#LIVEUNFILTERED: Rising Springs' Journey to Sustainability

Rising Springs Source in the Sawtooth National Forest. A sanctuary honoring the water.

#LIVEUNFILTERED: Rising Springs' Journey to Sustainability with our Project Manager, Alex Beavers

There are countless ways Rising Springs is actively conscious in conducting our business: bottling at the source with no processing to honor the value of pure, natural water; protection of natural water globally (our co-founders are former and current board members of multiple Waterkeeper’s Associations); respect of the balance of the spring  (no extraction); our handhewn sourcehouse and organic straw bale plant; our 1% for Water philanthropy; our 100% carbon offsets; and our sustainable packaging.  

The packaging challenge was one my colleague Lena and I took to heart. Our leader and co-founder Grey had told us we could not in good faith choose a package without understanding its impact on the environment.  We did weeks of research on the carbon impact of every container known to the industry for packaging liquids, and the list is long: PET plastic bottles, flexible and rigid plastics, bio and compostable plastics, bag-in-boxes, aluminum cans, glass, pouches, TetraPaks, paper cartons; in sizes from single-serve, multi-serve, to bulk tankers.

Lena and I stood excitedly in front of a PowerPoint screen, eager to present our findings to Rising Springs owners Grey & Nicoya. Lena and I, both with backgrounds in education – she a recent college professor, and I an English teacher abroad come home – had rehearsed this pitch more times than necessary, lesson planning and classroom management still freshly engrained.

With our ideals pinned proudly on our t-shirts (it was casual Friday), we walked the Rising Springs owners through our thorough research. With colorful pie charts and infographics, we highlighted not only the recyclability of each package, but the carbon impact of the manufacturing process used to create and transport the container.

While holding close the concept of minimal impact, we chose our 5 Liter bag-in-box as the most efficient, lowest carbon footprint solution to ship Rising Springs directly to customers. It hits the mark for multi-serve – 21 servings per box – encouraging use of reusable containers. I don’t pretend it’s a perfect package, but from the get-go, the vision for an ideal tomorrow has guided our decision making every day at Rising Springs. We are tirelessly thoughtful of our customers and the environment in every aspect of our packaging & shipping model, including:

  • Using 100% post-consumer recycled paper for the shipper and 5 Liter boxes.
  • Shipping a minimum of 2 boxes (10 Liters) to reduce packaging waste.
  • Internal testing of a more widely recyclable LDPE #4 flexible plastic bag, which despite our hopes, we couldn’t use. The reality was we had to stick with the protective barrier in our current #7 bag to ensure Rising Springs arrived to customers as pure as it came from the Earth.
  • Utilizing only BPA, BPS, & BPF free bags, and continually testing for leaching and phthalates – FYI: zero detected after a year!
  • Creating a program encouraging consumers to close the loop and return empty bags to us for upcycling.
  • Conducting a 3rd party evaluation of the carbon impact of our shipping model, and…
  • Partnering with the Ocean Foundation’s SeaGrass Grow Campaign to offset 100% of the carbon produced by our direct-to-consumer shipping model.

We built Rising Springs on the foundation that we would do everything in our power to honor the source and the environment. I’d like to take a moment to point out that this is not the easy path for a business to take. It is the highest road, but it zigs and zags and people tell you “no, you can’t” or “that’s a great idea, but we don’t do that” many times along the way.  It requires fortitude and commitment.

We think about everything. Take, for example, something as simple as finding cups for event sampling. We started our search with paper cups, in theory the easiest to recycle. We found out that almost all paper cups are lined with plastic, thus rendering them non-recyclable. How about compostable cups? We learned you can’t just bury them in your backyard and let the Earth take care of the rest. They must be processed at an optimum temperature and pressure, and these industrial composting facilities are few and far between. Now, in addition to using the smallest, recyclable cups we can find, for every event we attend, we ask the event coordinator to encourage attendees to bring a reusable bottle to fill.

We are in the process of becoming a fully certified B Corp, which holds us to an extra-high standard of respect for our planet and the people who live here. It is a rigorous, ongoing process, and no easy feat - shout out to all the B Corps out there! We created our ‘1% for Water’ program to donate proceeds to water conservation and advocacy. As a small team of only 7 employees, we wear many hats while attempting to keep levity alive as we juggle pins of promise to grow this business in an honorable way.

I get stoked envisioning the day when we can devote even more attention to making Rising Springs the Captain Planet of the industry. In the future, I imagine an entire Rising Springs Environmental Sustainability Department. From where I stand today, still on the brink of this grand adventure, I am proud of the choices we’ve made and the business we are consciously building together.