Are Hydro Flask Water Bottles Sustainable?Jul 27, 2022
Remember the three Rs? Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle - three easy words that make sustainability easily digestible. When I was a kid this was drilled into my head and for a long time, I thought that was all it took to be “sustainable.”
In 2022, we now know there’s a lot more to sustainability than these three magic words. That being said, we’ve seen slow progress in the business sector. Companies are far too comfortable with the old way of approaching sustainability and, as we say here at The Underswell,
“We’re not doing enough, fast enough.”
We don’t suggest abandoning the three R’s, but we certainly need to expand on what sustainability means (and looks like) beyond this old-school definition (and, of course, add a few more Rs, but that’s for another post). The Hydro Flask water bottles do a great job of supporting the reuse part of this trifecta, but we have some questions beyond this.
Derek did an introspective video on this topic which you can find here. Prefer reading? Keep going :)
One of the biggest questions we have is what’s going on in the supply chain? Two of the largest impacts we have to look at - from Tier 4 to Tier 0 - are social and environmental impacts. On the social side of things, we should be asking how the workers are treated, if they’ve been exposed to hazardous chemicals, if they’re being paid a living wage, and the list goes on.
Looking at environmental impacts, we need to know where the materials come from, how they’re processed, how much energy was used to make the product, how is waste managed, and so on and so forth.
Maybe Hydro Flask already knows the ins and outs of their supply chain, but this takes us to traceability’s right-hand man… transparency. It’s great for any brand to have full visibility into their supply network, but this doesn’t help customers if they aren’t given access to that information. If you’ve taken any of Derek’s courses, then you know the saying
“you can’t have transparency without traceability”
There are a number of brands that have already adopted some version of a transparency model. VF, Nudie Jeans, and H&M have done some great work and we would be stoked if Hydro Flask joined the movement.
And sure, those are apparel brands, I get it. But we might argue that it is, in fact, apples to apples. Hydro Flask and H&M are both…making stuff.
So, that’s the supply chain from Tier 4 - Tier 0, but what about once the bottle is in the consumer’s hands? How is Hydro Flask handling the end of life or the waste stage?
End of Life, or EOL, is the last stage in a product’s life. When the user can no longer use the product anymore or if they simply don’t want it, what are they supposed to do with it? Unfortunately, most product either ends up in a landfill or is incinerated, but this doesn’t always have to be the case.
You may be thinking “isn’t Hydro Flask helping to keep plastic out of landfills and reducing plastic pollution?” Yes, Hydro Flask is creating change in our consumption of single-use plastic bottles and it’s awesome that they’ve created a product that people are excited to use, but there’s still more work to be done.
One approach that brands use to limit how much of their product goes to waste is adopting a take-back program (a la MUD Jeans). A customer would be able to send their used water bottle back to the processing center where it would be recycled into a new bottle (or maybe even a new product altogether). This is a concept called EPR - Extended Producer Responsibility - but that too is a topic for another blog post!
This isn’t to say that Hydro Flask is avoiding the conversation of waste. They offer a lifetime warranty and will fix or replace parts of your bottle that are broken, instead of forcing you to buy an entirely new bottle. While this is great (extending your product’s lifetime use is actually one of the more “sustainable” things you can do), we’re still asking Hydro Flask to push further. It’s time to innovate, get creative, and collaborate. Ready to get into the weeds? Let’s talk about materials.
While Hydro Flask lists the materials used, we still have a few things to consider. Processing these materials takes a huge amount of energy and we need to know what type of energy source was used. Do they use renewable energy or fossil fuels throughout the production process? Emissions are another factor to take into consideration, along with the carbon footprint, but we’ll save that conversation for another day.
Chemicals are used across the production process for almost every single product and Hydro Flask bottles are no exception. Are workers being exposed to SVHC (Substances of Very High Concern) and how are the chemicals being managed after they’ve been used?
With any product, we encourage you to ask these questions. The more we ask questions about the products and brands we love, the more aware we become of the issues that may be involved.
We have one last section to cover and this is one of the oldest forms of “sustainability” in the business world - donations aka philanthropy.
Money Can’t Solve Everything:
Hydro Flask is committed to donating money to various charities, which is an amazing initiative, but it still isn’t enough. Organizations (and the uber-wealthy) have been donating money for over a hundred years, but philanthropy is often seen as an alternative to sustainability initiatives when it should be seen as an additive. If brands continue to spend money on charitable giving outside of their supply chains without spending money to clean up their own organizations and products, real change will never be attained.
We encourage Hydro Flask to continue their message of reducing impact and reusing whenever possible, as well as partnering with organizations for charitable giving, but we know they can go so much further.
It would be great to see them develop a sustainability page and continue to expand. Because, like I said, perhaps they have this info available…we just want to see it too. Hydro Flask, if you’re reading this…did we miss it!?
Sustainability initiatives can be challenging to develop and enact, but it’s time to get started. We don’t have time to wait and Hydro Flask has the ability to become a leading voice in the space.
What do you think? What would you like to know about Hydro Flask’s sustainability initiatives? Leave us a comment below or in the LinkedIn Group - we look forward to hearing from you!
#keeplearning #productreview #hydroflask #sustainableliving
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