If you tried to tell me that a brand of bottled water owned by Will and Jaden Smith might be able to combat the single-use plastic water bottle industry, I’d probably laugh. But believe it or not, that’s exactly what they’ve done. I’m always skeptical when I read about a celebrity product, especially when they claim to be environmentally or socially progressive. But the Smith family’s JUST Water actually lives up to their claims.
While JUST is notably transparent about where they source their water from and the partnerships they’ve developed with those communities, the most innovative piece of their product is their plant-based plastic packaging. This plastic is made up of sugarcane grown in the southern region of Brazil, away from the Amazon rainforest. Sugarcane is both water efficient and helps in carbon sequestration, meaning that water and energy are not wasted on the plants and they simultaneously help pull carbon out of the atmosphere. When JUST harvests the sugarcane, their sugar mills are located near the fields, limiting transportation time and energy use. What I found most interesting about this process, however, was that in making the plastic, the sugarcane is split into three parts: edible sugar, ethanol (which is used in the plastic), and a pulp known as bagasse. Bagasse can be used as a biofuel that produces clean energy! This byproduct produces enough energy to not only power the sugar production process, but is also Brazil’s third largest energy source.
All that being said, JUST is not a perfect product. While the entire carton is recyclable, the current form of the plant-based plastic is not biodegradable. And while their website goes into detail explaining how the recycling process works, this does appear to be a cradle-to-grave system. JUST does not buy back recycled materials or use them in their cartons, nor do they seem to know what percent of their products actually end up being recycled into new products.
But a product doesn’t need to be perfect in order to be innovative, and in order to be the lesser of two evils. Their website also acknowledges areas where they could improve, such as continuing to shift towards renewable energy and fully organic packaging, but I think they could also increase the use of recycled materials in their packaging.
I support JUST Water as a brand because I believe that they are creating better alternatives to a product that doesn’t need to exist, and I appreciate their transparency in every part of their supply chain. This doesn’t mean you should get rid of your Hydroflask, but the fact of the matter is sometimes you just need to buy a bottle of water. And if you need to support that industry, JUST might be the least harmful way to go.