because of that I am able to talk with our users and feel how we are really into something great. It is awesome.
H: Nice that you and your team are making real impact in society. With our project Refill Ambassadors we interviewed people from many different refill movements and we feel some other organisations are also doing great things, for local communities and globally. But Back to Closca. You say you want to help people. How?
D: Our app now has around 200.000 fountains. We also want to add new refill stations in small businesses, like bars and cafés. And also with big brand and shops, airports.
We see a change: some people are starting to see the problem of plastic waste, but others not (yet). We are trying to create a habit, that’s why we created a reward system. For example you get a discount when you buy something in a store when refilling your bottle. In this way, refilling will also be interested for people who want to save money. Not just for people who want to save plastics.
THE CLOSCA WATER APP
H: How could you grow from 0 to 200.000 refill stations in just two months?
D: We had another app, so we already had a big database with public fountains. In the Closca Water App you can also add new refill stations. We see that people all around the world are uploading new fountains every day. We have a really engaged community.
H: Ah, that makes sense! Can I ask you how you promote the app?
D: It’s a surprise for us because actually we haven’t promoted the app yet. But people are already using it and uploading pictures of new fountains. We were even contacted by a Mexican kid stating there are no fountains in his area, and he wants to do something about it. So we asked our network for help, hoping they can create new refill stations in businesses and start to make changes. What we valuate more and that motivate us is to listen to our user’s feedback, that they really care about the same problem that us.
H: That’s so cool! I hope it will work. Nowadays there are many different refill apps. What do you think will happen in the future?
D: I really don’t know. I don’t think there will be just one app. Our goal is not to be the only refill app, but to make impact and stop plastics.
H: I agree. I think there will be room for multiple apps. Some people might prefer an app in their own language, or for a very specific region only. Last question: What are your future plans?
D: Now we are working on improvements for the app, for example specify the type of water (e.g. cold, filtered). And we close new partnerships all over the world. We are not trying, we are going for it.
H: Thank you. Good luck with your work. And thanks so much for your time!
D: You too, thank you so much.
DOWNLOAD THE APP & START REFILLING
It seems Closca Water App and Refill Ambassadors will cross paths more often in the future. If you want to support Closca, download the app and upload new refill stations in the app. And of course, carry a refillable bottle with you all the time.
BluHop is a brand new refill app, launched on June 1st 2019. So far they have reached around 60 cities across India with over 200 Refill stations. BluHop has a remarkable story: it was initiated by a 14-year old boy named Aaryan. His father Akash helps him with operations, to expand the service and with networking. How cool! We wanted to know more about this project and the app. Read our interview with Akash Agrawal, BluHop.
INTERVIEW WITH AKASH AGRAWAL, BLUHOP
Why did you start BluHop?
‘We went on a long road trip sometime back. On our trip we found it very difficult to find places to refill our bottles. Every time we would end up buying plastic water bottles as there was no alternative. We knew there had to be better way and thus BluHop was born.’
Interesting story. In fact, your motivation to start BluHop is the same as we, Refill Ambassadors, had. Although we must admit Hella waited eight years before starting our project, while you acted immediately J. Back to your app. How does it work?
‘BluHop is a location based mobile app that lets users find refill stations nearby and get real time navigation. Users can see the following information:
- Nearest Refill station with time and walking distance
- Type of Refill partner (Café, restaurant, drinking fountain etc)
- Type of water available (Chilled, Regular)
- Conveniences at refill point – specially-abled friendly, parking etc.
Users can apply various filters if they wish and narrow down their search.’
Very clear. We expect these search filters will be useful. Which places can be added as refill stations?
‘Any consumer facing facility can be added as a Refill Station. These may be cafés, restaurants, salons, gyms, clinics, offices and more. Water vending machines and drinking fountains can also be added as refill stations. BluHop is free for Refill partners and users. Refill Partners need to sign up, answer a few questions, input their address and they are done. They show up as a Refill Station on the app and users can find them easily.
We also share stickers that we use on store fronts to let customers know that this store offers Free Refills.’
STARTING A NEW BUSINESS
You just started BluHop. What are the difficulties?
