Earth Day Interview: How JUST Aims to Benefit Humans and the Planet
Moments With Drew Fitzgerald To Discuss Water, Being Optimistic About Our Future, And How We Can All Do A Small Part For Our Planet!
For the initial launch of JUST’s monthly guest blog series, we interviewed JUST water co-founder, Drew FitzGerald. We wanted to uncover more about JUST and how they’re a for-profit water company while putting sustainability first in all they do.
Drew FitzGerald is an innovative, experienced creative director, advisor and founder, galvanizing the science, technology, and entertainment sectors for social impact. Drew is one of the co-founders of JUST water, the ethically sourced spring water in a paper bottle that reduces carbon emissions by 74% compared to traditional plastic bottles.
Drew is a founding advisor to The Prime Coalition, a revolutionary nonprofit based in Cambridge that is successfully steering philanthropic capital to early-stage clean energy technologies. Additionally, he is a creative/design advisor to change: WATER Labs, The Redford Center, and the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT.
Drew graduated from Syracuse University and is currently based in Los Angeles.
1. What prompted the desire to start a responsible water company?
Jaden (Smith) and I are set out on pursuing fossil fuel reduction across a number of segments and areas, one that was obvious was to revise the way everyday objects are packaged and made. We looked at several consumer packaged goods and specifically looked at bottle water as a great place to start. We could revise plastic use and bring attention to larger water issues in the process! It turned out we learned a lot more than we originally planned. Learning about the different type of waters out there, how they’re acquired – ethically and not so ethically – how they’re processed and what is sacrificed along the way. When we created JUST and the first product – JUST water, we looked at the impacts across the entire chain – from harvesting the water, to transporting it, to treating it, or in our case not treating it, and finally packing it. Through this process, we decided the most impactful way of acquiring water, was in fact, to have water help itself along the way. JUST water is the first company to partner with a city to establish a way to jointly commercialize something that this city had an excessive amount of to help preserve and repair its water systems. We partnered with the city of Glens Falls, NY which has over a billion gallons of water annually that simply resides in reservoirs. We asked, ‘what if we paid a higher rate than any other water user in the city? A little over six times the rate to be exact. What if we could take a part of the excess and sell it into the market and drive revenue back to the community? What if that revenue is then earmarked only for water and town infrastructure repairs?” So, our desire to create a sustainable water company was as much about creating a lower carbon footprint in packaging as it was about being cognoscente that water is a valuable resource. We developed a company that was set on creating as much benefit along the way as it could – both to humans and the planet.
2. Some people may say, “why not eliminate all single-use bottles?”
One of the philosophies we developed at JUST in the very beginning and is core to the company is to develop your own “personal water ethic.” By that I mean understand where water use fits in your daily life – whether brushing your teeth, shaving, showering, getting a glass of water before bed or when you decide to drink any beverage when you’re at home or on the go. In the early days of bottled water, it was marketed as a “quality of water” thing – it was elitist – it was Evian in the late 80’s etc. And that was their thing to talk about quality of the water. But what evolved throughout the years was a move to bottled water for ease. When I look at single-use bottled waters, I look at the entire segment of drinks as one of “convenience” — people are making healthier choices – no sugar, no artificially additives and water became a realistic go-to for this. Bottled water is a matter of convenience for people on the go who want something healthy. Busy lives mean people are moving around and eating and nourishing in whatever way works for them. Eliminating single-use plastic bottles isn’t realistic in the modern market. However, providing an alternative in that marketplace that significantly reduces plastic and greenhouse gas emission in the process is.
3. With it being ‘Earth Day’ – there’s always a lot of attention and asking what a single person can do to make a difference? What are your key suggestions to making a difference in your daily routine and becoming more sustainable and even lesson your personal carbon footprint?
There are Micro and Macro things you can do in your daily life to make an impact. If we’re specifically concentrating on one person’s daily routine there are several: It may sound silly, but merely turning the lights off in parts of your house you are not in. When lights are on, they’re consistently burning something — coal, oil, natural gas – it’s not a joke, truly something on the other end of the grid is getting burned. So, when you go out for the evening, even though a nice lighting scene is friendly when you arrive home…. think twice about why you need that light on and how important is it.
From a water standpoint- there is habitual activity when doing simple things like brushing your teeth, and if you decide to leave the water running, you’re wasting a precious resource. Wet your toothbrush, shut the faucet off, and then rinse. If everyone were to do this, we could reserve hundreds of thousands of gallons of water easily. Same thing, as a guy, for shaving, why do we feel the need to leave the water running when we shave? It’s ridiculous. I’m also a big fan of shower timers. Living in California and wading through 5 years of drastic drought affecting our wildlife, the people and what we call the snow pack cycle… it makes you think. Do I really need a 15-min shower? I have a water timer that sits on the wall of my shower – it keeps you down to a 5-min shower. I know that sounds a little medieval, but it’s the small things we all can do in our daily lives that will make a difference.
Also, here’s a weird one I learned – when you’re watching TV, and you’re about to shut it off, and you just shut off the TV because your lazy and not the cable box, you’re only doing half the job. The cable box is still “on” needing more power! Remember about the “burning” of something on the other end… well, turn off the cable box, or things are still getting burned!
4. What do you see as the most rewarding thing happening right now in terms of protecting our planet?
The greatest hope for nature, and in turn us, is science. Gladly, and optimistically, there are tons of simply brilliant minds working on innovations in energy, food, and water that would blow your mind. The most rewarding things I see daily are people in the Science, engineering and innovation space working harder to answer some massive questions.
5. Any last words…
A few years ago, I started realizing that the best way to help fight to de-carbonize our home was to channel funding to those who are making a difference. Those who are creating solutions to the problems in the very, very, early-stage clean technologies are coming out of research institutions like Cal Tech, Stanford, and MIT. There are true life-saving innovations that are being unveiled daily that simply need support. The most promising thing I see is a reconfiguration of the way these innovations can now get funding. If stewarded correctly there are developments that can now get funding to see their day in the sun. This is coming through charitable capital, concessionary capital, sovereign funds, and the forms of non-venture based monies. Support is an amazing way to help the ones who are going to save the world we live in thrive!
One last thing – keep striving for better. That’s something I strongly believe in and nearly a motto at JUST – let’s keep finding ways to become better! We did this with our packaging – we launched our bottle and knew we could make our packaging even better, so we did! We found a way to make the topper and shoulder out of bioplastic from sugarcane – this elevated our bottle to be made from 82% renewable resources!
Learn more about JUST water at justwater.com