This Montréal startup is reducing plastic (one bottle at a time)
O’Land is a Montréal startup that installs portable water stations at events and in public spaces. At the core of the company’s ethos is the notion that our ecological impact can be reduced through smart design and implementation.
The water stations — which are activated by motion sensors — offer 360-degree access for up to six users at a time to wash hands or fill water bottles. With polycarbonate separation panels, the stations also ensure physical distancing.
We chatted with the founder of O’Land Stations, Rachel Labbe-Bellas about the challenges of water at events, branding possibilities, and more!
Tourisme Montréal: First off, why water? (As opposed to working in any other domain or with any other resource.)
Rachel Labbe-Bellas: I chose to start with dispensing water in my refill station since it seemed to be one of the biggest pain points for our customers with regards to reducing associated waste generated by single-use plastics. It's also an essential human need, so it's one of the most in-demand services at any large public gathering.
You studied marine biology. How has that impacted how you've created your business?
My studies have led me to launching O'land. Without my understanding and love for the oceans and our waterways, I would have not witnessed firsthand the issues of plastic pollution. Previously, I researched sharks and sea urchins and worked to conserve them, but when I saw the issue of how bad plastics was for the ocean I loved so much, I instantly selected plastic waste as my new ''species'' to focus on.
What are the common challenges for events specifically regarding water?
Events often require mass distribution of water — for safety purposes — at locations that are temporary. The lack of accessible infrastructure at these temporary sites leads to short-term decisions and the need to sell water bottles. I wanted to be the alternative. As long as an event has a potable water drinking line to connect too, I can service large audiences to offer both drinking water and handwashing services with our Fill & Wash Stations. Another challenge is that few events measure how much water is being consumed or how much waste is being created from water bottles. Our stations come with water meters to help create green reports that contribute to the event's sustainability commitments.
How did the pandemic impact your business?
Total halt. With events cancelled, I had to remain relevant as I watched all plans for my first year of operations come to stop. During the early months of the lock down, I designed another product to offer a more relevant need: handwashing. My stations can interchange to fill bottles or serve as multi-user sinks for a safe and touchless sanitary measure.
What type of branding opportunities are available on your stations?
Our units have 360-degree access and visibility as our hexagonal and tall structures offer a unique branding opportunity for brands or events to showcase their environmental efforts and messaging. The stainless-steel panels can be branded, as well as the umbrella covering or any of the polycarbonate separation panels between taps.
Montréal is surrounded by water. What's your favourite water-based activity in or near the city?
I’ve lived California and Brazil. I miss surfing so much that I decided to give our St-Lawrence River wave a try. I love trying the wave in Lasalle, which is totally different from ocean surfing. Even though I am not the most talented, it is so much fun to try and spend time in the water!
Company: The Green Stop [O’Land Stations]
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