Simple Genius: Artefact's 999 Water Bottle Tracks Your Eco Karma

What's better than a 9-9-9 flat tax? A 999 water bottle that turns doing good into data that can be visualized on a smartphone app.

I dutifully sort my recycling, shun Styrofoam, and buy biodegradable detergent. And while I wouldn’t consider doing otherwise, sometimes these efforts feel like casting a vote in the 2000 presidential election: for naught. I might have a different outlook if I could see the aggregated impact of these small gestures over time—how many trees I’ve saved, for instance, by recycling the Sunday paper (or by switching to a digital subscription).

That’s the logic behind a brilliant conceptual project by Artefact’s director of industrial design, Fernd Van Engelen, who wanted to quantify the impact of using a reusable water bottle: How much money did he save? How many plastic bottles didn’t end up in a landfill as a result of his choice? "I tried to do the mental math," Van Engelen writes. "And of course, I wasn’t quite able to put a number to it."

So he developed a concept for a reusable water bottle, dubbed 999bottles, that would help keep track of non-consumption with a built-in three-dial counter system. Every time the user refilled her bottle, she’d advance the dial one notch. A companion app would allow her to visualize her impact: At eight bottles, she will have amortized her initial purchase. At 147, she has saved $326 and seven gallons of oil; stacked lengthwise, they’d reach the height of a 15-story building. Social media, Engelen suggests, could provide additional encouragement, with friends competing against one another or joining forces to measure their collective impact.

Van Engelen chose to quantify plastic bottles, but the same principle could be applied to measuring the impact of other activities, such as the fuel one saves by biking or taking public transportation to work, or even the healthful benefits of drinking water as opposed to soda. Our question to Van Engelen: How much money would you need to bring this concept to reality? We’re ready.

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  • Rmpistey

    Hi - are these Artefact 999 bottles available anywhere? I can't seem to find an "outlet". Thanks.

  • Dillon Ross

    a similar concept is in use at one of the water fountains here at work.  there is display showing how many bottles[of water] have been saved from landfills by using the water fountain

  • Willa Lagoyda

    @ BlainRempel -  I dont think you are increasing the consumption of water. It is already being consumed by the water bottle manufacturers, you are simply not using the plastic part of the assembly.

  • BlainRempel

    Be cautious of the unintended consequences; if there is too much perceived "benefit" to every bottle re-fill, do you now artificially increase water consumption and exchange on "bad" for another? Or... "you get what you incent".

  • Kevin Williams

    This is a simple yet brilliant concept.
    While affirming that each individual small action can actually create a
    difference, it further strengthens the users belief and alters their personal
    values toward sustainability encouraging further action. For an  article I authored, Conscious Branding: Redefining “Marketing” to
    Engage and Empower the Organic Consumer, I
    interview renowned behaviorist Dr. Robert Cialdini and explored how our actions
    define our values and self-perception.


    Specifically, if we keep track the reuse of a water bottle,
    we are more likely to engage in further sustainable activities and self
    identify with organizations/brands that support this action. Another excellent
    example is what Organic Valley is doing with the launch of their Organic
    Calculator - where by you can determine what you have prevented from going into
    the environment by how much organic goods you have purchased over the years.

    Businesses and society can both benefit greatly from positive behavioral
    affirmations like this one.


    Thank you for the wonderful reference Brenda.

    Kevin Williams
    Principal Strategist
    Pure Branding Inc

  • Bala

    Wonderful idea. Great post from you, as usual. The reference to the 2000 election was wholly unnecessary.

  • Helga

    my buddy's ex-wife makes $75 hourly on the internet. She has been laid off for 8 months but last month her paycheck was $8902 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read about it here Calm Cash. c0m

  • Joe Huddleston

    Madness.....I guess if the water bottle cap was on a ratchet that rolled round 1 click when fully tightened that might work.  A lot of engineering for a plastic bottle.  What about a scratch off panel on the bottle, each time you re-fill and you scan the QR tag that gets exposed.

  • Blueprint

    I definitively want one! Also a good way to measure your daily water intake.

  • Red_Eye_Girl_4434

     ......Тhis is сrаzу...Мy friеnd`s sistеr mакеs 78/hr оn thе intеrnеt. Shе hаs bееn unеmрlоуеd fоr 11 mоnths but lаst mоnth hеr incоmе wаs 7985$ јust wоrкing оn thе РС fоr а fеw hоurs. Gо tо this wеb sitе .......

  • Writetim

    How about instead of quantifying this trend, we qualify it with some mental security that we're not throwing more plastic into the waste?