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Environment

Quench wants you to re-fill your water bottle

Posted by Tim / August 28, 2012

Quench TorontoThey're everywhere - those blue window decals that suddenly popped up at stores, restaurants and cafes earlier this summer. But what is Quench and who is behind it? I recently connected with Tyler Miffin, the director and co-host of an award-winning TVO documentary series called The Water Brothers who filled me in on these very questions.

As it turns out, Miffin and his brother are the masterminds behind Quench - an app that has been downloaded thousands of times and is now available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones. The basic idea of the app is to help people find the closest place around them where they can get a free drink of water, or a place that will refill their reusable water bottles for free.

To date, there are more than 1200 refill stations around Toronto that will fill peoples water bottles for free, and there are plans to expand the program (and app) to other cities.

What's the connection between Quench and the Water Brothers TV show? What came first?

Quench is an app we created in conjunction with an episode of the TV series my brother and I created and host called The Water Brothers, which is an eco-adventure doc. series on water related environmental issues both here in Canada and around the world. So the TV show came first.

In our first season of the show we did an episode called Bottlegate, which we filmed here in the city of Toronto (our hometown). This episode looks at how the bottled water industry here in Canada is regulated, and the impacts this industry is having on our environment, especially with regards to the amount of plastic waste that is created though this odd obsession we have.

But we also looked at how Toronto tap water is regulated, and cleaned. One of the things Alex and I were shocked to learn is that, on average, Torontonians dispose of approx. 1.1 million single use water bottles every day day. Not pop, or juice bottles. Just water bottles, and when you consider that the recycling rate for plastic bottles in Toronto is hovering around 65% that means at least 400,000 of these plastic water bottles are ending up in city landfills every single day.

We thought that it was crazy to create this much waste in a city like Toronto when we have great clean tap water, so we decided to create this app, to try and get people better connected with their tap water, and make drinking tap water as convenient as buying bottled water in hopes of reducing the amount of plastic waste we create. Free App, Free Water. Pretty simple.

I see Quench window decals everywhere in Toronto. Did you go door to door asking restaurants and cafes to agree to post the decal and commit to refilling water bottles?

Funny enough we did. Everyone at our office was tasked with signing up as many business as we could on our free time. If I was out for drinks somewhere or at a shop, I'd bust out this kit I had in my bag, with the window decal and a sign up sheet explaining the program. We also hired a few friends to canvas the city for us, and signed up more businesses.

I think they were much better at it then I was, because we ended up getting over 1200 Refill locations across the city and I think I personally signed up maybe 30. We also worked with the city of Toronto to build into our database all of the public drinking fountains. So you can never be far from free water when you have our app.

Did anyone turn you down?

We definitely got turned down by some stores and businesses. Mostly ones that were selling bottled water. Go figure. But we got so much more enthusiastic responses and we hope to keep signing up new Refill Locations, so if you can think of any, or are a business that wants to sign up please let us know.

What's the incentive for businesses to get with the program?

It's great for businesses because they can potentially get people coming into their store that might not normally do so, and it shows people, you are a socially aware and community minded business.

The great thing about the decals, is you don't have to use the app to find free water. If you're walking down the street and see a business with this decal in the window, you'll know you can go in and get some free water.

What are your future plans for Quench?

We've gotten such a great response from people using the app, and from people wanting the app in other cities that we are planning on spreading to cities across Canada. The great thing about Quench is that businesses can add their locations to the database themselves so it has limitless potential to grow.

Discussion

9 Comments

charalique / August 28, 2012 at 09:30 am
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this is such an awesome idea! great benefits for the businesses, the community, and the environment.
P / August 28, 2012 at 10:09 am
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Really good idea and lots of room to grow. Well done guys. How does this make money though? Advertising and sponsorship?
Jer / August 28, 2012 at 11:06 am
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Great idea indeed. I find that most places will do this if you ask nicely, but, having the sign on the window takes the "stigma" away from those who might find it weird to ask for a re-fill without buying something that particular time, etc.
M / August 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm
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What a simple but amazing idea - well done!!!
This is a great idea. / August 28, 2012 at 01:10 pm
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Bottled water is one of the strangest habits that we in the developed west have. In my opinion it represents the absolute zenith of marketing's victory over common sense. We're lucky enough to live in a place where clean water is widely available for FREE, and yet millions of people routinely pay for it, despite the fact that companies have been caught out in the past simply bottling that free water and selling it. It's mind-boggling how stupid and wasteful it is.
Cliff S / August 28, 2012 at 03:14 pm
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I like the idea, it's great.

A couple of thoughts based on some of the comments, the bottled water choice isn't as simple as tap/fountain vs store bought. In my case I avoid bottle water as much as possible, but I will buy one instead of a juice/pop/vitamin drink/etc when I'm out and about when a reusable container is not convenient (or forgotten).
water, water everywhere / August 28, 2012 at 03:22 pm
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...wait...an app that tells you where you can refill your water bottle? How about everywhere there's a freakin tap.
Jason / August 29, 2012 at 07:17 am
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Isn't this pretty much the same thing?
http://www.bluew.org/

Nancy / October 22, 2013 at 08:58 am
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We are interested in doing something like this in Perth. Would it be possible to use your decals? Any suggestions?
Thanks!

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