‘The Refill culture is not very prevalent in India. One of the reasons for this is that there was no way find refill stations, i.e. until now. We are hopeful that with time we will be able to change this. First time discussions with businesses are sometimes difficult as this is something new for them. However, once they understand they usually sign up.’
Changing behaviour always takes time and patience. It is great you are trying. Do you work together with other partners, sponsors or companies?
‘We have just launched the service. So far, we are working with WaterHealth International, a private, American multinational corporation headquartered in California. The company operates a network of water vending machines (WVMs) in India. We are also working with another large in-country WVM operator. There are multiple city level partnerships. Country wide partnerships are being forged as we go long. We hope to be able to announce these soon.’
WATER QUALITY IN INDIA
How is the water quality in India? Can you drink tap water (in some areas)?
‘There is strict regulation around water quality that is supplied however actual quality can vary from area to area. It is not advisable to drink right out of the tap for this reason. Every household has its own water purification system.’
Having your own purification system at home is very good. But when you are on the go you need alternatives, like the refill stations you create. What kind of water is served at the refill stations?
‘Most refill stations serve both regular and chilled water. Purification system vary slightly however many refill stations use RO (Reverse Osmosis) based systems. A few water vending machine operators have their own multi-stage proprietary purification systems.’
What are your future plans?
‘We plan to initiate outreach in select cities and get a few partnerships going. Our immediate target is to reach five hundred refill points and then to a thousand by the year end. A medium sized but well known Cafe chain has agreed to offer refills. This is another first! We would be keen to extend our services to other regions, countries where no such service currently exists. Refill partners can sign up anytime from anywhere.’
Congratulations on your first Café chain! We hope more will follow. Do you have tips for us, Refill Ambassadors?
‘Refill Ambassadors are doing a great job. Every effort towards building awareness about the menace of plastic water bottles and how refill services are helping make a difference will drive usage and benefit the environment.
Most Refill services are only locally known. Global travel is increasing at a fast pace. If local refill station owners are encouraged to list themselves on multiple platforms, then it will further help drive awareness and build confidence in countries where refill culture is limited. Brands will also get more visibility across borders at no cost.’
We completely agree with this. Thank you so much Akash and Aaryan. We wish you good luck and hope to hear more from you in the future.
DOWNLOAD THE APP
Dopper, Klean Kanteen, Retulp, Mizu, Camelbak. All these brands have designed their own bottle, but share the same goal: to reduce single-use plastics around the world. You might have read my blog about my BFF, my Best Bottle Forever. A bottle you always carry with you and want to keep refilling. I was curious to learn more about the motivation from the people behind a bottle brand. What is their mission? Who are their heroes? Time for a chat with Richard Gabriël, founder of Retulp.
THE PACKAGING DILEMMA
We meet at the train station lounge in the Hague. When ordering a tea, we both feel some frustration and sadness, as sugar, honey and the little cookies are wrapped in plastic. “If I were to open a restaurant I would use beautiful sugar bowls and big honey pots”, Richard comments. I already like his thinking! But what about the packaging Retulp uses?
Retulp bottles are being sold in a box made from recycled cardboard, with a small leaflet inside. Richard tells me he’d prefer to sell his bottles without any packaging material, yet most retailers do require this. Even EkoPlaza, an organic supermarket chain. They reason that consumers are less inclined to buy the bottles with a few fingerprints on it. A nice exception is Dille & Kamille (a home, garden and kitchen utensils store), who prefers to sell Retulp bottles without packaging. Interesting, I always thought the brands were to blame, but it turns out to be a lot more complicated.
Retulp was established in 2014 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. Back in the days, Richard was inspired by Plastic Soup Surfer Merijn Tinga. Local and global awareness on the plastic soup issue has increased enormously in the past three years. Retulp’s slogan is ‘Refill to fulfill’. Beside the stainless steel water bottles, they sell their tea/coffee thermos mug (see image below) and a biobased bottle (made from sugar cane). Richard feels the current incentives to refill hot drinks are too limited. “Starbucks give you €0,05 discount, while most staff perceives it as a hazard.” Retulp also considers to add lunch & dinner boxes in the future “so you can refill everything. Water, tea, your Thai takeaway meal”. Not surprisingly, Richard perceives ‘zero-waste sisters’ Jessie and Nicky Kroon as true heroes.
