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Why not paper?

Name

Antony Simmons

Idea

Australia's first paper water bottle

Buying plastic is something we’re all victim to - what starts as ducking into the nearest 7-11 every so often, ends with a plastic bottle cemetery in the back of your car. The old plastic water bottle has undergone a number of makeovers over the years: Want water with attitude? Another Bloody Water. Water with a social conscience? ThankYou Water. Water with vitamins? I present to you, Vitamin Water. The idea of the paper water bottle as an environmentally friendly alternative is not completely new. The US, UK and Europe have all introduced paper water bottles. However, down here in Australia we only have plastic as a disposable option. Until now.

Antony was a senior Art Director in an advertising agency when he decided to quit his job and sell his house to pursue his idea of creating Do Water, Australia’s first paper water bottle. With the Do Water bottle coming to stores and cafes any day now, we chat to Antony about the what, where, why and why not of our new eco-friendly option.

How did the idea first come to you?

It was an insight that everyone can relate to I think, the need for an alternative to plastic. Walking around the city today, I was in a food court just watching people and looking at how they order food and the process they go through to get water - they choose the options available to them because its convenient. I had an underlying feeling however, that if given an alternative, people would choose paper over plastic. The task for me is to get the store owners to push paper water bottles and provide the alternative - that’s my biggest challenge at the moment.

I’ve always kept little notebooks. I’ve always liked writing little insights – whether it’s a film, a product or a campaign that I’m working on. I remember flipping through one of the notebooks and seeing, ‘paper water bottle’ written down. That little insight, the question, "why isn’t there an alternative to plastic?" - that little idea became a growing frustration for me. Every time I’d have to go and buy a bottle of water, I’d think, "Why am I having to buy plastic?" I decided to look into it a bit more and find out. An alternative to plastic is such an obvious idea, I wondered why it hadn't been done before? It turns out there were lots of reasons why. It’s hard.

People I’ve spoken to have said, "yeah, people have looked into it before, but because it’s so hard…" and I thought, unreal! For me, the harder it is to realise the project, the better, because it puts other people off doing it themselves.

Is that how the name DO Water came about?

Do? I was just explaining this to someone on the weekend. We used to have this working philosophy in my previous job of "why not?", challenging convention all the time, asking "Why not do it that way?"

People get very stuck in their ways of thinking, and we would challenge them. That ended up becoming the agency philosophy and culture. 'Do' is sort of an extension of that philosophy. Doing things that you believe in, doing things the way you think they should be done. "DO" is really one of the brand messages – if there’s a better way of doing something, do it.

For me, it was wanting to see a better alternative for a water bottle, and doing it. It’s more emotional than a purely functional product. It can be a food, it can be an event, a car. 'Do' can be anything you think should exist.

When you first thought of the paper water bottle did you just go and Google it right away?

Oh yeah, definitely. I was traveling with a friend recently and he had a brainwave – he thought of an idea and that was it, that was what he was going to dedicate his life to. So we went home and Googled it, and there were already like 20 people doing that same project he had thought of in the world. He was a bit crushed.

I didn’t tell anyone about [the paper water bottle], not even my best friends. Only once I was locked in to everything - about eight months into it I started telling people. Only my wife and I and my daughter knew. (Laughs) My daughter’s been going around and telling people – she’s seven years old and she doesn’t really get the necessity for privacy. But she’s been going around and telling everyone. She’s probably told everyone at school.

There’s your marketing sorted.

Yeah, I’ve put her to work! But now’s the time to start telling people, and I’m engaging a PR agency.

I Googled 'paper water bottles' and saw a paper water bottle made in the States that was one-use-only. Yours is reusable?

Yeah, it has a lid. You’d re-use it like a plastic water bottle. It’s from tetra pack – there’s not many manufacturers in the world that can pack water in a pack. Milk cartons don’t retain water.

Where they make our water bottles is essentially a large room that no one ever goes into – they’ve got those gloves on the outside that they work from. Its aseptically sealed so it’s pure. For aseptic packaging of milk and juice it actually gets heated to retain the quality of that product. But for water, you don’t need to do that because it’s pure already.

The packs are made in Italy and bottled in Italy. It all happens on the mountain. This factory is the only one in the world that packs the water at the source. Most other factories in Europe have water shipped in, transported from somewhere else. Do Water comes straight from an Artesian source from the mountain and goes directly into the packs without being exposed to any elements, then straight into the aseptic packaging machine. The paper packs get formed around a pipe that puts the water into the bottle, then it gets sealed, then it gets sent out. The water is certified, microbiologically pure. The beauty of these packs is that you don’t realise how much you’ve been tasting plastic until you drink out of paper - you don’t get that plastic taste.

It’s got lots of really amazing qualities. It rains on the mountain, takes a couple hundred years for the water to drip through the granite. Basically it just allows the water to become rich in minerals, but there’s no sediment or anything. Because it gets bottled at the source the water doesn’t see the light of day until you pour it.

Did you have to learn the science of bottled water after you came up with the idea? Did it take you a while to get your head around everything?

Yeah, completely. I’ve learnt so much from this project. I’ve never even opened an Excel spreadsheet before – it’s never been part of my job. I was a creative in advertising. I think of ideas. I had a note pad.

Do you think you’d branch out to other products?

Ideally, I hope so. But the focus is just on the water at the moment, that’s the unique concept and product and where it all needs to start. I get nervous sometimes I’m going to walk into a shop and someone else has already created the same product, had the same idea. With ideas, there’s the idea ether. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Can you expand on the 'idea ether'?

You have a passionate thought and you get excited about it, and then once you’ve talked about it, it goes into this ether where other creatively minded people tap into it. Once an idea is in someones head, it’s impossible to remove it. There’s a collective consciousness I guess – without being too Buddhist about it – that most creative people, in advertising especially are worried about. You can be working weeks, months or years over creating a solution for something. And you can do it to the best of your abilities. Before you know it, you could see it in an award book or someone’s launched it in Cuba. It’s just one of those things that most creative people have suffered from at some point. I can’t remember who said it but their comment was, "there’s no such thing as an original idea, it all comes from somewhere". An idea just pops into your head – you don’t know where or why or how, but you’re glad that it did.

Interviewed by
Vinisha Mulani

Photography by
Sebastian Avila

Do Water