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How Crowdsourcing Is Influencing Sustainable Design [Future Of Home Living]

PSFK chats with Irene Rompa of Dopper whose crowdsourced eco-friendly water bottles are changing the way we think of green design.

PSFK Labs
PSFK Labs on July 28, 2013. @psfk

PSFK’s soon-to-be released The Future of Home Living report will launch our first large scale interactive exhibition that will be open to the public on July 23rd in an apartment and exhibition space at 101 Apartments in Chelsea. The showcase is a carefully curated collection of products, services and concepts that are a demonstration of the trends in the Future of Home Living report.

One of the products that caught our eye in the build up to this exhibition is the Dopper Water Bottle. A Dutch-based company that believed that everyone should be able to have access to the practically free, healthful, thirst-quenching benefits of water, without damaging the environment with a build-up of plastic bottles.

PSFK spoke with co-founder Irene Rompa about the ideas behind their products, why clean drinking water doesn’t have to be wasteful and what she thinks is the most exciting green innovation on the market right now.

What inspired you to start Dopper? And what makes Dopper’s water bottles unique?

Dopper was founded in the Netherlands in early 2010 as an initiative to inspire ‘Dutchies’ to drink tap water, reduce single-use plastic waste and, fundraise for clean water access in countries that have a lack thereof. We were excited to come up with a water bottle so appealing, that no one would even consider spending their money on bottled water. Our inspiration was seeing a documentary about the ‘plastic soup,’ the islands of plastic waste that are drifting in the oceans, in which the majority of single-use plastic water bottles ends up. Did you know 1,500 of them are being used every second in the US alone? Only 20% is being recycled; the rest goes to landfill, is burnt or ends up in the sea. We see the Dopper bottle as a vehicle to spread the message about single-use plastic waste and offer people a great quality design alternative they can reuse for as long as they like.

Dopper’s design was crowdsourced through a design competition held in The Netherlands early 2010. Out of one hundred entries, this one won. When the white cap is taken off and turned upside down, it becomes a cup too! At the same time, the wide opening makes it really easy to clean the Dopper, even without a diswasher (thought the whole bottle is dishwasher safe). What we loved most is that the cup can be regarded as a ‘pedestal’ too, and that’s exactly what we aim to do: Put water on a pedestal. Our goal from the start was to make people save money by choosing to reuse and full up their bottles rather than spend 2 or 3 dollars each time buying a new singe-use plastic one,. What they do spend on buying a Dopper, is put towwards clean water access projects in Nepal. We donate 10% of our net proceeds to Dopper Foundation, which is currently based in Baglung working on water well, showers and toilets for 20.000 people and will be finished by 2015.

Dopper_blue

Dopper’s mission is trying to prevent people from buying single use bottles. If you could take any big steps towards banning these, what would they be? And how do you think we could make tap water appealing and the go-to option for people who would otherwise just buy bottled water?

I’d love for great quality tap water to be available in public spaces throughout cities. Before coming out to the US, I spent a few years in the Netherlands fundraising for public tap water stations in busy places in Amsterdam. It’s still a work in progress, but there are tons in the Netherlands now; parks, stations, busy squares, by the side of the road. Dutchies and tourists can simply refill their bottles underneath them and carry on, without having to buy a new water bottle in a store. Saves money, time, and a lot of plastic :). We made a special strap and carabiner hook for the Dopper too, with which you can easily hook your Dopper to your bag, trousers, or just wear it around while keeping your hands free.

Your organization Buy Nothing New- Maand promotes reuse of items we already own. How do you think the sharing economy is changing our consumption habits? 

I see the sharing economy everywhere and it’s so amazing and fun. More things are being lent and rented out, which on the one hand saves people money, on the other makes people money, and especially means we can use fewer depleting resources. That’s the serious side, but the fun is how many cool people you meet through sharing your services and stuff. Buy Nothing New-Maand is merely a push to get people to try it for a month each year in October; do anything but buy brand new things. Nine out of ten come back saying they discovered how much fun sharing, swopping, repairing, making something yourself, buying second hand and re-discovering what you already have is. It gives more peace of mind and leaves much more money you can spend on doing fun things.

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San Francisco, Amsterdam and New York have great biking cultures. What are some other environment friendly features or services that your favorite cities also possess?  

A service that started in Amsterdam and will soon come to New York too is peerby.com. It’s an online platform with which you can lend things from and to people in your neighborhood. Think of a bbq, a tent, a drill; anything you usually only use once or twice per year and thus don’t necessarily have to own or keep at your house at all times. You can share with others for a small fee, or just to help. It’s a hit in the Netherlands and works amazingly well; whenever you go online now, you’ll find someone in your neighborhood that offers what you need within 30 minutes. It’s not only a great way to save money and resources, it also brings people together and makes you get to know your neighbors in a fun way. I used it all the time and it made me super happy. What I love in San Francisco is Lyft, which offers San Franciscans the opportunity to use their own car as a taxi. It’s a super easy app, that finds you the nearest driver within minutes, who’s then recognizable by a giant pink mustache on his or her car. Drivers and customers both rate each other and there’s always a personable touch to the contact you have during the ride. You pay, or officially ‘donate’, via the app so don’t need cash at hand which is safe, and it’s cheaper than a normal cab ride. The same goes for Airbnb, the amazing website on which you can find people renting out their own homes for a day, few days or longer periods of time. A great way to discover a city and usually cheaper than a hotel.

What is the newest green innovation (gadget, app, technology, organization) that you’re excited about right now?

Definitely peerby.com. Stay tuned New York as it’ll be here soon too!

What is the smallest, easiest step that people can take towards creating a more sustainable planet?

Let go of single-use plastic water bottles. Find a reusable water bottle you love, fill it up before you leave the house and re-fill it during the day. You’ll immediately begin to reduce single-use plastic waste and you’ll save a ton of money to spend on a good coffee or something else you like.

Thanks Irene!

Dopper

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