RECYCLING VERSUS REUSING
I was wondering what Richard thinks about overconsumption. In his opinion, there is too much focus on recycling. Most of all we need to start buying less products. Secondly, try to buy sustainable products. I agree with this. In practice, recycling often means downcycling. The recycled raw material no longer has the purity of the original raw material. Although recycling is important, reusing and reducing is more effective.
We also talk about the perception of product value related to price. Nowadays, you can buy a reusable bottle for a few euros (e.g. made from Polypropyleen, plastic no. 5). This lowers the threshold for people to buy one. But we both feel ‘too cheap’ could have a high price. Do you look after your cheap bottle? If you lose it, you just buy a new one. We see the same thing happening in the fashion industry. People are more careful with a €100,- shirt than one that only costs €13,-.
MISSION INDISPOSABLE 2020
Back to Retulp. For 2020, Retulp aims to avoid 20 million disposable plastic bottles and to donate 20 million liters of drinking water to people in developing countries. They do this through Mission Indisposable 2020. For every bottle sold, 1.000 litres of clean drinking water will be donated. I’ll try to give you an update next year on the progress.
Two hours fled by and we had to end our interesting conversation. Thanks a lot Richard, for sharing your thoughts with me. Keep up the Dutch Design spirit! To read more about Richard Gabriël, Retulp and Mission Indisposible or to get your own Retulp bottle (also available printed or engraved for companies) visit the Retulp website.
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
The event will be in Dutch
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 you drink tap water in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao? The answer is yes. Tap water on these former Dutch Antilles islands is distilled from sea water. It is perfectly safe to drink, meeting the highest quality standards of the World Health Organization. I was wondering whether you can also get water refills on these islands. Time for a meetup with Rob van Holstein, refill ambassador and Caribbean expert.
REFILL STATIONS IN ARUBA, BONAIRE AND CURACAO
According to Rob, refill stations on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are limited. Public drinking fountains hardly exist, whereas local businesses are not used to provide refills. Luckily, Rob and his colleague Charlotte try to change this. With “Gratis Drinkwater”, they want to create a network of free refill stations.
Their ultimate goal is to decrease the waste stream of small single-use plastic bottles with 90% by 2020.
Rob: “My drive was born on Bonaire. Plastic garbage is washed ashore, especially after a tropical storm. Tiny plastic parts are scattered on the beaches. I knew the images of sea animals with plastic particles in their bellies, but seeing it in real life was something different.”
So far, Rob has made several visits to the Caribbean and launched 33 refill stations on Bonaire. These refill stations can be found in local restaurants, bars, dive shops, etc. Everyone can drop by for a free refill. For business owners, a water refill costs only €0,01 and it generates interesting foot traffic.
THE BLUE BOTTLE
In addition to the refill network, Rob created the Blue Bottle. The Blue Bottle is a thermos flask made of two layers of stainless steel. It keeps drinks hot (up to 6 hours) or cold (up to 12 hours). Rob told me he uses the Blue Bottle himself for water, tea, coffee and even beer!
The 500 ml Blue Bottle is sold for €15,-. The bigger 750 ml variant costs €20,-. So if you buy a Blue Bottle, you earn it back after only a couple of refills. And nice to know: 5% of the sales price is donated to local foundations in Bonaire.
Based on my own experience, I really recommend you to connect with other people when working on a project. Talking with Rob gave me insights about issues such as project investments. Rob: “Stay positive and do the best you can. I trained my dog to pick up plastic bottles and cans.”
Changing behaviour requires time and patience. Rob hopes to create more refill stations in the near future and to collaborate with relevant local organisations. Both on Bonaire, other Caribbean islands and in the Netherlands itself. Good luck Rob! And for those travelling to the Caribbean, bring your refillable bottle or get yourself a Blue Bottle.
