SANTA BARBARA, CALIF.—The founders of The KOPU Water Co.—Justin and Mindy Mahy—are taking a different path, a circular one if you will, to the business of providing a high-quality water to the luxury/upscale end of the hotel market. Their water, available as spring water or sparkling water, is sourced from an artesian spring thousands of feet below the dormant volcanoes of Oregon’s Cascade Range. The water is naturally alkaline at 8.0 pH and is filled with minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It also includes silica, known for its hair, nail and skin enhancing properties.
Available in resealable, recyclable aluminum bottles, KOPU Water comes with more than just the water and the bottle. The KOPU Water Co. has developed a bottle takeback program that greatly increases the likelihood that the bottle will indeed be recycled. KOPU Water supplies it customers with recycling containers. When a delivery of new KOPU Water is made, the driver picks up the used aluminum KOPU Water bottles, in addition to any other aluminum cans the hotel wishes to recycle. Those bottles and cans are then taken to a scrapyard for recycling.
According to KOPU Water, on average, 60 days after a KOPU Water bottle is deposited within a recycling station the aluminum is recycled and reformed into a range of different uses including electric car chassis, aircraft frames, beverage cans as well as new KOPU Water bottles. Hotels or resorts participating in the KOPU Water recycling program receive a quarterly report comparing the number of cases delivered with the number recycled—valuable information to add to a sustainability report or to use in sales efforts.
“A lot of our clients, especially on the east coast, had no ability to recycle,” says Justin Mahy. “Our program has proven to be very attractive to all our customers. Our vehicles are already arriving full. There is an opportunity to leave full. The recycling service is free. We are doing this in some very remote areas.”
Training Comes with Its Purchase
When beginning to work with a client, KOPU Water provides as many training sessions as needed. The source of the water is emphasized, a tasting is conducted, and the stewardship program is explained. “The servers know the bottles will be recycled,” Mahy says.
While KOPU Water is currently drawn from a spring in Oregon, the company’s goal is to localize the source of water as much as possible to reduce its carbon footprint. “We are currently looking at water sources throughout the Southeast,” Mahy says. “We don’t believe in transporting water across country or around the world.”
KOPU Water primarily replaces glass bottles. KOPU Water bottles are 85 percent recycled aluminum. “Melting down aluminum cans into useable aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy consumed versus processing aluminum from bauxite, the mineral containing aluminum in the Earth’s crust,” Mahy says, adding that one customer switched from European glass bottles and eliminated 54 tons of glass bottle waste in a year.” Only 10 states recycle glass, but all have businesses that accept aluminum.
On its website, KOPU Water explains the upside to using aluminum. “Seventy-five percent of all aluminum that has ever been created is still in use today,” the company says. “Further, aluminum generates up to 70 percent of municipal recycling revenues—funding the recycling of plastic, glass, and paper.” Aluminum bottles weigh 80 percent less than equivalent-sized glass bottles and this results in proportionately less greenhouse gas emissions during product transportation.
Adds KOPU Water, “Seventy-five percent of all glass packaging ends up in landfills. Seventy-nine percent of all plastic packaging ends up in landfills. Fifty-two percent of all aluminum packaging ends up in landfills.”
Based on scrap value, there really is no comparison to aluminum which fetches about $1,200 per ton. The cost of recycling plastic is greater than its value and with glass you must pay someone to take it and it is accepted for recycling in just 10 states.
The Brand’s Story
The idea for KOPU Water was first hatched when Mahy moved to the U.S. 24 years ago. “I am from New Zealand,” he says. “In restaurants there you receive local water. I wondered why there was not something similar available in the U.S. It was always something I wanted to do something about. My wife, Mindy, is a sustainability advocate. It took us two years to formulate the product. It was launched in 2017 in Santa Barbara, California. It took four years to build our business there.”
Today, KOPU Water, the official luxury water of Forbes Travel Guide, is in close to 50 hotels and hundreds of restaurants. The company, with customers currently concentrated in Florida, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington, is in the process of national expansion. “We can service any hotel or resort,” Mahy says.
“It is important for hospitality to be doing the right things,” he adds. “We can have such a big impact on hospitality.”
Be sure to also check out Just Water, which offer various sparkling water options in aluminum bottles, as well as Open Water and Mananalu. Open Water and Mananalu are both Climate Neutral certified water brands and Mananalu removes the equivalent of one plastic bottle from ocean-going waste each time one of its aluminum bottles is purchased.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.