The guy behind Ohyo is Guy Jeremiah - an environmental scientist from Sheffield, UK. Guy came up with the idea of a collapsible water bottle in 2008 after witnessing first-hand the environmental damage caused by bottled water.
Guy, tell us a bit about yourself and the journey that led you here?
Ohyo (www.ohyo.me) was born out of necessity. I found myself at St Pancras station with no water fountain in sight, no bottle in my pocket, and no option but to buy a bottle of water. From my background as an environmental consultant I knew the wasted resources that made that bottle of water. It takes a quarter litre of oil and up to 7 litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water. There are enough plastic bottles discarded every year to stretch round the world 1000 times!
Design Museum Movie
What was the big problem you faced that helped you conceive the idea for Ohyo?
I concluded that people are reluctant to carry re-usable bottles because they are too bulky. I invented Ohyo as a handy, collapsible water bottle that’s easy to take anywhere. An extended Ohyo holds 500ml, or 1000ml for the larger version. When empty an Ohyo will compressdown to fit in a pocket. Using (and re-using) an Ohyo avoids the need to buy environmentally-damaging bottled water. In Summer 2009 we cycled round London looking for fountains and established www.findafountain.org with a free app for users to find drinking water sources near them.
Where has Ohyo been most popular?
From my initial idea (in 2008) to prototype took me two years before launching to great acclaim in 2010 at Prince Charles’ “Garden Party to Make a Difference” at Clarence House.
In 2012, I struck a major deal to stock the bottles in Marks and Spencer as part of their Plan A Sustainability Campaign; a great example of how sustainable credentials can help to promote a product. The bottles are "carbon neutral" after just two to three uses. They are now stocked in Wholefoods
Large events, like trade shows, concerts, and festivals create too much plastic waste, and that patrons should keep one cup with them for the entire event. Do you think Ohyo fills that need?
I have been pursuing the festivals for many years. In the early years, there was a reluctance to adopt re-usable containers because of the loss of revenue for bottled water. Now we are facing another problem; the festivals are keener to offer fountains and re-usable containers. However, because of the backlash against plastic in general, many plan to offer imported steel bottles from China with a carbon footprint 33 times bigger than a Sheffield Ohyo bottle that will last 10,000 squishes! Try as I might to educate people that battle is against “SINGLE-USE PLASTIC”, the perception against plastic in general persists.
Can you tell me about 2Bag, and how it combines with Ohyo?
We created the multi-purpose Ohyo Bag and Ohyo the Collapsabottle to do exactly that. The inspiration behind these products was the waste of one trillion plastic bags per year and enough plastic bottles to circle the earth 1000 times.
2Bag is an extendable bag, allowing you to leave the house with something suitable for your laptop, and to come later with a bag big enough for some groceries too. This flexibility must have caused some challenges in the design?
I took the problem to London Designer Felix Conran (Grandson of Sir Terence Conran, below right), and from there the Ohyo Bag was formed. The Ohyo Bag saves resources by limiting the waste of plastic bags and saving people buying two different bags when one will adapt to all scenarios. Felix Conran said “I want to make objects that have a longer lifecycle than is expected of them because if you only need to buy something once, this is the ultimate in sustainability.”
Whilst the plastic bag tax has certainly tackled this, how do you address the mentality change that is required in encouraging people to switch to a reusable bag instead of disposables?
Ohyo has developed the Ohyo Bag that grows with your day. I came up with the multi-purpose bag when my workbag was never big enough for the groceries I buy on the way home forcing me to buy plastic bags. Furthermore there’s only one thing worse than a bag of plastic bags under your sink, and that’s a bag of re-usable bags that you never remember to take with you. Its easy to forget to bring a bag to the supermarket unless it IS your daily bag!
What is Find-a-Fountain?
In 2009, we created the Find-a-Fountain (www.findafountain.co.uk) campaign and compiled a database of the UK's public drinking fountains. With support from The Prince of Wales’ Start initiative (www.startuk.org) we launched our app to show users where to find their nearest drinking fountains and encourage users to crowd-source the map with new finds. The Find-a-Fountain website now resides within the 1859 Drinking Fountain Association
I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but what was it like appearing on Dragons’ Den?
Armed with a prototype bottle, a great story and a handful of initial sales, I ventured into BBC Dragon's Den. My pitch was really quite good and in the two-second pause before the Dragons attacked, I thought everything was going well!
"A LUDICROUS invention"Duncan Bannatyne as he hurled an Ohyo at me.
"I'd rather stick pins in my eyes"Theo Paphitis
I left with no cash, some great PR but no regrets. With almost 700,000 bottles sold to date and the team’s equity intact, why would I?
Take a peek at Guy on Dragons' Den - ouch! I have since made up with Deborah Meaden at the British Library.
Do you have any ideas under production?
We hope to launch a collaspible coffee cup for Ohyo in 2019.