Refill is on a mission to inspire social change: stopping plastic bottles at its source and making it easier to refill. Over the past years, this campaign has grown into a community with over 15,000 Refill Stations, which are listed in their app. How did this develop? What’s next? Time for an interview with programme manager Gus Hoyt.
INTERVIEW WITH GUS HOYT (G) BY HELLA HEKKELMAN (H)
H: Which places can be added as refill stations?
G: We want to be positive, fun and inclusive. Any businesses with a publicly accessible tap, that welcomes thirsty refillers, can be added as refill station. Public fountains can also be added to the map.
H: And how does this work?
G: Our free Refill app is designed to find water on the go. Businesses have to create a free profile and are added to the map. With the specially designed window stickers local business owners show their commitment. The sticker also lowers the threshold to ask for a free water refill.
FROM 1 TO 15.000 REFILL STATIONS
H: Refill has grown from 1 to >15,000 refill stations in only three years. How did this develop?
G: It all began in 2015, when City to Sea was founded by Nathalie Fee. In the same year, Bristol had the European Green Capital award status. Refill was selected to be one of the test pilots and ended-up being one of three ‘Legacy Initiatives’ for the city.
Like most new ideas, we started small, and tested different models as pilots. Soon it became clear that the demand for refill stations was huge, not just in Bristol, but also in other parts. We tried out different (business) models before expanding. We built it up over the next year and started to grow in other parts of the U.K. It was hard work, especially at the beginning. In 2018 it exploded.
Finding funding was tricky as the initiative was new and investors wanted to see if Refill ran the test of time before committing.
H: I saw on the app that some franchises are also added as refilling stations.
G: Yes, quite a lot actually. Costa Coffee was the first chain to join. Then Weatherspoons, Starbucks, Fullers, and some others. Also many smaller ones like Boston Tea Party, who just won the ethical café award this year for ditching single use coffee cups! The conversations take a long time but once you got them on board you’ve got a high number of refill stations.
H: Mmm, that seems to require a lot of patience, persistence and enthusiasm. What about you? How did this job fit in your career?
G: Haha, good question! Among other things I worked as scuba-diver and chef, trying to develop sustainable menus. Then my focus shifted to sustainable housing and other green projects, before getting elected as a City Councilor and serving as one of Bristol’s first assistant mayors (for the Green party). In 2016 the party lost its local seat, but the time was right and I could increase my commitment to Refill and think about expanding over the rest of the UK.
H: Interesting! Sometimes, unexpected situations have good outcomes. How do you keep track of thousands of refill stations?
G: We try to engage very much with communities, and get involved with a local level. For the U.K. we now have five regional coordinators, who enable and empower communities to start their Refill Group. Sometimes these local groups extend to other plastic free initiatives. Facebook groups and twitter handles are also powerful tools.
H: Can you share some of your future plans?
G: Our plan is to expand it next year to Europe. The Netherlands are a high priority for us and further afield we are looking to Australia and New Zealand. In Germany this is already happening, with Refill Deutschland and we’d like to help as much as possible. We hope to enroll more European countries. Furthermore we continuously try to improve our app and documents, like the “How to Guide”.
H: Excellent! We from Refill Ambassadors will try to help out as much as we can to facilitate this process and to stimulate the #Refillution.
G: That would be great!
This conversation with Gus made my day. I will keep you up to date about the team’s adventures over the next months. But for now, let’s switch perspectives. What about YOU? Do you live in Europe or are you travelling around here? Then I recommend you to download the Refill app (available for iOS and Android). Like Gus explained, it saves you money, helps you to stay hydrated and last but not least to reduce single-use plastics.
Refill is part of City to Sea, a Community Interest Company campaigning to prevent plastic pollution at the source. Learn more about City to Sea.
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!
OUR TOP-3 PICK
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!
During the month September I was on a plastic diet. One month without using single-use plastics. Or at least trying to do so. The plastic diet was organised by Opgemärkt and consisted of four weekly assignments. How did it go? Read about my struggles and victories.
