There’s an old joke that’s made the rounds for decades: A man goes to the doctor and says, “My brother thinks he’s a chicken.”
“Why don’t you bring him in?” asks the doctor.
The man shrugs and says “I would, but I need the eggs.”
That joke makes an interesting point about the products we use every day. We can’t just give them up without a reasonable substitute.
We’ve discussed it in these pages early on—how the horse was choking cities, in a stranglehold made of manure, before the automobile emerged as an alternative. Now, some believe they are close to solving the problems of the automobile, by substituting shared usage for personal ownership, thus increasing efficiency and reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The jury is still out of course, but it is clear that, until there is a genuine alternative, most of us will still be buying and driving our own cars, generally alone behind the wheel.
Alternatives come into play in plastics, too. San Francisco made an interesting move not long ago when they banned the sale of plastic bottles on city property. It seems bold, certainly, and decisive. But maybe not. After all, this is the city that banned the use of plastic bags altogether. In fact, California followed them with the governor signing a bill to eliminate single-use bags altogether. Cloth and paper bags can fill essentially the entire range of uses that exist for single-use plastic bags, with little alteration of producer, consumer, or marketplace behavior.
Plastic bottles? Well, not so much it seems. Bottles, after all, are filled in any number of ways, with any number of contents—used that minute, or days, weeks, even months from then. You can’t point to cans, since they aren’t re-sealable. Thermos-like bottles from home serve a tiny portion of the perceived need. In short, even San Francisco seems to realize that while they can make a symbolic gesture on city property, the rest of the metropolis seems to need the eggs.
In the absence of a true substitute for plastic products in the marketplace, the problem of plastic will never truly be addressed. That’s what Paper Water Bottle is all about: the creation of disruptive products that change what consumers and producers want. After all, gestures need to be followed by innovation; the market really needs A Refreshing Alternative.