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Archive for the ‘earth pilgrim’ Category

Isn’t this appropriate for ‘the waterguy’ with a time management challenge when it comes to regular blog updates… but less of me and what’s with the blog action water thing?

 ‘Blog Action Day’ (capitals because it’s official) is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year’s topic is water…

Right now, almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water, which equates to one in eight of us. A lack of basic sanitation (water dependent) causes 80% of diseases and kills more people each year than war does. Children are especially vulnerable and as a parent of a child who’s survived dysentery, it’s a most frightening (water borne) illness which we were fortunate to have nursed our child through.

The UN predicts that one tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation. So simple, yet so challenging, particularly where politics gets in the way to restrict those least able from helping themselves…

For my part, water is an environmental issue, a sustainability issue and an issue which deserves a global profile as bloggers of the world theoretically unite in one conversation…

I’m not really into research, but the US, Mexico and China apparently lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. That sounds high to me, but based on this figure, around 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, while more than 80 percent will unlikely ever be recycled.

Which brings me back to where I started out several years ago looking for a better alternative when I realised people won’t stop drinking bottled water just because I think its ecological folly.

I’m pleased, on this particular Blog Action Day, to be able to report how Aquapax is still growing from strength to strength, with a retail listing approaching 500 stores across Europe and with exciting new distribution areas embracing the change we’ve introduced in their own countries.

While it’s frustrating how some UK retailers still won’t talk to us until we can prove with expensive research reports how their particular customers might actually appreciate a more ecologically sensible choice of packaged water, we continue to grow through customer choice exercised within Tesco, Waitrose and Monop (part of Monoprix Group) so this makes three of the largest and most respected retailers in the world.

I’ve updated the ‘where can I buy Aquapax’ listing below with the UK based stores we know about and ask you to please let us know if you’d like to add your local independent retail outlet to this list.

Warm wishes

N

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It’s a challenge to read my optimistic embrace of 22nd April (below) and reconcile it with how the news of the gulf oil slick – which unfolded later that same day – made and continues to make me feel. The wonderful ecological initiatives being undertaken by so many good people are dwarfed by the continuing devastation in the gulf. 

All the recycling in the world is undone by whatever went wrong deep under the sea. We watch as it spews its foul smelling hydrocarbons wreaking havoc on the ecology of the southern United States. I’ve twittered about this and other aspects of life, but resurrecting a full blown blog seemed unattractive to me up to now.

I spoke at the Brighton & Hove Chamber breakfast last Friday and a friend of mine, Gordon Borer, quoted Simon Sinek to me and reinforced something deep within; Gordon stressed to keep telling ‘my why’. To communicate my vision of how AQUAPAX will bring the wider culture change in our consumer society which I so earnestly desire… So as it’s world environment day on Saturday (June 5th) here goes with another creative release… (http://www.youtube.com/brightonchamber ; http://uk.linkedin.com/in/gordonborer ; http://startwithwhy.com/)

My why is driven by the deep feelings I had while watching the tsunami footage back on December 26th 2004 and how helpless I subsequently felt when my plans to ‘lend a hand’ were vetoed within the structure of the corporation that was my then employer.

This led me to work on a disposable portable water container suitable for long term storage, with comprehensive integrity in terms of its function and carbon footprint. This near obsession and my ultimate mission of launching a premium consumer brand called AQUAPAX, evolved into my strategy to swim up-stream when the ‘institutions’ of the world wouldn’t work with our ‘new business’…

I’ve always loved trees and dropping geography for woodwork was one of the first independent decisions I made, which impacted my education in ways I was then too young to grasp. Working with sustainable forest sources as a renewable material was the only true way I could think of to ensure the future of the worlds great forests. Look closely at the front of an AQUAPAX – you will see this clearly.