WEEK 1: INSIGHT
The first assignment was to collect all plastics you’re throwing away and share your picture. I felt somewhat embarrassed but I put my picture on facebook (see below, and this is excluding plastic waste to-go). Furthermore I set myself the 1st goal: to cook plastic-free meals. This was though. I had friends over for dinner and wanted to make lasagne. I walked in the supermarket and ran out. Spinach, lasagne, butter, cheese. Everything wrapped in plastics. No lasagne tonight, and no more shopping at Albert Heijn this month.
WEEK 2: MAKE AN INVENTORY
This week’s assignment focused on tracking different categories of single-use plastics. Plastic bags, cups, bottles, straws, shampoo flasks etc. I already banned straws, bags and bottles, but realised that was about it. Ready for the next step! I took my tupperware to the roti-restaurant and my mug to my favourite coffee bar. As a sympathetic gesture they gave me 5 cent discount. Do you know you get €0,25 discount at train stations when you bring your reusable mug?!
WEEK 3: REPLACE
The past two weeks I avoided to buy things wrapped in plastics, like dairy products or cosmetics. But my stash was running out and I didn’t want to live on fruits, veggies, rice and bread forever. I switched to glass bottles (with €0,40 deposit) for yoghurt and milk (at EkoPlaza) and went to a bunch of speciality stores (e.g. cheese, nuts) with my own bags and jars. What a treat! It tastes amazing. I must admit the glass bottles are heavy and visiting all these stores is pretty time consuming. Luckily, you can find an overview of bulk stores in the Netherlands here.
Furthermore I experimented with cosmetics. I washed my hair with a soap bar. It took forever to rinse, so I’m not sure what’s actually better for the environment. My home-made deodorant (coconut oil, lavender oil and baking soda) was okay but got too fluid above 25°C. Making my own body-scrub (sea salt, olive oil and honey) turned out to be more successful, my skin felt super smooth and smelled great.
WEEK 4: SOCIAL SITUATIONS
Besides bringing my own cup, bags and jars, I started friendly chats with the waiters or other staff about single use-plastics and alternatives. This led to some interesting conversations and new insights. Two restaurants said they would eliminate plastic straws ASAP. Hurray!
WHAT DID I LEARN?
I thought I was doing pretty okay in plastic reduction, but during this month I realised I’m not even halfway there. When the plastic diet was finished, I felt relieved. And a bit sad. On one hand I had cravings to everything wrapped in plastic, on the other hand I did not feel like buying any plastics anymore. I feel I’m not ready for a complete zero waste lifestyle, like Jessie and Nicky Kroon (hetzerowasteproject) or Elisah Pals (ZeroWasteNederland). But I managed to change some aspects of my daily routines and that’s something to be proud of.
This week I was one of the speakers at the “Plastic Dieet Kickoff” (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:
Spanish: 30 Días Sin Plástico
In our previous blog we analysed different water refill apps. One app that stood out was RefillBali, which shows over 700 refill stations across Indonesia and some parts of South-East Asia. We were amazed how much this organisation has achieved in a short time. How do they work? And what are their challenges? Read our interview with Christine Go, project manager at RefillMyBottle.
INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINE GO (C) BY HELLA HEKKELMAN (H)
H: When and how did RefillBali started?
C: RefillBali was initiated by Alex Tsuk and the BGreener Community around 1,5 years ago. Together with some other sustainable businesses owners, they built a network of water refill stations on Bali. The network is expanding to neighbouring islands in Indonesia as well as other countries, so the name was evolved to RefillMyBottle.
H: And for you personally, why did you want to work for RefillMyBottle?
C: As a part of my master degree in Climate Change and development, I took a research on Indonesian students’ behaviour towards the use of plastic bottles. One thing I discovered is that Indonesian students tend to bring their own reusable bottles when they live in the UK, yet not in Indonesia itself. This is due to the absence of refill facilities and tap water is not drinkable in Indonesia. When I came back and found out about this initiative, I wanted to apply immediately.
H: Can you tell me something about the plastic pollution in Bali?
