Fighting Bottled Water Waste One Bottle at Time at SXSW 2013

This post was written by David Kargas.

An interesting piece of news caught my eye the other day. After a couple of decades of soda supremacy, good old water is once again America’s most consumed beverage.

But our abundant, safe supply of tap water isn’t driving the change. Bottled water is. In fact, the news I saw reported the average American now drinks about 21 gallons of bottled water a year. That’s about 150 of those 16.9 ounce bottles per person.

Now, virtually all of those bottles can be recycled.  But, in truth, not that many of them are. Research by the International Bottled Water Association shows that more than 61 percent of water bottles end up in the landfill.

We created an “urban oasis” where people could pick up a free reusable water bottles, relax in some shade and drink some free, Brita-filtered water at the  SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. This helped prevent an estimated 50,000 single-use plastic water bottles from ending up in the landfill.

We can do better.

For the past several years, the Brita® brand has focused on that point.  We’ve traveled the country to try and convince people there is a better way to stay hydrated — namely by using filtered tap water and a reusable bottle.  We’ve been to rock concerts, sporting events, film festivals and other events where people congregate and reach for a single-use plastic water bottle.

Recently, this mission brought us to one of the hottest places going — the famed South by Southwest festival  in Austin, Texas.  And, believe me, when that sun came out, people needed some water.

We partnered with the festival to create an “urban oasis” where people could relax in some shade and drink some free, Brita-filtered water. We even passed out free reusable water bottles to help people make that switch.

Over the course of the six-day festival, we distributed some 7,000 gallons of free, Brita filtered water. This helped prevent an estimated 50,000 single-use plastic water bottles from ending up in the landfill. And we mobilized many of the fresh voices in the music industry to ask their fans to make the switch as well. Up and coming artists like Allen Stone, Ben Sollee and Lukas Nelson joined a roster of marquee names like Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz in taking the pledge to reduce bottled water waste.

We didn’t reach everyone at the festival. No doubt, thousands of people consumed too much bottled water. Far too many bottles ended up in the landfill. But we know we made a difference. And we know that our small steps can and will lead to big changes down the line.

David Kargas has worked at Clorox for four years in public relations and digital marketing roles. Currently, he manages public relations for the Brita® brand and the Filter for Good® program, as well as the Fresh Step® brand.