I deliberately chose to carbon balance our business energy emmissions because I knew the well meaning green brigade would otherwise leap upon AQUAPAX source being a few hundred kilometres further away than was optimal. Choosing the particular source we did – one of the purest natural mineral waters on the planet – is because I know too much about inferior quality water and was not prepared to develop a product without integrity. (a pure thirst for the environment ®)

We’ve continued to thrive through a deep recession we didn’t budget for because people are getting our message and I feel so grateful that our growing distribution now embraces a tribe of human connections in 4 countries with some major well respected retail alliances already on board our revolution…

Since my last blog on earth day: –

  • We sponsored the Estethica Press Day – held at Clarence House.
  • We sponsored the first ever exhibition of Palestinian Art – held at Kenny Shatners Rove Gallery in Hoxton Square. (We embrace art & not politics!)
  • We sponsored the regeneration project at the Rag Factory off Brick Lane, masterminded by a brilliant young photography student Charlotte Streeter.
  • We’ve agreed an exciting sponsorship with Creative Director Chris Kelly and his iconic fashion label ‘Theatre De La Mode’ for their upcoming film premier fashion show in Knightsbridge.
  • We sponsored the (non-alcoholic) refreshment in the VIP arena at the Antibes Boat Show.
  • We’ve also agreed an ongoing high profile sponsorship with the world famous FIAC in Paris through to 2012.

‘There’s revolution in the air’ – as Bob Dylan sang all those years ago… watch this space as AQUAPAX (the eco-chic conscience of the bottled water industry) gathers increasing pace over this summer and the seasons which follow, or ping me directly with your postcode if you’d like to know where your nearest current stockist is…
I’ll write again soon – I promise.  😉

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Earth Day is celebrated across the world today (April 22nd) ever since the first ever designated Earth Week gathering which was organised by some particularly forward thinking student folk in Philadelphia back in 1970. Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful? 😉

That particular week started on April 16 and ended on what they called Earth Day, namely April 22. This day has been and continues to be observed with growing global support, up to the point where it’s now recognised in virtually every country on Earth.

As one who didn’t previously make any effort to understand the history of the occasion, it’s always been a day to make an extra effort to reduce my consumption. I cycle or walk to work if at all possible and in my own little way, I try to use whatever influence I have on those around me as an example of ‘living the other way – at least for a day’.

I had a day-dream today – or might it have been a premonition – that one day AQUAPAX will become the global sponsor for Earth Day. In the day-dream there was an inevitable incongruity for a premium eco-chic portable water brand to sponsor something that’s bigger than any brand (there’s a challenge for the guys at Coke) but that led me to ponder a solution…

Instead of going for the corporate style global sponsorship, I decided we can still achieve the token ideal by asking all our regular consumers to use their empty AQUAPAX containers for one more day during Earth Week (proving that by and large, we can almost always make do with what we typically choose to throw away) and then to cut the containers in half and plant a couple of tree seeds in the 2 half containers that leaves them. It’s a fitting way for a container mostly made of wood to end its life and it’s still recycling in a more direct action Earth Day kind of way… Mrs. Green will be proud of me…

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I went to the eThursday event at the Corn Exchange in Brighton yesterday evening where Dr. Alex Krotoski (aka the high priestess of social media) revealed herself as a genuine guru in her field.

She is one seriously nice person with a charming and disarming honesty that you can’t help smile at. She spoke generously about her background influences as well as all the tech stuff people were expecting and answered all the questions thrown at her with a considered and full explanation.

I’m pleased to know that I’m not the only one who believes facebook is on its way out and that a real friend is someone you talk to instead of ‘throwing sheep’ at – it’s apparently a facebook thing which I wouldn’t bother with if you haven’t heard of it…

She didn’t necessarily explain why social media has taken off the way it has; no-one asked that question specifically, yet still I wonder…

Social media is a term I didn’t grow up with. There again, we hadn’t ever heard of bottled water or mobile phones in those days (even the new fangled cordless phone versions were pretty chunky) and computers were something banks used instead of calculators… note to self – stop rambling Neil.

But I do remember that when we walked anywhere or went on holiday as a family, my parents would acknowledge neighbours or strangers with a polite greeting and encourage us kids to do the same – not quite as clichéd as in ‘The Truman Show’ but there were definite human acknowledgements and interactions with passing strangers.

I genuinely believe the passing of one of the age old customs of ‘tipping one’s hat’ to a stranger is in some way part of the reason why social media has become so popular today. I believe we all need interaction with our fellow man and that by and large we’re not ‘getting it’ in our daily lives. Talking to strangers on a train or bus puts me into a very small minority category of the populace – hence many of us sign-up to blog or twitter and worse to ‘follow’ strangers; somehow connecting with them and commenting on their musings, without ever meeting.