C: Bali is an island that tourism has impacted in myriad ways. Over 5 million travellers visit Bali every year, staying in Bali for an average of 4 days. Tourists consume, on average, 2 litres of water each day. With each tourist using around 4 half-litre bottles a day, over 6 million disposable plastic bottles are used and discarded every month in Bali alone. And the numbers are only increasing. The lack of waste management systems means that these water bottles end up in landfills, the ocean, or are burned which creates toxic fumes. It’s clear that the problem needs to be tackled at the source by reducing consumption of plastic water bottles.
H: That’s an urgent problem indeed. Therefore we need to have many refill stations. How do they work?
C: Any businesses can register themselves as RefillStation on our website. They can choose the type of water they want to offer: gallons or filtered, as long as it’s safe to drink. They can give free refills or charge a small fee, ideally not more than the cost of plastic bottled water in shops.
THE REFILL BALI APP
H: I really like your app. How do you connect refill points to the app?
C: Thank you. The app shows all the businesses who have registered as refill stations through our system. We have recently integrated our map with refill stations from a number of similar projects, such as Refill Not Landfill and Luang Prabang – Handle with Care. For instance, if people open the Refill Not Landfill, they will see the RefillMyBottle stations, and vice versa. EXO Foundation and KHIRI Reach, as part of Impact Vietnam, are now taking the lead in expanding the RefillMyBottle network in Vietnam.
H: The users of the refill stations, are they mainly locals, tourists or both?
C: We work within the sustainable tourism scope together with other tourism businesses and organisations. For now, most of the refill stations are located in tourist areas with travelers being our main target group. However, we hope that in time this initiative can be brought to the local level as well.
H: What challenges do you face?
C: Limited resources. Right now, we are only a team of three people working remotely for RefillMyBottle, and some of us are working on a part-time basis so we can only grow so much. We need your help to bring this initiative to the next level. You can support us by helping spread the words about RefillMyBottle in your local community or through our fundraising page.
H: Let’s hope you can find a way to deal with this. What are your future plans?
C: Imagine a world you can explore without ever buying a plastic bottle. We are hoping to create this world. Mapping places around the global where people can refill their water bottle.
H: That would be great. Could we from Refill Ambassadors also add new refill stations to your app? And what about public fountains?
C: Yes, absolutely! We are very happy to grow the refill stations network. You can do so by completing our online sign-up form which can be found at our website. With the new app people can also make suggestions for public fountains and we will upload them onto the map.
H: Do you have tips for us, Refill Ambassadors?
C: Engage with local organisations who know the community better. We work together with a number of organisations who take the lead of this initiative at their local community, andwhat a coincidence because we call them the ‘refill ambassadors’, just like you!
H: We’ll keep that in mind, thanks. Last question: we talked about your approach, challenges and future plans. What do you dream about?
C: I hope that at some point we don’t need an app anymore to refill, because you can find refill stations just on every corner. I hope that bringing a reusable bottle and refill will become the norm. But right now to have the app is a good tool to create awareness and help people find refill points.
H: Terimah kasih! Good luck with RefillMyBottle.
C: You too, thank you so much!
TWO PROJECTS, ONE GOAL
It turns out that Refill Ambassadors and RefillMyBottle have many things in common. The conversation with Christine has been so nice. To me it felt like calling a close friend, even though we’d never met before and there is twelve thousand kilometer between us. I am looking forward to collaborate with her and the RefillMyBottle team in the near future. Stay tuned!
DOWNLOAD THE APP & START REFILLING
World Cleanup Day is coming… In exactly one month, millions of volunteers will come together to clean up litter and waste from cities, beaches, rivers and forests.
The idea for World Cleanup Day started ten years ago in Estonia, when thousands of people cleaned the entire country of illegally dumped waste within in a few hours. Other countries got inspired to start a similar ‘one country, one day’ formula. The movement has grown and nowadays unites people from all over the planet. Besides the cleaning of trash, awareness is raised on the problem.
WHY IS THIS AN IMPORTANT DAY?
No one likes trash such as plastic packaging scattered on the streets or in nature. This alone would be enough reason to clean, but let’s take a look at the bigger problem. In nature, water bottles can survive up to 450 years. When not disposed properly, large particles fragment into microplastics (<5mm), causing serious harm to marine environments. Currently 95% of plastic packaging worldwide is lost (burned or dumped) after single use. Plastics in the oceans are expected to treble in the next 10 years. So we’d better pick it from the land before it reaches our rivers and seas.
