There is this unwritten code within the surfing community that when you see a piece of trash floating in the ocean, you grab it. I’ve stuffed countless plastic bags, straws and random pieces of plastic down my wetsuit, often frustrated but happy to do my part. Too often I see mounds of empty fast food bags left behind from careless beach goers, or an endless array of plastic caps, straws and obscure objects, now polished by their time in the sea. If you’ve been to the beach lately than you personally know our planet has an issue with waste and that problem goes well beyond our oceans.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Will Anderson, the creator and visionary behind No Beach Plastic, a reusable water bottle brand. No Beach Plastic’s sole mission is to change the way we drink water and create sustainable alternatives to single use plastic in hopes of keeping plastic waste off our beaches and out of our oceans. I had a great time hanging out with Will, he is so laid back and always smiling, a true Californian. I was lucky enough to be given a reusable bottle of my own and I use it every single day. This one small change has brought so much awareness and inspiration to my life and my personal practice with single use plastic. Take a look at our interview, and hopefully you’ll feel inspired as well.
CJ: What was the inspiration behind starting No Beach Plastic? How long have you been working on this project?
NBP: A few years back I was running a bottled water company which would help save the rainforest with each bottle sold. I was interested in the single serve drinking water space while still being environmentally conscious and at the time I felt that it wasn’t a good direction. While working there I gave them a mouthful, each bottle sold saved a square meter of rainforest but it was single use plastic. From there, I was kind of looking at the whole space and ultimately it’s the consumer who’s to blame so you gotta get the customer to change their habits. I thought why don’t we encourage people to carry around a reusable bottle? So that was the inspiration behind that. This isn’t a revolutionary new product, but more focused on getting the consumer to change their habits. Through No Beach Plastic we use it as a vehicle to inspire someone to change their patterns.
CJ: What experiences did you have starting No Beach Plastic? Were there any challenges you faced? Did some aspects just come really easily?
NBP: No, nothing came easily. The biggest challenge was getting the city to work with us, and what we did was work with the non-profit partners and we donated these fill stations to the cities. My brother who has experience in local politics was very helpful in that process.
CJ: You’re from Southern California, what was it like growing up by the ocean? Do you think growing up near the ocean has played a major role in how you care about the environment?
NBP: One hundred percent. I spend most of my free time in or near the ocean, it’s sickening to me when I see what we’ve done to it through our patterns, it’s insane and not limited to plastic. The scope of it can be overwhelming at times, so through No beach Plastic we try to have a very simple approach being that we focus on plastic bottled water. We like to think that if people switched that one simple habit and became conscious of their single-use plastic consumption, they’ll indirectly make changes and become conscious of other patterns and habits they might have. You know, maybe they won’t get that plastic bag at the grocery store or opt out of the plastic utensils.
CJ: What are the biggest obstacles you face bringing awareness to plastic waste and the effects it has on our planet?
NBP: I use to consume plastic bottles of water all the time because I never really thought about it. It’s hard bringing awareness but it’s also impossible to avoid it and we realize that. I’ll be the first to admit that I use single use plastic, everyone does. It would be almost impossible to live in this community and not use single use plastic. We like to think there are people out there coming up with alternatives and doing bigger things, but we try to make a splash where we can and we are hyper focused on single use bottled water consumption because we are privileged to live in an area that has clean and free drinking water. Whereas if you’re in a third world country, I don’t think what we’re trying to do make much sense, because that local drinking water could potentially make you sick. Here in Southern California we have good public infrastructures, etc. We think this is a good way for people to dip their toes in the pool of reducing their use of single use plastic bottle consumption. If I’m with someone and they are using plastic, I’m not going to make them feel bad about it because those types of actions don’t have longevity. I think the subtler lifestyle changes create a longer-lasting impact.
CJ: We think the beach water fountains are amazing, can you tell us a bit about them? How did you acquire funding? Who was involved?
NBP: I was on a trip in Australia and I noticed how they had drinking water fill stations all along the beaches and it encouraged everyone to use them. So I came back and worked with a couple of non-profit organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and the Rob Machado Foundation and we installed a few drinking water fill stations on the beaches in Newport, giving people access and a place to refill their water bottles. We also partnered with a hundred-year-old plumbing company to make these drinking water fill stations. They are made in Los Angeles, 100% stainless steel and we designed them to fit the need of a vertical fill and encourage people to use their bottles.
CJ: Growing up in Orange County, you’ve had direct access to some incredible brands, companies and people. Who has influenced you greatly?
NBP: I grew up in the mecca of the industry, going to Volcom parties as well as Tavarua trips with Quiksilver when I was 13. Seeing the rawness of these brands and hanging out with Jeff Yokoyama and his wildly creative approach to everything was inspiring and something I knew I wanted to be a part of in one capacity or another. Also, seeing all the little brands start up, everything from Saber to RVCA and Von Zipper. For us growing up I feel like the vehicle was apparel, and now the energy and vibe is still there but the vehicle has changed. It’s not about just making a t-shirt anymore.
CJ: We love your reusable water bottles, especially the easy to hold bottle cap! How did you come up with the design for them? Why did you choose stainless steel over something like glass?
NBP: We use stainless steel because of durability. We’ve partnered with the Jr. Lifeguards of Newport Beach, we’ve provided water bottles for them for the last three years and I don’t think it’s a good idea for these kids to be running around the beach with glass bottles. Glass and the beach in general do not work well together. The design metaphor of the bottle is to replicate a single use plastic water bottle with the shape and rivets. The top is an abstract form, it originally came from a misconstrued piece of beach plastic that you would see on the shorelines that was once a designed piece of material like a kid’s chair or a piece of helmet. So it’s just random shape, a bright piece of plastic that represents the plastic that ends up in our oceans. Then we adjusted that form for functionality and created the finger loop for convenient carrying.
CJ: Do you have any plans to create other eco-friendly products?
NBP: Absolutely I mean there are so many good brands and products out there and I think everything in that space helps one another. Ultimately, it’s for one underlying mission and I think there’s plenty of opportunity for success. For us, subtly yes, we’re working on a reusable coffee lid, something you can bring each day when you go and buy your coffee. We want to take a realistic approach to it, I think right now it’s hard to get a consumer to carry around an entire reusable coffee cup all day, but they can carry their reusable lid in their pocket or in their purse. We’re also looking into copper, copper drink ware. A lot of health benefits with copper too.
CJ: We are already a few months into 2017, any big plans for the rest of the year? What are some goals you have for No Beach Plastic?
NBP: I’m heading off to Australia soon for a month and then Bali for a few weeks. This is a personal trip, to get some inspiration and find some adventure. Some goals: I just want to increase the circulation of reusable bottles. I don’t want to see people buying plastic water bottles anymore. I want everyone to leave their house with a reusable water bottle and we’re actually working with the city of Los Angeles to do our first fill station on the boardwalk in Venice Beach. We’re currently looking for funding for that fill station. We have a larger plan of retrofitting 40 of the older drinking fountains on the Venice boardwalk and putting in the No Beach Plastic fill stations.