This article is part of a series of interviews with companies supporting the Rock the Green sustainability festival. Follow along here.
Welcome to our series of interviews with companies and organizations that are supporting the upcoming Rock the Green sustainability festival in Milwaukee on Sept. 17. We’re asking companies to talk about their own sustainability stories, as well as to explain why they’re supporting the event — one of the most sustainable festivals around.
This week we chatted with Greg Stromberg, the founder and CEO of Canned Water for Kids, a partner of Rock the Green. Canned Water for Kids is a charity whose goal is to provide clean drinking water for, you guessed it, kids around the world.
TriplePundit: What's your definition of sustainability, and why is it important to you?
Greg Stromberg: We believe it is a value by itself that looks at reducing, respecting, preserving, protecting and replacing all of our natural resources where possible for all future generations. We believe sustainability is a state of mind/attitude that forces us to take actions through thoughtful design and systems thinking. Values drive behavior and behavior drives our actions which should be for the common good of all and not just the few. Ideally that would mean zero consumption which would equal zero waste.
3p: What are the most important sustainability issues your organization deals with?
GS: To ensure that we have more shared knowledge, practice continuous improvement so that our choices and actions of what we consume respects our delicate environment and causes no harm.
We think about how and where we source our water so as to not drain aquifers or sensitive areas. How we clean and purify our water, without creating more waste and without using more energy. We believe in collaborative global community problem solving, potential problem solving, decision making and educational exchanges. We are always striving for zero waste & infinitely recyclable products.
3p: Sustainable thinking is no longer just a "nice to have", it's increasingly seen as a competitive advantage. Tell us how sustainable thinking is helping move you forward?
GS: We use and promote packaging that is infinitely recyclable. We differentiate ourselves because we are thinking long-term instead of short-term. We use the proceeds from the sale of our water to help ensure all children in the world have access to clean safe drinking water. When we package our drinking water, there is almost zero waste from where our contract packager sources the water as it travels very short distances to the filler canning and bottle lines. When you look at today’s infrastructure of pipes that carry drinking water that require added chemicals long distances, there is water loss, waste from the RO process and RO waste contamination. Contaminated water becomes unusable waste and pollutants.
3p: Rock the Green, the concert, is all about going for zero waste. How has your organization reduced waste across your operations? Has it paid off for you financially?
GS: We are a virtual, lean e-charity, and we try to use less of everything which includes all LED lighting. We operate out of a very small in-home office to do our work. We don’t use fuel to drive to work. We use QR Codes and the internet to communicate digitally our purpose and to tell our story. We use very little paper in our advertising and when we do use it is recycled and reused. We rely on word of mouth and all of the digital social networks to promote our work and clean water projects. We only travel when necessary, but rely on the digital networked world to do our sales and marketing.
3p: Surveys show that employees are happier and more productive when they're engaged in a company's sustainability strategies. How do you engage your staff to implement your sustainability plans?
GS: We have zero tolerance for plastic bottles and use infinitely recyclable aluminum cans and bottles. They become new aluminum containers in the same packaging within 60 days. We tell everyone and show them the actual data.
By making it easy to recycle our packaging and banning all plastic bottles where possible, our actions are speaking louder than our words. My children and grandchildren watch everything I do and say. They always ask me questions and challenge me when I don’t practice what I preach.
3p: In a nutshell, how will you be "rocking the green" in the coming five years?
GS: Downsizing everything, solar & wind energy for my home, less consumption of everything which includes less packaging, less electricity, less water, using infinitely recyclable packaging like all aluminum containers. We will disrupt the plastic water bottle marketplace with a new self-sustaining B Corp business model that will have a goal of replacing plastic water bottles with all Aluminum bottles/cans. We will be utilizing a new filtering POD system from Stonehousewater Technologies that obsoletes the RO process to clean water for drinking.
Nick Aster is the founder of TriplePundit. Prior to launching 3p, Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years, and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He also worked for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging. Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.