The champagne is chilling in the fridge, the New Year's resolutions are hot off the press. Time to look back on the past year with Merijn Everaarts. Three months ago, armed with a big box of Doppers, he moved from Haarlem to New York in order to color the Big Apple even greener than a Granny Smith.
Merijn, tell us: What's a man who doesn't like shopping doing in New York City?
“In the US, and particularly in New York City, the single-use plastic culture has really reached unprecedented heights. Life is fast and furious here, so eating and drinking on the go is rule rather than exception. So you won't be surprised to hear that these products are all packaged in plastic. With the Dopper, I want to show the people of New York a sustainable and easy alternative for the plastic single-use bottle from food and drink stands.”
And does the water in New York leave you wanting more?
“The water is safe, but in some areas, it tastes a little of chlorine. That's where a water filter comes to the rescue. For that reason, we are currently talking to a partner who installs water tapping points with filters around the world. Eventually, we want to install water tapping points all over the city, so that everyone in New York has access to drinking water that tastes good. And of course those water tapping points will be shown in our app, so that New Yorkers can always find the one that's closest.”
And what is life in Manhattan like for a Mosquito from Haarlem?
“I'm thoroughly enjoying my new habitat. Dopper-wise, it's hard work. One moment I'm at a sustainable fashion event, the next I'm hurtling across New York in an Uber full of boxes and displays, folded double with nowhere to put my arms or legs. It's especially the latter that I find tiring; I prefer to do everything by bike!”
Of course, the bike! Didn't you have a basket with some text on it on your bike?
“It's rather embarrassing to tell you this but... The sign was lost in action...”
Would you like to talk about it?
“Well, I think it must have been pulled off, because it was fixed on quite firmly. What it said? ‘Don’t take the bike, take a bottle’. And the basket contained Doppers, which in turn contained a Message in the Bottle so that people could read what we stand for. It worked extremely well; all Doppers were gone in no time. So I'm going to make a new one.”
Weren't you afraid those Doppers would end up in the wrong hands?
“I trust in the goodness of people, and I believe that everyone who ownes a Dopper is a messenger of our mission.”
What's the coolest thing you've done so far in New York?
“What we did at Urban Outfitters, without a doubt. We're dying to have our bottles in their stores, because UO matches our target audience and the design. But after almost a year of emailing, I could tell that the love wasn't mutual yet. And that's such a shame, people just don't know what they're missing if they don't carry the Dopper in their range of products. So I thought: ‘If you don't wantto listen, we'll makeyou listen'. Literally. I really want to make these people experience Dopper. Make them feel the product that it is. Don't worry, I didn't hit anyone with a Dopper Steel.”
So what did you do?
“We filmed a series of videos in which we travel from Urban Outfitters in Amsterdam to the head office in Philadelphia. While we were on our way, we kept posting videos so that the people in Philadelphia knew we were coming. Once we got there, we party crashed a lunch bar in their central hall. We made water cocktails there, to literally break the ice. After fifteen minutes, we were thrown out - but the employees of Urban Outfitters have been shaken (and stirred) awake; in January, we are to continue our talks with them. In the meantime, we've opened our first shop in the Broadway Market. Every time someone makes a purchase, we ask them to fill out a survey so that we can learn more about the way American consumers feel about single-use bottles and tap water.”
Weren't you afraid you would end up in jail when you pulled your UO stunt?
“Well, that was the joke in the office. That we'd be spending the holidays in jail on bread and water only.”
Now that you mention it... Is the December vibe in NY what you'd expect after watching Home Alone 2?
“Yes, the shopping is crazy. It's consuming, consuming, consuming. It all looks amazing. But the overconsumption does bother me. Personally, I only buy things that are of high quality and last a long time. The living room used to be filled with knickknacks, but now, there are only two gifts under my wooden Christmas tree - gifts of good quality.”
And the question that's unavoidable, this close to New Year's Eve: Any New Year's Resolutions?
“The Plastic Bridge, of course. In the spring, we want to make a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge using 50,000 plastic water bottles. By making the plastic problem tangible, we want to ensure that the story of the plastic soup is relevant to the New Yorkers. To them, it seems too far away to do anything about it. Where are we going to get all those bottles, you ask? That will be all too easy, because it's exactly the number of bottles Americans throw away every minute...”
Not much later, Merijn sends us this Whatsapp message, which translates as “It’s been fixed :-)”:
We can't make this ending any happier. That is to say: HAPPY NEW YEAR!