‘Ding’ Darling leads island in Just Water movement
There is a new drink in town, and it is helping to save the earth and its creatures.
Seven years ago, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge led the island movement to “kick the bottle.” In 2011, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge made the economically unsound decision to stop selling bottled water in its “Ding” Darling Nature Store.
The decision cost the store thousands in annual revenues. Instead, the store began selling reusable Kick the Bottle containers at cost. The refuge installed a filtered water refill station for filling the containers, and Tarpon Bay Explorers, the refuge’s recreation concessionaire, followed suit.
“It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best one available at the time,” DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller said. “The reusable bottles were still made of plastic, which uses unsustainable and earth-unfriendly petroleum to produce. Plus, they were flimsy and difficult to clean.”
Earlier this year, Miller and her staff discovered Just Water, a start-up business by an eco-conscious group that includes actor Will Smith. Its container consists of 82 percent renewable resources – primarily paperboard sourced from forests where new trees replace those harvested.
The cap and shoulder components are derived from sugarcane, a renewable resource. The materials represent a 47 percent to 74 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission as compared to PET plastic bottles. The sturdy container stands up to repeated use, and its wide mouth makes it easy to clean.
“Already we’ve received calls from various island businesses and organizations interested in carrying Just Water,” Miller said. Among those making the change have been The Sanctuary Health & Wellness Center, CROW, Captiva Cruises, Cast About Charters and Adventures in Paradise.
For the “Ding” Darling store, which sells chilled Just Water for $2 a bottle, the reward also comes in sales proceeds to benefit refuge research and education programs. In sales, the Just Water has proven 2.5 times more popular than the previous green Kick the Bottles.
“Again, it’s not a perfect product, but again, we are at the cutting edge of responsible merchandising,” Miller said. “Plastic is taking over our world with toxic effect on wildlife and humans alike. We are always looking for ways to improve our carbon footprint and are proud to lead by example.”
Thanks to DDWS’ efforts, the refuge eliminated plastic shopping bags in the store and transitioned to compostable plates, cups, and flatware for event use. Plastic straws have also been eliminated.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.