Aspen company says its bottled water an environmentally sound alternative
July 20, 2011
ASPEN – In recent weeks, the city of Aspen has urged locals and visitors to wean themselves off of commercially sold bottled water and switch to the municipal variety, which is being marketed on the city’s website, three filling stations at local parks and on reusable containers as “Aspen Tap.”
Plastic bottles are environmentally unfriendly, many city employees and officials behind the initiative contend. A great majority of recyclable bottles don’t get recycled, Aspen Tap proponents say, and end up in landfills or tossed aside as litter.
And bottled water uses large amounts of energy to package and ship. According to the city’s Environmental Health Department, the energy costs of the life cycle of a bottle of water can be visualized by filling up a quarter of a 12-ounce bottle with oil.
But a local entrepreneur believes he has found a way to link bottled-water use with environmental consciousness.
Paul Kurkulis is founder and president of Las Oleadas, a new Aspen-based company that’s distributing a water beverage called Oleada locally and in three other states. Though it’s sold in a plastic bottle, Kurkulis said the container is fully made from recyclable materials.
And it’s recyclable as well.
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“I’m all for the Aspen Tap. I understand what people have against plastic bottles,” said Kurkulis. “However, if people so choose to look for bottled water, then they are welcome to look for one that addresses some environmental issues like mine does. There is nothing virgin about the bottle; there are no new materials used to make it.”
In Aspen, Kurkulis is relying on an environmentally sound method of delivering cases of water: a two-wheeled cart harnessed to his bicycle. In the Roaring Fork Valley, he’s moving about 100 cases per week, using his vehicle to reach midvalley customers. His California, Nevada and Arizona customers get their deliveries through a traditional trucking distributor.
Another aspect of his business that separates him from the pack is a focus on the Hispanic market. Roughly translated from Spanish, Las Oleadas means “the momentum behind a wave,” he said, and the information on the bottles is written in English and Spanish.
“There are a lot of colas and beverages with sugars and artificial flavors marketed to that demographic,” he said. “I thought, who’s speaking to the Hispanics in their language with a good quality product. I couldn’t find one marketed in their own language that’s made in the USA in an environmentally friendly fashion.”
Kurkulis said within weeks of starting to sell the product earlier this year, he noticed it was catching on with non-Hispanic consumers as well. “I’m happy with the receptivity of the flavor of the beverage,” he said.
Like Aspen Tap, Oleada comes from a municipal source – the system in Los Angeles. But it goes through a seven-stage filtration process, then has minerals added to it, before it’s bottled and shipped.
“I wouldn’t mind using natural spring water but that would cause us to create an extra step,” Kurkulis said. “We would have to go out to a natural spring, source it and truck it back to our facility. And you couldn’t serve it pure, you’d have to treat it in some way. To lower our carbon footprint, we just went straight to the source.”
Everything about the water, the bottle and the label is produced under one roof, in a single California building, he said, further cutting back on the environmental impacts.
Oleada is not designed for high-volume sales. Kurkulis said he’s targeting a variety of sellers, including cafes, restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, movie theaters, specialty retailers and the like. “You’re not going to find our water in Costco selling for $3 a case. But nor are we going to be at the highest end either,” he said.
Kurkulis said his website is still under construction. But through it, he’s planning to tout the environmental benefits of using his product. He said he understands that some people might not appreciate the eco-friendly aspects of his business, since a majority of consumers might not recycle his bottles either.
“People have their issues with bottled water,” he said. “However, if you so choose to look for bottled water, then you’re welcome to look for one that perhaps might address some environmental issues like mine does. I’m 50 percent of the solution, because when they drink mine, I didn’t take anything new out of the system. There’s nothing virgin in my material.”