The following article discusses a company called Waiakea, an environmentally-conscious bottled water company. If the mystical-sounding process by which their water is produced doesn’t make you want to try a bottle, perhaps their above-and-beyond charitable contributions to the world’s water problems will. The continued success of this company might be proof that idealism can still birth grand, impactful results, and that the line between social and environmental awareness needn’t be abandoned in favor of good business.
Who, or What, is Waiakea?
Waiakea water is a Hawaiian company founded in 2012 that produces bottled water through unique, sustainable processes that emphasize positive effect on the world and its people. The company’s founder, Ryan Emmons, was inspired by the culture of Hawaii itself, as he spent winters and summers there in his youth, where the incumbent values focus on the land and the people rather than just accumulating wealth. His family’s access to the Mauna Loa volcano, from which the volcanic water is derived, granted Emmons the inspiration he needed to create an ethical and healthy alternative to a crowded industry.
Along with their eco-friendly and socially conscious foundation, Waiakea goes deeper into the spirit of positivity by contributing to a number of charitable efforts. Through their partnership with Pump Aid, for example, Waiakea donates 650 liters of clean water to places in need for every single liter they sell. The company has donated several hundred million gallons of water to date, with initiatives and the capability to continue these efforts without limit. Waiakea subscribes to the Hawaiian tenant “Malama i ka ‘Aina,” which translates roughly into “care for the land,” which can be seen in all their activities, from production to packaging to charities.
Triple Bottom Line
Triple bottom line, or TBL, is a business philosophy where an organization considers its social and environmental impact along with its financial growth. Many companies will promote social and ecological awareness as a means to foster a more favorable public image, while they only care about the profit versus loss bottom line behind closed doors. Adapting and publicly declaring this accounting framework means that the company will be forthright in their practices regarding how they impact the people (social) and whether their practices are using sustainable means that avoid damaging the Earth (environmental). Unlike many modern companies that adapt this philosophy after the fact—either because of social pressure or internal realization—Waiakea was founded with these principles as part of its mission statement.
The Waiakea brand is built on sustainability. More than just a generic concept that is stamped on advertisements, the idea of sustainability seems to purvey every part of Waiakea’s operations. According to the company founder, the production volcanic water consumes only a fraction of the water produced naturally at Mauna Loa aquifers. In a 2015 “ask me anything” on Reddit, Emmons stated that his sites have a potential yield of 740 million gallons per day. In perspective, the entire United States of America consumes just over 2 million gallons of bottled water daily. Waiakea’s aquifer sources have a recharge rate of one and a half billion gallons, meaning the amount of water they extract daily to sell and donate globally is less than 1% of the water that is available.
Their efforts to maintain a sustainable, environmentally friendly business model extends beyond the water itself. They have coupled sustainable practices of their water production with efforts to limit emissions and lower their carbon footprint wherever possible. The sale of bottled water carries with it inherent questions about the possibility of environmental friendliness—after all, any company that distributes plastic packaging on an international scale can be seen as a villain in the eyes of those who combat non-biodegradable waste. Waiakea seeks to offset these concerns by using bottles that are made from completely recycled polyethylene terephthalate, a material that uses much less energy to create. They’ve also taken measures to reduce carbon emissions, so much that they are the first bottle drink company of any kind to be certified CarbonNeutral. CarbonNeutral is a certification granted by Natural Capital Partners that awards companies for the use of renewable energy practices and striving to minimize emissions. Essentially, Waiakea can at least lay claim to being the world’s most “green” producer of bottled water without reservations, as they’ve won countless awards that will back this claim.
What is Volcanic Water?
Waiakea’s volcanic water is their flagship bottled water product. The water is produced with a distinctive, natural filtration process that passes through the top of Mauna Loa, the world’s most active volcano. It is sourced by rainwater (or snow), as well as moisture from arctic winds. The filtration process is extensive; the abundant liquid from various natural sources pass through Mauna Loa’s volcanic rock in the form of pristine mountain streams until they reach Waiakea’s aquifers. The mountain peak’s remote location is the contributing factor to the purity of its most abundant natural resource. The water comes from a place that is remote—nearly half the size of the U.S. away from the nearest possible source of pollution—so nothing in the ground or air is present to contaminate it with unnatural additives.
Their journey is perhaps the most interesting part of the company’s water since it is likely impossible to duplicate anywhere else naturally. As the water travels its fourteen-kilometer course to the bottom of the enormous rock, it undergoes a unique form of natural purification that removes most of the acid inherent in most any other bottled water products, making it truly alkaline, meaning devoid or mostly devoid of acid. Many companies produce water that they claim is alkaline, and many are, but the removal of acid for these companies is rarely natural. Rather, they use a process called ionization that emulates the insertion of alkaline minerals which occur atop Mauna Loa without machines. The difference between natural and artificial alkaline minerals might be a bit scientific for the average consumer, but it is essentially the same comparison between consuming foods made with natural ingredients to those with artificial ingredients. You can quench your thirst and feel refreshed consuming this type of water, but there is really no substitute for the real thing.