I do know that ‘harnessing’ (a word that used to have an association with a horse) social media is important for any challenger brand like mine. I do so want to embrace (even hug) the wonderful people who demonstrate their individuality every day by buying AQUAPAX, but it’s sometimes very challenging to find the time to ‘blog’ at the end of a full shift. Keeping up with ‘doing social media’ has become something of a chore for me, rather than the creative release that it started out as. I’m more of a people person than a pc person.

I confess I’m a user and fan of twitter – as the hopefully not too outrageous 140 character musings on the right will testify, and I wonder whether the longer term trend and an increasing workload will move me away from blogging to more cryptic tweets as a way of saying hi… The fact is that I want to tweet a lot more than I do, but I don’t. This is strangely out of a respect for those people who are following me, a lot of whom I’ve never met, who probably don’t want to know every time I have a cup of coffee or what my personal political jaundice is.

My favourite moment of last night was when Dr Aleks (she likes being called ‘Dr’) made the following random (and clearly heartfelt) statement as the microphone was moving around the room: – “man I’m loving this AQUAPAX water – isn’t this great branding?”

I told you she was nice with her self proclaimed ‘funny accent’ she pronounced it in an odd way, but she certainly made my evening with her human connection to ‘my baby’.

Have a wonderful weekend whatever your doing; whoever you are… 😉

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It’s less common than you think – I was reading this piece put out by ACE UK on sustainable material awareness and it highlights to me the non-contiguous government policy and plainly evident absence of common sense regarding making any impact on climate change. Should we be surprised from a bunch of bureaucrats who needed the independent media to point out how to fill in an expenses claim form?

From my own efforts I know central government will not engage with us on their blanket VAT rates for retail products. These don’t discriminate between the carbon sensitive and carbon intensive (aka AQUAPAX carton vs any other bottled water). They are really good at passing enquiries between various departments and the reason there can’t be any change is always “something beyond control”.  Their whole thinking process appears to be driven by what a particular rule says, irrespective of whether it makes any sense or not, nor its intended application. – I wasn’t going to use the expenses scandal as an example again, but now you mention it… 😉

I’ve written to my MP’s (the one representing the community I live in and the one in the community I work in) and finally got an off-piste response from one (ignored by the other) clarifying how important the issue is and effectively underlining how they champion recycling initiatives which focus on recycling carbon intensive products / technologies; quietly ignoring more sustainable materials which I’d asked about. There was also a hair brained paragraph about potentially rewarding recycling with M&S vouchers!

I’ve previously blogged on the politics of recycling and said it all before – whichever way you look at it the government’s recycling policies don’t make a great deal of sense…

Does make me wonder why we tolerate incompetence in government and why someone hasn’t come up with a better way of staying in touch with the zeitgeist. Message to DC – call me if you’d like some truly innovative thinking when you and your buddies start looking at this mess and wondering how to clean it up.

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I spoke with my good friend Robert yesterday evening – you know when you meet someone who you just click with – that’s him! We met in Dubai last year for the Arab Beverage Industry Seminar, where AQUAPAX won the ‘Best Bottled Water of the Year’. He and I celebrated appropriately as old friends might, despite having only known one another a few days – we’ve kept in touch ever since; as friends do!

Robert was telling me how Mr. Obama’s ‘change and hope’ campaign message has translated in his home state of Michigan to the fact that ‘change’ has now come and people ‘hope’ they can keep hold of their homes… It seems the unemployment in his home state is pretty severe and I really feel for him and his young family.

