Earth911 talks with FreeWater Inc. founder Josh Cliffords, who has a radical idea to make water, juice, and, ultimately, a wide range of products available for free using the same business model as online services like YouTube, using advertising. Josh shares a vision that includes building in a recovery system for packaging, using aluminum cans and hemp cartons made and filled near the customer, and 10 cents of each sale to support building water and sanitation systems around the world. Josh says he “wants to change the experience of giving to charity and giving back to society and make it as simple as drinking a free bottle of water or eating a free slice of pizza.”
Here’s how it will work: The company will provide ad-labeled water to customers — such as auto dealerships, gyms, and retail locations — which may have a cooler full of carton water, for example, that includes advertising with scannable codes. FreeWater earns its revenue from that advertising. You can also order water for delivery to your home. Someday, it could be delivered by Uber-like service people who also pick and process the empties for recycling.
While it is early in the life of FreeWater, we find this one of the most interesting business concepts we’ve heard in a while. Josh envisions local production centers, and explains how McDonald’s could provide ad-supported food and drink, and use reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging. Since advertising supports tracking of packaging, it can also help track flows within the consumer goods market, which would lead to the rapid evolution of efficiencies — today’s economy wastes so much that the savings could deliver immense improvements in sustainability.
Josh estimates that if 10% of Americans choose FreeWater, the 10-cent contributions could provide enough funding to deliver water systems to the approximately 800 million people around the world who don’t have access to clean water and up to 3.6 billion people who experience a month of water shortages each year. It’s a big idea facing many challenges, including the further commercialization and offering many permutations that could be applied in different food and goods markets.
Don’t miss the interview. The FreeWater story will get you thinking. It’s a radical idea that just might work.
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