The idea for “Water for Free” originated three years ago in an effort to reduce environmental damage caused by plastic bottles. With no financial resources, our initial plan was to map out the water fountains and dispensers throughout Hong Kong on Googlemaps and publish it on our website.
Luckily, Nuthon IT Solutions Limited volunteered to develop the iPhone app and WYNG Foundation volunteered to develop the Water for Free Android app. By downloading it, one can easily locate a water fountain or dispenser nearby and drink “water for free” rather than paying for outrageously overpriced bottled water. In turn, this reduces the number of plastic bottles entering our landfills and ocean every day.
Thanks to a growing number of users and their efforts in notifying Water for Free of new water dispenser locations, we have mapped out over 1,000 water dispenser locations on our app. In the past year, a number of fast food chains (including McDonalds, Cafe de Coral, Maxim MX and Yoshinoya) have installed water dispensers at their newly renovated branches. Although their reason for doing so has nothing to do with environmental concerns (patrons use these self-serve water dispenser instead of asking their staff for water, hence lowering labour costs), installing water dispensers at such convenient locations has brought unintentional benefits. It reduces the need for bottled water, as it has become more convenient for people to refill their reusable bottles.
In addition to the unintentional good deed by the fast food industry, recently we have been contacted by independent restaurants, coffee shops and community centres – they welcomed everyone to come to their premises and use their water dispensers for free. We salute their generosity and love for the environment.
In order to step up our efforts to say no to bottled water, we stepped out of the virtual world. On 25 September, we installed three water dispensers in the West Kowloon Culture Zone to provide Water for Free to all participants of the Pink Dot HK event. Thanks to the event organiser’s love and support for the environment, we recorded over 3,000 participants drinking water or refilling water bottles from the three dispensers during the five-hour event. Without these water dispensers, participants would be forced to buy bottled water widely available from the vending machines which are permanently placed in the West Kowloon Zone.
In other words, the presence of our water dispensers there successfully averted 3,000 plus plastic bottles from ending up in landfill or in the ocean. At the same time, we encouraged participants drinking from our water dispensers to download our Water for Free mobile phone app, which can help them locate nearby fountains and dispensers around Hong Kong and make a conscientious effort to abandon the bad habit of buying bottled water.
According to the 2014 Waste Statistics issued by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Hong Kong produces 132 tons of PET plastic waste daily. Each bottle weighs about 25 grams. This means that we throw away over 5 million PET bottles per day. Instead of responsibly addressing the waste issue caused by their products, beverage companies spend huge amounts on advertising designed to convince us to buy ever more products. The fact that their products are filling up our landfills and killing wildlife – birds, fish and sea turtles eat broken pieces of plastic mistaking it for food – is not their problem. It is ours. So we are asking for your help to do your part for the environment: please use a reusable beverage bottles.
To download the app, please click here. Translated and edited by Iris Leung.