That got me thinking – as this time of year often does, on some of the wisdom gained during the past 12 months. It’s good to reflect and hopefully not make so many mistakes next year…

  • My conscience doesn’t abide by ‘majority rule’.
  • A wise man holds his tongue when he’s right because even fools are right sometimes.
  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted and no man is as poor as a man unable to give anything.
  • Take time to think – my mind grows rich from what it receives, but my heart from what it gives.
  • Finish every day and be done with it – being happy at home is my ultimate goal. Worry won’t rob tomorrow’s sorrow but it will sap today’s joy.
  • Perseverance is not a long race; it’s a series of short races in succession.
  • I can’t win if I don’t begin – failure is often the line of least persistence.
  • I will not dwell on where I fell but will identify where I slipped.
  • I will do more of the things I think I can’t do; doing the impossible is fun – especially when you watch other’s reactions!
  • Money does not really change people – it merely unmasks them.
  • Words are like stones and can’t be recalled – unlike stones they often have little substance…

Finally, a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I hold dear: – “Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes” 

Happy New Year to you dear reader, remember, AQUAPAX are the future… 🙂

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Opportunities I mean – you wait forever for the one you want and then 2 come along at the same time… it’s certainly been like that lately, hence my absence from writing.

We partnered with Estethica for their press day at the London May Fair hotel on 11th November. Estethica is officially the British Fashion Council’s eco sustainable initiative and it’s now in its seventh season. During that time it’s evolved to become the epicentre (and the collective conscience) for London’s ethical fashion industry and it was an honour that they asked AQUAPAX (the conscience of the bottled water industry) to partner with them for this prestigious and premium quality event.

The day was a tremendous success showing there’s no need to compromise on design or style while remaining true to one’s personal and professional ethics. Despite some seriously ‘off-piste’ questioning at the start of the open press session, everyone agreed it was sensible for Estethica to maintain a separate stance to the core BFC press day, where they otherwise risk being marginalised by the big name classics.

I even managed to meet my son for a ‘pie and mash’ dinner near London Bridge later in the evening, which is something we haven’t done for a long time.

As if that wasn’t enough activity for one day, I’d started the day in Lewes (East Sussex), where the students at Sussex Down College were presenting the output of their Digital Media ‘motion graphics’ module. These incredibly talented individuals used AQUAPAX as their challenger brand to support with a series of viral ads, created to spread the word of our more sustainable mineral water against the corporate communications might of ‘the big boys’. At this point I’d very much like to publicly thank both the students and their tutors, particularly Sue Bamford and their professional animation tutor Sarah Bird – her work is awesome if you have the time…

The videos are now posted on you tube and if you search for AQUAPAX, you’ll see there’s quite a quirky collection gathering… (or click & follow this link) They range from seriously professional to… well, make up your own mind. Some students got a little close to simply condemning plastic bottles as opposed to actually promoting AQUAPAX, but as the group were kind enough to do this work for my brand, I wasn’t going to try and influence or control their output.
As a brand owner, this loss of control to a group of students could be perceived a brave (or foolish) decision, but I believe a brand exists in an open form, to be embraced (or not) and ultimately shaped by its consumers. How else would our brand have ended up within a ‘monty python’ style wacky but imminently watchable video?

Sure advertising can try to control consumer perception of a brand, but as a marketer, I’m conscious that brand interaction becomes more intimate once the ‘buy’ decision has been made; during the consumption phase or post purchase remorse as we were taught when I was a student.

Appreciating this isn’t a normal experience with a consumable like bottled water, it’s the iconic AQUAPAX design – thanks again SunHouse – which helps us build an emotional connectivity with our customers. As the retail price points for AQUAPAX and the plethora of plastic bottled stuff are broadly the same, our design led brand image has become our real brand attribute.

Anyone who’s read my blog (or tried our water) knows our product quality is superior but providing it can at least live up to and reinforce initial consumer perception of our brand promise (which it absolutely does) I believe that’s a more important brand attribute than me trying to tell consumers what their brand perception should be. Perception is reality as my friend Chris used to say.

Our French distributors have a slightly different perspective to my ‘let it be’ approach and you can see their incredibly professional animated video film in the same ‘you tube’ space if you type in our brand name, or follow my tweet link on the right. I respect the wonderfully collaborative creative work from Drinkyz and their partners at Scorpio Music and love both the funky imagery and the music itself; yet at the same time, there’s a shorter video from a Sussex Downs student called David Rosser which absolutely nails brand AQUAPAX in just 15 seconds!

Speaking of busses (I was in the beginning) I’m off to see Vegan Routes tomorrow in Brewer St. Soho, where AQUAPAX is the beverage of choice in their fine new vegan restaurant on board a renovated and quality converted 1967 Routemaster bus… Maybe we can meet there for lunch one day 🙂

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