Refill Ambassadors will take part in this initiative. Want to join our cleaning team in Amsterdam on September 15th? Send us a message. It will be fun!
When I think about all the plastic waste around us and the long road to improvement, I sometimes feel a bit lost. In these days, it helps to talk with like-minded people. This week I had the pleasure to interview Katie Alcott, CEO and founder of FRANK Water. This organisation combines a couple of cool refill-projects in the U.K. with community work in India and Nepal. Ready to get inspired?
INTERVIEW WITH KATIE ALCOTT (K) BY HELLA HEKKELMAN (H)
H: FRANK Water is a social enterprise and a registered charity. How are these two related?
K: Through our projects in the U.K. we raise money and awareness on water usage and the importance of clean drinking water. For example with our Festival Refill Service. Our social enterprise donates 100% profit to our charity.
H: Interesting, can you tell a bit more about these festivals?
K: Our Festival Refill Service offers unlimited refills of chilled, filtered water to festival-goers if they buy a refillable water bottle or our wristband. All profit goes to our charity. We started this refill initiative in 2010. Right now is quite a busy time for us. The festival season is about to begin. We’ll be up and running the entire summer with over 200 volunteers.
H: Awesome! Can we also find your crew on a Dutch festival?
K: Currently not, but we often get requests. Perhaps in the near future with a more portable stand or a kind of Franchise model.
H: The water quality in the U.K. is among the best, still nearly 40 million plastic bottles are used in the U.K. every day. How come the consumption of plastic water bottles is so high?
K: It’s complicated. Bottled water companies know very well how to market their products. Consumers believe it’s more healthy to drink mineral and spring water. Furthermore the infrastructure for refilling in the U.K. is not great, whilst buying bottled water is just too convenient. It’s also a matter of trust. Some people do not trust public fountains. They ask themselves ‘are these cleaned regularly?’ ‘What about legionella’ or ‘How do I use these things’?
H: With Refill Ambassadors we want to establish refill points in hotels, shops cafes and restaurants. You’re also working together with a restaurant chain in Bristol. How does this work? Do you plan to expand and include other restaurants in the UK?
K: The restaurant offers table water to customers for a small charge, which is donated to our charity. When talking to relevant stakeholders we always offer the possibility. It’s quite time consuming and not always easy for the restaurant to offer and manage the donations, but it can work well.
H: Let’s talk a bit more about the charity. You work in many different communities oversees. How is this organised?
K: We are helping to secure clean drinking water and sanitation in marginalised rural communities. In India we employ two amazingly talented Indian nationals, with the right expertise who speak the language and understand the local cultures. We then collaborate with local NGOs to work with the communities and leverage support and expertise from national and international organisations, engineers and geologists.
H: What kind of water purifiers are being used?
K: This really depends on the area. For example we have bigger gravity-fed water filters in eastern India, and smaller filtration systems and a variety of different solutions in other areas. We try to find the best solution for each community. It’s about finding low-impact, sustainable solutions that require low-tech maintenance.
H: Do you have tips for Refill Ambassadors?
K: I think it’s great you started this initiative. Your focus on tourists is really interesting. It fills a gap. As a tourist, the last thing you want is to be ill due to contaminated water on your travels, so bottled water is often the only fail-safe solution.
H: You had that bad experience! And afterwards you founded FRANK Water.
K: Yes, indeed! I also think it is great that you ask a small contribution for the refill. In this way the local communities keep their profit and will be more likely to maintain the quality of safe drinking water. And as a consumer you learn to understand the value of water.
H: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. We wish you all the best with FRANK Water. Let’s stay in touch.
K: We will, thank you!
Talking to Katie helped me to get back in positive thinking. Hopefully I get to meet this wonderful lady and her team one sunny day, at one of the festivals or in the field.
If you want to support FRANK Water, sign the #PledgetoRefill and commit to carry a refillable bottle with you everywhere you go.
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!