A Better Bottled Water

Wyatt Taubman's company is dispensing fresh water from filtering machines, providing clean and tasty water while at the same time keeping thousands of plastic bottles out of landfills and the natural environment. Nathalie Walker photo

Kaua’i native Wyatt Taubman came up with the concept in college and is now making fresh-water dispensaries a reality while reducing plastic bottle refuse

Wyatt Taubman is saving the planet one plastic water bottle at a time.

The 25-year-old environmental entrepreneur developed the creative concept of Flo Water during his junior year of college in an effort to help reduce the detrimental impact of plastic water bottles.

Born and raised on Kaua’i, Taubman is currently in the process of installing Flo Water stations in as many locations as possible across the island and the state. He hopes the convenience of accessible chilled, filtered water at these stations will encourage more people to refill their reusable bottles as opposed to purchasing disposable ones.

“It’s basically as high a quality or higher than most bottled water companies,” says Taubman regarding the water each station supplies.

Wyatt Taubman. Coco Zickos photo

The water travels through a sediment filter, carbon filter, reverse osmosis membrane, coconut carbon filter and UV light before hitting people’s reusable bottles.

Dispensable in 17, 25 or 34 ounces at the small cost of 25, 35 or 50 cents, the option to refill is also a fraction of the price of a plastic water bottle.

“You save literally hundreds of dollars a year,” says Taubman.

Plus, consumers avoid the potential side effects of drinking water out of a plastic bottle.

Plastic water bottles are created from crude oil, the same thing that’s extracted to produce gasoline.

“So you’re storing your water in what was once crude oil, or petroleum which is concerning in itself,” says Taubman who lives in Kilauea and graduated from Island School in 2004.

Plastic water bottles also add pressure to already overcrowded landfills and take thousands of years to break down.

Island school students make their water machine a popular place. Photo from Wyatt Taubman

“And those are the bottles that actually make it into the landfill,” he says of the approximate 83 percent of all bottles thrown into the trash.

In addition, their debris could end up on beaches or in rivers and the ocean, making it susceptible to consumption by marine wildlife like whales, birds and fish.

The damaging effects of plastic water bottles must be catching on because Flo Water stations are popping up all around the island, including Ching Young Village Shopping Center in Hanalei.

Iolani School on Oahu also recently got on board and has already saved some 900 bottles from entering the landfill.

The University of Hawaii is also jumping on the Flo Water bandwagon and Punahou School might soo follow suit.

Though Taubman’s brainchild is gaining much momentum, bringing his idea to fruition wasn’t exactly easy for the University of San Diego graduate.

It has taken many hours of perseverance.

Almost time for a Flo Water refill. Nathalie Walker photo

During his junior year as an environmental science and Economics major, Taubman developed the idea. But it wasn’t until he moved back to Kaua’i approximately two years ago that he found the first establishment, Island School, to embrace his creation.

“I knew I wanted to start with schools because I could work to educate the students, and they’re already really working on tackling a lot of big environmental issues, and one of them is plastic water bottle pollution,” says Taubman who also conducted environmentally oriented presentations for the students.

Prior to launching the first refill station, Taubman spent many months making connections, researching online, drafting a 42-page business plan and getting in touch with vending machine manufacturers.

Taubman still spends upwards of 14 to 16 hours a day serving as the company’s manager, CEO, founder, accountant, graphic designer, salesman and secretary.

And he has been traveling anywhere and everywhere he needs to in order to make his dream come to life.

“I’ve been sleeping on carpets, floors, couches, futons, whatever for the last year, all over,” he says adding that his “office” has been his computer bag, and no matter where he goes in the country, Starbucks is the one place he can count on for air conditioning, music and a desk.

The sign says it all: bring your own refill bottle. Nathalie Walker photo

“My only overhead was green tea,” he says.

“I’m just a passionate person,” Taubman says of his ambition. “I just want to make the planet a better place and I love all the beauty and all the experiences. And I want people in the future and future generations and my friends’ kids and my kids to be able to continue to experience what I’ve experienced.”

He even forgoes one of his favorite activities, surfing, to further his advancement in the environmental business arena.

“I love being out exploring, surfing and hanging out with friends,” says Taubman. “But really this is the chance for me to do something really, really great. So I see that and I’m willing to commit 100 percent.”

Before creating Flo Water, Taubman also developed an environmental news website for young adults,

Think Green, Live Clean.

The inspiration to do so came after he spent a semester abroad in Australia in 2007.

Island School students won’t go thirsty. Photos from Wyatt Taubman

“I remember seeing all these environmental publications and environmental commercials,” he says of the country. “The environmental awareness had gone mainstream in Australia and it hadn’t quite hit the U.S. yet.”

So Taubman brought it back by starting the website during his junior year of college. About a year ago there were more than 20 contributing writers.

“When you spend that much energy focusing on a concept and a vision, stuff just starts to happen and things start to go your way,” he says. “You end up making connections; you end up meeting the right people. You’ll meet a lot of the wrong people, but you’ll end up meeting a lot of the right people who will come on board and then it starts to grow and attract others.”

The time required to get Flo Water off the ground has diverted Taubman’s attention from the website, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less passionate about saving the planet.

One day, he envisions Flo Water stations across the world.

“So that filling up a reusable water bottle is just as convenient as buying a plastic water bottle,” he says.

North Shore surfers are on board, so to speak, with Flo Water

“It’s really awesome to be able to see people that I grew up with working in different aspects of sustainability all of over the island,” says Ivory McClintock, another young environmental crusader who works for the Blue Planet Foundation. “Wyatt is a perfect example of someone who went away to school and then brought that knowledge back with him to do good on Kaua’i. Our generation is really stepping it up ,and I definitely see a bright future for the island of Kaua’i.”

Being surrounded by the island’s beauty as a child is what gave Taubman a deep appreciation for the earth.

“It kind of instilled in me a desire to make the planet a better place,” says the son of graphic designer Elizabeth Freeman.

Coming back to Kaua’i was a no-brainer for Taubman.

“I just love being back, this is home,” he says.

It’s a home that is becoming more eco-savvy thanks to his diligent efforts.

“All in all, plastic water bottles are a serious problem,” he says. “If you’re not to embrace this concept, I’d have to be concerned. To be able to drink the same quality of water or better water than what’s in bottled water for a fraction of the price without polluting the planet and avoiding plastic leeching is just a winwin-win scenario.”

Visit facebook.com/myflowater for more information.