Jaden Smith won the parental lottery with Hollywood royalty Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. He could be forgiven for indulging in a pampered life, but instead, Jaden is working to help the environment, revitalize a small New York town, and keep you hydrated: He’s a founder of JUST Water.
People seem to really love their bottled water. In the US alone, we buy over 50 million plastic bottles of the stuff each year, which is great for massive companies like Nestle (who may or may not be using common groundwater), but bad for basically everyone on the planet. We only recycle a mere 23 percent of those bottles. Put in dollars, that’s over a billion dollars a year in wasted plastic that goes on to pollute– not to mention the pollution from making the bottles.
JUST Water does things differently: they use a carton for their packaging, instead of a plastic bottle. The JUST Water carton is 54% paper, all of which is sourced from trees under the care of the Forest Stewardship Council that ensures forests are sustainably and responsibly managed. The shoulder and cap of the bottle are made from plant-based plastics instead of fossil fuels like petroleum. The sugarcane used for JUST plastic is an efficient user of water and grows back– unlike those dirty, finite dead dinos we’ve been using. For those of you doing the mental math, that leaves 15% traditional plastic used and 3% aluminum, resulting in a fully recyclable package. All those percentages also add up to a 74% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the carton’s manufacturing compared to your average PET plastic bottle.
Fine, so they’ve got the packaging down, where are they getting the water to fill them, huh? The company took its time to find just the right water source and they landed on Glens Falls, New York, the quintessential small town nestled at the base of the Adirondacks. The once-thriving town was home to a variety of industries, all of which demanded large amounts of water; fortunately, the area is home to 10,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers, and high levels of rain and snow, so that’s never been a problem.
But, like many cities across the US, the industries that kept Glens Falls alive began to move away or change. The population decreased by 25% and buildings began to sit empty, generating no tax revenue. That meant less money for infrastructure projects like fixing the horribly leaky, century-old, cast iron pipes that bring water into town. Here’s the breakdown of the break down: Glens Falls has a reservoir of over 1.7 billion gallons of water, but the city only ever needs around 1.3 billion a year. Thanks to the leaky pipes laid in the 1800s, only 800,000 gallons arrive– the rest is lost and wasted in the five mile trek. Unfortunately, the town hasn’t had the funds to fix it.
JUST Water saw an opportunity to not only source pristine water, but to also invest in a town that needed it. First, JUST worked with scientists and officials to ensure they wouldn’t be a drain on Glens Falls’ water supply– JUST uses a mere 3% of the town’s surplus spring water. On top of that, JUST volunteered to pay more than anyone in town for it– they pay six times the highest rate in town for water. Over the next few years, that’s projected to put a million dollars back into Glens Falls.
They also revitalized a building in town– a Catholic church, in fact– to use as offices and lab testing space. 91% of the money JUST spent to do the massive renovation stayed within two zip codes. They used local businesses and labor to transform the church’s interior and, perhaps more importantly, returned the building to the taxman, generating badly needed revenue for the small town.
JUST exemplifies a new, innovative approach to business. It can be profitable and actually help the people and world around it. Fancy that. Jaden Smith and his many partners at JUST Water still encourage you to drink the good ol’ tap water piped into your house, but if you’re going to grab a bottle of water– make it a JUST decision.