We all know the importance of water. Without water, life would cease to exist. However, we often do not give much thought to the vehicle through which we consume our water. Unfortunately, there are some pretty staggering, negative statistics regarding our plastic water bottle consumption. For example, to create the number of plastic water bottles that Americans use to consume water, we use over 17 million barrels of oil annually. This is not including the oil and fuel used to transport that high volume of bottles. Additionally, Americans alone used over 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, but only recycled 23 percent of those, meaning we waste over 1 billion dollars in plastic each year. Lastly, each one of those water bottles that we do not recycle will take over 700 years to decompose. This means that roughly 38 billion plastic water bottles will sit decomposing in US landfills for the next 700 years. Clearly, are plastic water bottle consumption undermines the recycling and green initiatives that are slowly becoming more and more prevalent.
However, Rodrigo Gonzalez and the people at Skipping Rocks Lab in London have grown tired of sitting on the sidelines and watching the Earth slowly accumulate piles of plastic waste. To combat this problem, they invented the Ooho! The Ooho first came onto the beverage scene in 2013 and has changed people’s perceptions on how they can consume water on the go. The Ooho is an “inexpensive, biodegradable water bottle…and is created by taking a frozen ball of water, then covering it in layers of membrane made from a seaweed extract”. This double membranous layer “creates a gel around the water [and] ensures the inside remains hygienically safe”. Additionally, this layer is edible allowing for individuals to, in essence, eat their water. The video below demonstrates more clearly how the Ooho water system works.
As mentioned previously, the creative mind behind this revolutionary, beverage consumption method is Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez. Gonzalez is by trade an architect and exhibits a strong passion to end the plastic water bottle epidemic. Initially, this combination of architecture and environmental passion led Gonzalez to numerous cities across Europe where he would collect used, plastic water bottles which he would use to construct structures made from the recycled bottles. By doing this, Gonzalez hoped to increase awareness about humans over consumption of plastic water bottles and to encourage individuals to engage in recycling practices. However, this was not enough for Gonzalez. Ultimately, Gonzalez wanted to find the root of the problem and develop a way which would revolutionize the way people consumed water on the go, thus eliminating the need for plastic water bottles entirely.
Eventually, this solution resulted in the Ooho. After initially constructing a rudimentary Ooho in his own kitchen, Gonzalez posted his videos online and encouraged others to try to replicate and improve upon his initial design. Shortly after this rudimentary creation and incorporation of public feedback, Gonzalez received initial funding and a collaborative agreement from the Royal College in London in order to further develop the Ooho. Currently, Gonzalez works with roughly 160 students, primarily focused in industrial engineering and chemistry, in order to perfect this membrane technology. Although there are many challenges to this technology, such as ways to transports these membranous fluids, Gonzalez ultimately hopes that this membrane technology will replace the need for plastic water bottles.
As we have discussed in class, motivation plays a major role in the creative process. I personally believe that Gonzalez’s motivation is entirely intrinsic. Gonzalez does not appear to be looking for fame and glory, but rather, is entirely motivated by eliminating the plastic waste from water bottles. Additionally, I believe that his intrinsic motivation coincides with his strong emphasis on collaboration. Throughout his entire product development life cycle, Gonzalez has effectively leveraged his own strengths and passions, but is not afraid to seek help in the technical areas he lacks. Gonzalez has realized that collaboration with others will ultimately allow him to solve the plastic water bottle epidemic faster.
Gonzalez has also demonstrated a great understanding of the root problem at hand. By moving past the issue of recycling plastic water bottles, Gonzalez was able to make an entirely new discovery and not simply re-invent the wheel. I believe his ability to delve deep and find an innovate solution, stems from his lack of a traditional scientific background. By having a lack of domain knowledge in the field of industrial engineering and chemistry, Gonzalez was not constrained by the domain problem solving norms. He was able to examine the problem with an unconstrained view and develop and entirely new solution.
As Gonzalez continues to develop his membranous technology it will be exciting to see all the applications that it can be used for in the future. This technology has the ability to potentially disrupt the entire plastic bottle industry changing the way plastic goods, such as shampoo, are bottled in the future. However, for now I simply wonder at what point the phrase, “eating water”, potentially becomes the new norm.