Few people consider the environmental “cost” of bottled water, but fitness expert Mike Furci chats with Andy Bulter, who sheds some light on the carbon footprint created in shipping tons of H2O. Butler explains his Zuvo Water Purator system, and the benefits of treating water in your house, just like they do at the municipal plant.
Andy Butler: Hello. Andy Butler.
Bullz-Eye: Andy, this is Mike Furci from Bullz-Eye.com.
AB: Hi Mike. How are you doing today?
BE: I’m good. How are you?
AB: I’m doing pretty good.
BE: Well, do you have some time for an interview on your product the Zuvo Water Purator?
BE: Great. Well, obviously as you know, water is such an important topic because it is so vitally important to our health. But as it turns out, the drinking water that many Americans drink is not as healthy as they perceive, especially with bottled water. This past Wednesday I know that there was a hearing by the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held on the regulations of bottled water. Can you give our readers an overview of the main topic of these hearings, and what you may consider some of the positive aspects of the hearings?
AB: Well, I’ll start with the positive aspects. I think water is such a critical element to every society. And clean water and clean drinking water is absolutely critical to everybody’s health. So the positive aspect is it’s really drawing attention to the bottled water industry, and the claims that they have been making that essentially equate that they are the only safe water out there to drink. Which I think has been, at the very least, highly misleading. Because they really are an unregulated industry. And I think that’s what alerted Congress, is that it’s such a huge industry and it’s unregulated. They are making such profound claims that impact our health, and people’s perception of whether they are consuming a healthy product. So naturally, I think Congress wants to put them under a microscope and I think that’s the positive aspect of it.
AB: You know, that’s not even getting into the issue of why are we shipping -- with all this concern over global warming -- why are we shipping water, which weighs 8.8 pounds per gallon, half way around the world? The carbon footprint of the plastic bottles is one thing, but the carbon footprint of just all the transportation costs that go into bottled water is absurd.
BE: Right. And I’ve also thought about the plastic end of it, going into waste dumps and whatnot. But I never even considered the transportation of the water.
AB: The carbon footprint of the transportation is greater than the plastic water bottle.
AB: I mean just think about it. You’ve got Fiji water being put in containers; trucked from their source in Fiji to the Port of Suva; being put in container cargo ships; shipped to Long Beach or Oakland or wherever; put in trucks and transported all across the United States. I mean it’s like, my god, the carbon footprint just due to the transportation of one single bottle of Fiji or Evian or San Pellegrino or whatever you want to talk about. You’re not even getting into the glass bottles, which are even heavier.
BE: So it’s true then when I read that bottled water companies basically enjoy what some writers have called a “regulatory holiday.” It is true, that they are an unregulated industry.
AB: It’s absolutely true. It is absolutely true. And their claims are unregulated. I mean as a filter company -- this is absurd, you know -- we are in order and magnitude more regulated. Every claim that we make, not only do we have to get the National Sanitation Foundation laboratories to test, or an equivalent to test and verify, but then we have to have all of our marketing literature approved by various states. Like the state of California is the toughest. You know, they actually look on our Web site. We couldn’t claim half the stuff that bottled water claims because we’re a filter company. So we have to conform to a much, much stricter standard. That’s absurd. A bottled water company could just take tap water and fill up their bottle and sell it, and make all the claims in the world. We take tap water and improve it, and we have to leap over a hurdle 10 times as high.
BE: I hate to sit there and laugh as you’re describing it but it’s so illogical it’s laughable.
AB: Yeah, and I’m not complaining about the regulations. I’m not even complaining about the unfairness of it; I’m complaining because consumers are being misled.
BE: Right. Was there anything presented at the hearings that you might not have agreed with, that may have been a step in the wrong direction?
AB: I don’t think so. I haven’t read the full transcripts of the hearings. I definitely listened because I’m trying to run a company. So I definitely listened to portions of it and I read the transcripts as I could. I mean just the sheer facts of what they were presenting, I agree with. You know, in terms of the waste due to plastic bottles. You know they didn’t focus in on the transportation costs, which is a huge, huge issue.
AB: The carbon footprint of that. And the fact that there have been incidences of bacteria getting into bottled water. And there are incidences of chemicals leeching into the water due to longer storage life. And so those are the things I knew already and, thank god, somebody is finally jumping onto this.
