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Green Sheep Water

The first bottled water to use 100% recyclable aluminum bottles and caps.

Photo of Nicole Doucet

Written by

Bottled water is healthy and convenient, but plastic bottles and caps create horrific amounts of waste, wreaking havoc on our environment. In fact, we're now using almost 500 billion plastic water bottles and sending 8 million tons of plastic into our oceans every year. This has to change. There are plenty of reusable bottles out there, but consumers continue to buy bottled beverages—they’re convenient and easily fit into modern consumers’ every day lives. That’s why we created Green Sheep Water: the first bottled water packaged with 100% recyclable aluminum bottles and caps.


Our aluminum packaging is the most recyclable option out there. It’s recycled more often and more efficiently than not only plastic, but also glass and even cartons. And since graphics are printed directly onto the surface of the packaging, we also eliminate the need for a plastic sleeve. We truly believe that the biggest change comes from lots of people making small, but better, choices every single day. That’s why Green Sheep is a pragmatic solution that is easy for consumers to adopt and drive real change.


Idea Title

Bye, Bye Plastic.

Company / Organization Name

Green Sheep Water

Website

www.greensheepwater.com

Where are you / your team located?

Chicago, IL

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

By using 100% recyclable aluminum packaging, Green Sheep Water eliminates the need for the 3 plastics used in bottled water packaging: PET (bottle), PP (cap), and PVC (sleeves). Often, municipalities only recycle the bottles because there’s a larger market for this material, meaning caps and sleeves are often left as waste. Our solution negates the need for a sleeve and provides a highly recyclable cap whose high scrap value ensures it will always be collected and recycled.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

There are a multitude of use cases for bottled water: picnics in the park, at a concert or sporting event, or really any time consumers want a healthy option on-the-go. Green Sheep Water allows people to enjoy the same convenience they're used to, while eliminating much of the small-sized plastic waste their same activities create now. Our aluminum packaging gets rid of the need for polypropylene caps and plastic sleeves, which most cities don't recycle and instead send to landfills and oceans.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Right now, we are focusing in the US, but our idea can easily be applied internationally. We have already had interest from customers in Canada, Europe, India, and China (which consumed 73 billion plastic bottles last year!).

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

We're already operating in 12 US states and growing quickly. We entered the market by finding retail partners that share our eco-friendly values. These include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Patagonia, and Yellowstone National Park. As we expand, we envision producing our product as close to where it's distributed as possible, reducing emissions and impact even more. Hurdles will include pinpointing the right manufacturing partners as well as building up our distribution network.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Operating Concept / Startup: You have fulfilled the stages of testing, undertaken a full scale roll-out, and are currently operating this concept/idea as a business.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

The accelerator would be highly valuable considering our current progress and goals. We have products in the market, so the press we'd get would be a huge boost towards spreading our message. Increased exposure would lead to more partnerships with distributors, retailers, and non-profits, helping extend our impact to divert many more plastic bottles, caps, and sleeves from the waste stream. Access to manufacturing guidance would be helpful also, especially as we scale our operations overseas.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Our idea emerged after watching a documentary on ocean plastic pollution. Although reusable bottles are the best solution, they are often forgotten at home, so people end up buying a bottle and cap that pollute our seas forever. It turns out that sometimes the best solutions fail because they do not take into account human habits. Our idea is not a perfect solution but it might be the one we need to curb our plastic consumption. It turns out that sometimes the best solutions fail because t

Tell us about your work experience

Nicole studied economics and finance and recently received her MBA from the University of Chicago. Jess has a background in design and marketing. Both have worked on Green Sheep Water for 6 years.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Green Sheep, Inc. is a C-Corp

21 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Camron Hinman
Team

I think you have done a very good job showing the research on plastic bottles waste. The discussion of the plastic island on your website in very impactful, and will catch the attention of consumers who might not know the fact. You've done a really nice job with the website. Camron

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Thank you so much Camron :)

Photo of Vivek Patil
Team

I have two doubts:
1. Does it not increase the cost of a single piece of bottle many many times since plastic is replaced by aluminum?
2. Why do people buy bottled water when the tap water in USA is equally good?

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Hi Vivek Patil !

1- Yes, the cost of the empty bottle is much higher than a plastic one. That said, we are able to keep our prices competitive with other premium brands (like Evian or Fiji) because we make everything in the Midwest, which keeps our shipping costs low. The idea as we grow is to produce as close to where we are selling as possible.

2- This is a question that we asked ourselves a lot before deciding to launch Green Sheep Water. We knew that drinking from the tap was the most sustainable solution to the plastic pollution caused by bottled water, but the reality is that people value convenience and it is extremely hard to change people's habits. Reusable bottles have been around for a long time and yet bottled water consumption keep growing. Even people that are making a conscious effort to carry a reusable bottle often forget it and they find themselves in situations where they want something cold and healthy to drink but the only options come packaged in plastic. Green Sheep Water is meant to be a pragmatic solution that takes into account people's habits, but we will always encourage drinking water from the tap.

