Swobo’s Message to Nestle: Tap Water Is Tops

Sending a message in a bottle might conjure up all kinds of romantic notions about chance and opportunity, but it’s not a very effective way to communicate with another party. Much more effective is to print a message right smack on a bottle and send it through the US Mail. This greatly improves your chances of being heard.
That’s just what Swobo, a Sausalito, Calif.-based seller of bikes and bike accessories, is hoping you’ll do. Check out this water-bottle-slash-tool-for-social-change. For six bucks, you buy a water bottle for your bike (or for whatever). You probably buy a new bottle every once in a while, any way–after your current vessel springs a leak or looses its top or just gets too gross to drink out of anymore, right?

The idea here is that you’ll use the bottle as long as you care to and then once you’re done with it, you’ll attach appropriate postage to the bottle and drop it in the mail. Conveniently, the bottle is pre-addressed to Nestle Waters North America, seller of many brands of bottled water, including Arrowhead, Poland Spring and Re-Source (sold at Whole Foods, check out this post to learn more about Re-Source).
Why send an old bottle to Nestle? Because Swobo has also printed a snarky little message on the bottle that suggests that selling bottled water is not only a major rip-off to consumers but also a tremendous waste of natural resources.
It’s a pretty brilliant tactic, in my humble opinion. I wonder who makes the bottle itself, which Swobo claims is biodegradable and recyclable and made with recycled content. I’ve never seen another plastic product with all those claims. But that probably goes a long way toward explaining the $6 price tag.
It’s somewhat surprising to see negative reactions to the campaign posted in comments to a story that biking site BikeRadar ran on Friday. One reader accuses Swobo of greenwashing. In my opinion, that’s quite a stretch. But I also think that the life of a water bottle should be pretty darn long – I’ve had most of mine for a number of years – and I’d like to think Nestle would “get the message” a lot sooner than that.
What do you think?

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to www.mcoconnor.com.

5 responses

  1. I think there are much better ways to get this kind of idea across.
    If said re-usable water bottle is actually serving its purpose — which is to prevent excessive consumerism of plastic — then it should be a LONG time before Nestle actually receives the message. I don’t know about you, but I don’t just go out and buy water bottles every few weeks. Why not just send a letter instead? Or better yet, mail a bunch of discarded plastic bottles to them to show them where there product is going.
    Just don’t encourage unnecessary consumption by turning a product into a statement.

  2. I like it. But then, I dislike Nestle (a lot).
    They’re damned good a greenwashing, but their water bottling operations wreak havoc on the small, rural communities they use to source their “spring” water.
    Simply put, they’re a fairly sleazy operation that intentionally divides small communities to get what they want, and exercise their considerable legal firepower when they don’t.
    They’re one of the most-boycotted corporations on the planet for a very good reason.
    I like the Swobo bottle – not because it’s ultimately sent to Nestle – but because it could educate a few folks along the way.

  3. I don’t get it, So every now and then Nestle will get a couple of water bottles in the mail. Plus how long before people start sending them in, a few years? I have water bottles that have been around for a decade. Does anyone think there will be such a huge number of swobo water bottles sent in that Nestle would notice? I don’t. But if Swobo can make some dough selling the $6 water bottles to the hippies, more power to em.

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