BE: Well you know bottled water has seen such a surge since the ‘90s in popularity, despite the outrageous price. According to many, this is due to America’s perception that bottled water is more pure and more safe, like you just mentioned. Safer than tap water. This is obviously market perception. How did we get to this point of this belief -- that bottled water is so pure and so safe?
AB: I think it’s brilliant marketing. You know, just stepping aside without making a social or ethical commentary, just as a marketing professional, it’s brilliant marketing. Coupled with a complete lack, kind of an apathy by the government. So whenever you have marketing powerhouses with an apathetic government, you have a runaway situation. It is definitely a situation that you won’t find in too many other industries. I mean worldwide, I think this is an $85 billion industry.
AB: It’s a huge industry. That it has gone this long and this far unregulated is mind-boggling. But there clearly is a focus on it right now.
BE: Well that’s good.
AB: And what has stimulated this focus has been the carbon footprint issue. It actually hasn’t been the health claims initially. But that is causing a complete -- once people started challenging it and saying bottled water has gone from this kind of sanctified bottled water, what’s wrong with distributing water as opposed to sugar water or soda pop? In the past, it had a moral high ground associated with it because the only comparison people were making, because of the good marketing campaign, was to soda pop. Absolutely it’s healthier than soda pop. It doesn’t have sugar; it’s not high in calories, etc. But that’s not the point. That was the positioning that the bottled water companies wanted to focus on. But people have said, “why are we drinking this rather than tap water? And what is the social impact of this?” Thank god people are finally doing that because tap water, in general, if you look at the municipalities of this country and of Europe, you know given the challenges that they are facing, processing millions and millions of gallons every single day, given the challenge they are facing in distributing it through these complex networks to your home or residence, they are doing a pretty dang good job. And what we do is at the tail end; at Zuvo what we’re saying is take some of the same processes that make water at the centralized plants safe as it leaves the plant, but then due to the network and traveling through all of the pipes and through the pipes in your home, get further contaminated. You know, take the next step and clean up the water by putting a mini water municipality plant underneath your sink. Just clean it up right before you consume it. When you’re distributing water through a huge, gigantic network, absolutely chlorine should be in the network. It keeps it safe up to delivery to your house. It makes perfect sense. And then when it gets to your sink, right before you drink it, take the chlorine out.
BE: Now attaining pure drinking water obviously is a challenge, especially in different areas of the world. Especially if you don’t use some type if filtration or purification system. Now your company, Zuvo Water, being a global innovator of water treatment products, not only for consumers but I’ve also found out for industry. In May, you introduced the Zuvo Water Purator, which I have in my home by the way.
AB: Oh great.
BE: I’ll tell you what, I just installed it yesterday.
AB: How’s it working?
BE: Actually, the water treatment in the city I live in, the city of Lorain, is actually really good. It’s supposedly a lot better than a lot of other plants in the state of Ohio, I guess. I’ve never really noticed a bad taste or anything, but now that I have the Zuvo Water Purator installed, what a difference. Huge difference. I mean it’s totally noticeable. The question I have is what is puration, and is this what sets the Zuvo Water Purator apart from other systems?
AB: Yeah, it absolutely does set it apart. I mean puration is a combination of simultaneously providing ozone in the water and UV (ultraviolet light). And then filtering that at the final stage with activated charcoal. This is mimicking both the process in nature, and the process in big municipal water treatment plants. Big municipal water treatment plants use UV and ozone. So we kind of say it’s like putting a micro version right underneath your sink, of a municipal water plant. But we do the one thing also, that municipal water plants don’t do intentionally, which is we take the chlorine out of the water at the very last stage. What’s interesting is this is truly -- you know why rain water is pure and is drinkable, because in the clouds, at high atmosphere, you’re getting the moisture up there, the rain content up there is being bombarded with UV and ozone. That’s literally what purifies the water before it falls to the earth, and why rainwater is always the purest water to drink. We are just mimicking that process. That’s unlike other systems out there in the market place. I mean, you can go to just a charcoal filtration system hanging off the end of your faucet, like Pure and Brita. That’s on one end, kind of on the minimalist, the minimal treatment to your water. Or you can go to the maximum, which is reverse osmosis, which strips everything out of the water. It’s actually bad for you because it takes also all of the minerals out of the water that you need in water.