Photo of Marilu Valente
Team

Hey very nice product! The approach to use an alternative material instead of plastic is great. How about also mentioning that the bottles can be refilled with tap water? Selling water in bottles has been one of the biggest advertising achievements, but actually the water from a tap is just as (if not even better) than bottled water.

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Thanks Marilu Valente ! I totally agree about tap water and we always emphasize the fact that drinking water from the tap is more sustainable than any bottled water option, including ours. Our bottles are made specifically for single-use, which allows us to keep the aluminum super thin, and we can't legally say that they are refillable as they do not meet the required specs. That said, many people (including myself) do use them multiple times :)

Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hello Nicole Doucet excited to hear more about this product, and great to have you joining us in this challenge!

What would it take for this idea to integrate at the scale of implementation you are aiming for? What are next steps to market integration?

Lastly, How might the branding of your product/design/solution relay a compelling narrative to reduce the use of small-format plastics? How does the branding of your solution maximize its value in the regional or global marketplace?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Hi Lauren Ito ! We're still very small, but have been growing very quickly here in the US. It really feels like a snowball effect: the more accounts you get in, the more people know about you, and that in turn drives expansion. We've been targeting highly visible accounts that align with our values, and I think this strategy for market integration is working.

There are two things that need to happen for us to achieve significant scale. The first one is awareness. A lot of people simply don't know that our products exist. A lot of retail accounts want to stop selling plastic bottled water but don't know that there's a better alternative, so they keep selling what they always have. Becoming a Top Idea would really help us reach more people through press coverage as well as through partnerships with like-minded organizations like non-profits, national parks, and universities.

The second hurdle is distribution. Right now, we've focused on targeting larger accounts because they have enough volume for us to distribute directly. However, we miss a large portion of the market by doing this. Our strategy moving forward is to use these large accounts as a distribution foothold in a given area and eventually reach smaller accounts by signing on local distributors. Another piece of the puzzle will be to set up production close to where we are selling, especially when we reach the point where we're ready to expand internationally.

Our branding has always been focused on setting us apart from other bottled water companies. As our name indicates, we are the black sheep of the bottled water industry, but in a green, eco-friendly way. As a brand, we have focused largely on ocean plastic pollution because we deeply care about the health of our oceans and because we believe it's a very impactful way to convey the scale of the plastic problem. We're working on some modifications to our website that will make this narrative and connection to the ocean even clearer.

I hope that answers your questions but let me know if you need more clarification!

Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Nicole Doucet wow thank you for sharing such powerful insights around your product and the future of your company! For clarification and to help our community also see these insights readily, please integrate some of the information you posted in the body of your main contribution-- especially the next steps to scale!

So excited to have you onboard this challenge, and looking forward to learning more! Tagging in community manager Kate Rushton to ask any additional questions.

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Thanks Lauren Ito ! The scaling section has a word limit on it so we can't add more text to it. Do you think we should add this somewhere else?

Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hi Nicole Doucet great question! If you have any additional information you want to include with your submission, please put it into a PPT, PDF, or word document and upload to the attachments section of your post!

Thanks!

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

Hi
I have a similar idea for replacing papier cups and plastic lids for hot take out beverages.

Take a look!
Rebecca

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Cool! Would bamboo caps cost a lot more than plastic ones? I've seen some cans that have a resealable opening as well (although it's made of plastic).

Photo of Rebecca Buechel
Team

For the moment, from rough internet pricing, it's 10x the cost. (20 cents rather than 2 cents), but given the scale, I imagine the price could go down? Of course, going green requires an investment, but helping save the planet is worth the 18 cents more ?

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

I think volume could definitely bring the price down. In our experience, businesses are definitely open to spending more for products that align with their values, but it only goes so far. I think it's also helpful if you bring something more to the table in addition to sustainability. For us, the premium look of the bottles that rivals the look of glass without the fragility has been another selling point.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congratulations Nicole Doucet on being today's featured contribution!

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Thank you so much!

Photo of Eva Holman
Team

I recently went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (3 days ago) and though I had my own reusable water bottle with me I still bought one of your water cans. It's something I have been waiting a long time to see on the market and I would love to support your company in SF. Great design and the water tasted great too.

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

Hi Eva Holman ! Thanks for the kind words! We started working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium a few months ago and things are going really well. We've really focused on ocean conservation, so it's a great fit in terms of values. I'm hoping we can expand to other aquariums soon. Any support you could offer in SF would be amazing. Feel free to send us an email to info@greensheepwater.com :)

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Nicole,

Excited to see you joining this challenge. We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top.

We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.

Photo of Nicole Doucet
Team

We were just finishing up. It's all set!