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Is it time for you to kick the plastic water bottle habit? You can buy a variety of Klean Kanteen products online (kleankanteen.com), as well as at grocery and sporting goods stores and other retailers throughout the Sierra Nevada.

By Thea Marie Rood
Photography by Nash Rood

When is a water bottle more than just a water bottle? How about when it’s reusable, safe and designed by a local company that fights for environmental change.

Clearly, that’s not what you’ll find in the 24-pack from Safeway. Instead, it is Klean Kanteen, a durable stainless steel water bottle that was launched in 2004 by its inventor and company founder, Robert Seals, who cobbled together the first prototype out of materials he bought at the local hardware store in Chico, Calif. (Chico is still home to the company headquarters, which now employs 68 people and is owned by the Cresswell family, who took over in 2005.)

In fact, Seals and the Cresswells were ahead of their time, since it wasn’t until 2007 the media began reporting the possible dangers of BPA (bisphenol-A, an industrial chemical used in plastics since the 1960s). But mounting concern over this agent—which has been linked to hormonal issues and fertility problems—merged with an increasing awareness that by throwing away every bottle we drink out of, we are creating mountains of garbage. Suddenly, the fledgling company was flooded with orders and scrambling to meet them, but also happy to see their own values reflected in their new customers.

“Utilizing reusable solutions over single use, when it comes to food and beverage storage, is key in addressing the plastic pollution problem our planet faces,” says Jeremy Cashman, Klean Kanteen’s senior marketing and brand manager. “And all our products are made from 18/8 food-grade stainless steel…which eliminates unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals from the manufacturing process.”

The bottle’s design also creates a thermal insulation so things stay piping hot for up to 30 hours and stay icy for more than 100 hours, which of course cuts down on waste as well (you are not throwing out soup or coffee or water because it’s the wrong temperature). This makes Klean Kanteens ideal for people camping, hiking, rafting, or in general away from modern conveniences like refrigerators and microwaves. And being in nature is an especially critical time to focus on your carbon footprint.

“A majority of people who live here (in the Sierra Nevada) spend time outdoors…and we’ve found that when people can see a direct impact of their actions on the environment, both positive and negative, it spurs them to make bigger changes in producing less single-use waste,” says Cashman.

But the company doesn’t just stop at helping you use and throw away fewer things in your daily life. It also is a certified B Corp, meaning it meets rigorous standards for social and environmental business practices, and is a member of 1% For the Planet, giving one percent of its profits to green organizations (the company just surpassed $2 million in giving). Lastly, its owners are committed to acting locally. “Today Klean Kanteen is owned by brother/sister team Jeff Cresswell and Michelle Kalberer, who were born and raised and now raise their own families in Chico,” says Cashman. They provide clean water at events in town and help support the Run for Food, the Chico Wildflower Ride, Walk for Water, and the Bidwell Park and Chico Creek Cleanup.

“It’s common for people to think they can’t make a difference alone,” says Cashman. “But we hope to exemplify that when organizations and individuals come together with a common goal, it can make a big impact.”

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