AB: And the World Health Organization actually recommends that in third world countries, where they have to do a lot of processing of water to keep it safe, that revere osmosis-treated water is not given to kids under the age of 12 because it ruins their teeth. It leeches minerals from their teeth. Because water is one of the world’s great -- pure water, absolutely purified, distilled water is one of the world’s great solvents. It’s used in the semi conductor process for the very purpose of leeching minerals out of the silicon.
BE: Wow, that’s interesting.
AB: The problem with reverse osmosis is, one of the big problems, is it actually does too much to your water. It strips too many of the minerals out. And the other problem is it wastes 60 percent of the water stream that goes through it. You’re just throwing it down the drainpipe. So we’re in the middle, providing a much, much more enhanced treatment of the water than just the filter systems hanging off the end, because we have UV and ozone. And yet we’re leaving in all the good minerals in the water as it processes, unlike reverse osmosis.
BE: I know chlorine has gotten a lot of attention back and forth, over the years. How well does Zuvo Water Purator remove chlorine from tap water?
AB: It takes 99.999 percent of it out. So the vast majority of it is removed.
BE: Now I know there is a lot of debate over this too. Actually, I got a few health alerts over the last few months from different Web sites, talking about fluoride. What is your opinion on fluoride in the water? And does the Purator take fluoride out of the water?
AB: The Purator does not take fluoride out of the water. As a father of a five-year-old daughter who just had three cavities, I want fluoride in the water. If you look at the health impact of bad teeth, which are well documented, I mean it even contributes to coronary disease. Dental infections are really a serious health problem and that’s well documented and proven. And you look at the claims on fluoride, which there is no study that associates -- there are anecdotal kinds of stories about fluoride and health problems, but we all make choices. I’m not saying I can guarantee that fluoride is healthy for you, but I’ve seen no studies, and it’s been studied for 60 years now, since it was originally introduced into our water supply, and nobody has found a connection with fluoride and any health problems. I mean I want fluoride in my water.
BE: Right. Now my cousins, they have well water and they live literally 20 minutes from me. Can they use the Zuvo Water Purator on their system?
AB: The Zuvo Water Purator is not a water purifier. If you have high concentrations of viral or cyst in there, which some wells do, everybody who has a well should have their wells tested. But if you have somebody test your well, and it says it’s generally safe for drinking purposes, absolutely. It’s going to take out a lot of the heavy minerals that could be in there and render it a safer drinking water. Everybody on well water should, at some point, have their well water tested just for general safety.
BE: Yeah, you don’t know what could be leeching into that water.
BE: The cost of bottled water, and even pitcher filters, which I used for years, is outrageous when you start to look at the cost per gallon.
AB: Yeah, bottled water, if you’re talking about the really frou-frou water out there, like the Europeans, can get up to $8 a gallon.
BE: Oh my gosh.
AB: Generally, the Brita’s and the Pure’s, if you look at it, is going to run you about 25 cents a gallon. Our system runs in at six cents per gallon. That takes in -- this is like over a three-year period of time, taking in the number of filter replacements that you have to do for each system.
BE: That’s one thing I noticed looking on the information, that your filters will get sometimes even more than five times the amount of usage as compared to other filters.
AB: Yeah, depending on the quality of the water. In most instances, it would get up to 10 times. We conservatively test to a thousand gallons, and when you make a claim, they make you cut that by 50 percent. But we’ve tested as high as a thousand gallons, so we have a 500-gallon claim. Now what’s wonderful about the Zuvo system is you know exactly when you need to replace the filter because as soon as you stop seeing bubbles, you get a visual indication. As soon as you stop seeing the bubbles, that’s when you need to replace your filter. So in some instances, you may get way more than a thousand gallons. We know people that have had their filters in for three years and they have never replaced it, and they are still seeing bubbles.
BE: Wow! No kidding.
AB: So it’s a really great feedback system. And that’s why we let people see what’s happening on the inside when they turn it on.
BE: Now we were talking about ozone earlier. Is there any side effect to drinking ozonated water? Or does it come out of the water as it leaves your faucet?
