Star Trek has been entertaining viewers for nearly 50 years now—in fact, it turned 50 this year. It presents a bright and optimistic future, one in which most of mankind’s troubles—poverty, racism, scarcity—have been overcome. Technology is a huge part of that. The food replicator makes whatever you want available at the touch of a button. Travel to distant worlds binds humanity together by its common threads. But no Star Trek technology has proven more captivating than the transporter.

Even if you’re not a fan, you’ve surely heard someone say “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Beam Me Up, Scotty

That command was followed by a shimmering light, and the sudden relocation of some person or object across space or across a planet. It’s a neat idea, and essential to the fast pace of a TV show. But it’s very, very difficult in real life. Saying impossible is a fool’s game; after all, most of us read this with powerful supercomputers in our pockets. But the odds of matter transportation being created in the next thousand years are very low.

All is not lost though. Distance is shrinking by other means. The telegraph did it first. Then the telephone and radio. Television was a huge step. Cell phones, too. Now we see one another live on our smartphones, across town, across the country, around the world. Virtual reality will make the image more complete. Then sensor systems will enable us to actually experience remote reality, live or in replay. You see, we don’t have to actually go there. Soon we will be there in every way that matters without leaving home.

It’s easy to confuse what we want with what we can do. Dreams are powerful motivators, but we would do well to stop and ask ourselves what we’re really aiming for before we invest our time, our energy and our resources. The alchemist who wants to turn lead into gold might spend years searching for the right formula—years that could have been spent earning what the alchemist’s magic could not produce. By the same token the search for the thinnest plastic or the safest packaging seems to ignore what we already know: renewable is better. Nothing sustains like sustainability.

Paper Water Bottle shares the vision of the future possessed by nearly all of us. It’s a future that’s brighter and happier for everyone. And new technology will be a huge part of its foundation. The rules that govern our environment, though, are unlikely to change. Our ability to store trash is governed by simple geometry. If we want a world of plenty for all, we must make the best use of what we have, including using renewable, sustainable materials in new and innovative ways. That’s not science fiction; it’s A Refreshing Alternative.