AB: Yeah, ozone is very -- it only lasts for two or three seconds. So by the time it hits your glass, it is now oxygenated water, it is not ozone water. You know, the ozone breaks down rapidly. So it passes through the system and it literally goes from O3 to O2 and is oxygen.
BE: With the innovative products that you have, and obviously being involved in cleaner water, is there anything that you’re doing for communities in the U.S. and especially around the world, that might not even have access to drinking water or they don’t have the funds?
AB: That’s one of the programs we are the most proud of. We have a program of distributing to any community around the world, U.S., Africa, anywhere, systems where they don’t have access to potable water, systems that purify their water. We do 5 percent of all the products we sell, we set aside and specially configure for them, for those applications.
BE: Wow, that’s great.
AB: Yeah, we were in there in Myanmar after the typhoon hit. We were one of the only water purification companies in there. We were there in Indonesia and we were there in Katrina.
BE: Wow, that’s very noble considering that, you know like we talked, it’s such a vital element to health. So many people around the world actually have a hard time finding good water.
AB: It is the number one killer of children under the age of two.
BE: Is it really?
AB: It is the number one. It’s more than malaria, it’s more than AIDS. It is the number one killer of children under the age of two.
BE: Oh my gosh, I had no idea.
AB: Yeah, consumption of impure water.
BE: Wow! Now another thing, I know that your company is very green friendly. What are some of the things that Zuvo Water does? Obviously you have an impact -- you’re trying to have an impact on the shipping of bottled water and the reduction if plastic. Are there any other things that your company does that you might want to discuss?
AB: Yeah, I mean the whole product has been -- we practice what is called in the design trade sustainable engineering. That means the product is designed to be broken down and all of the components are labeled so that they can be readily segregated to -- different types of plastic can be segregated so they can be recycled accordingly. So at the end, this whole product can be broken down and then recycled. The end of life is pretty far out there. There is no reason they shouldn’t last 10 to 20 years, but even still, this is a product that is recyclable. And then the UV lamp, the UV lamp burns out just like any lamp does. It should be good for 10,000 on/off cycles, which should last you somewhere around seven years. But at the end of that, when you order a replacement, we send you a free UPS shipping container to put the old one in, and then we send you the new one. We recycle the old one.
BE: I’ll be darned.
AB: We’re doing everything we can conceive of to make the system sustainable.
BE: Right. I mean, what’s not to like about it? I mean the price is phenomenal and you’re recycling and you have less of a carbon footprint.
AB: That’s what we’re all about. We’re trying to approach this in a different fashion than other companies. We’re a for profit company, we’re definitely trying to make some money. But we’re also trying to do it in as a responsible way as possible.
BE: Right, but it’s a win-win situation. You’re doing well as a company and people are doing well health-wise.
BE: Is there anything else about the Zuvo Water Purator or anything that Zuvo Water is doing that you would like our readers to know about, that we haven’t discussed?
AB: I mean, I think we touched on our three big things, which are health, value and the environment. I mean those are the three big things and you’ve also mentioned just the taste factor. You know, I’ll just let you know that the reason your water tastes so well is it’s actually a well known secret, is that you are tasting the oxygen in the water. The oxygen in the water makes water taste well, taste much, much better. In fact, when they hold these water tasting competitions among bottled water manufacturers, one of the way those folks cheat is they bring an oxygen tank and right before the tasting competition starts, they fill up their bottles with as much oxygen as possible.
BE: You’re kidding? Cheating at a water tasting contest.
AB: That makes all water taste better. So that you don’t have to carry a tank with you all the time, we generate it automatically. For example, people always say, “my god, when we go on these hikes up in the mountain and I bend over to a roaring stream and I drink the water out of it, it tastes great.” Everybody goes “yeah, yeah it’s just because you’re up in the mountains, you’re away from work; the air is clean; you’re imagining it.” It actually does taste better because the water is being oxygenated.
BE: So it’s a nice side effect of the system.
AB: Yeah, it’s a very nice side effect of the system.
BE: Well Andy, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today.
AB: Hey, it’s been a pleasure.
BE: It’s been very informative. And I’ve got to tell you, I really do like the system a lot.
BE: I immediately noticed a difference. I’ll keep in touch.
AB: Okay, that sounds fantastic. It was a pleasure talking to you Mike.BE: Yeah, pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much Andy.