Award-winning environmental campaigner, author and speaker Natalie Fee believes that finding free tap water on the go should be the norm.
According to her initiative Refill, if just one in ten Brits refilled once a week, we’d have 340 million fewer plastic bottles a year in circulation.
There is no doubt that the world is starting to take note, and that individuals are taking on personal responsibility to reduce plastic pollution. This can be seen by the surge in sales of reusable bottles in recent years as consumers try to cut down on single-use plastic, but what is the use of a reusable bottle if there is nowhere to refill it?
This is the gap that Refill is successfully bridging across the UK by connecting eco-conscious people to friendly eco-conscious businesses with an app.
The parched person simply taps the app to find a local refill station to replenish their water bottle with fresh tap water for free.
Bristol-based Fee launched the Refill campaign in 2015 out of City to Sea, her award-winning community interest company advocating to stop marine plastic pollution at source.
A couple of months later, 200 businesses in Bristol had signed up.
“All we are doing is linking people who want water with businesses and organisations who have taps and are happy for them to be used, but it has really taken off,” Fee told the Guardian in 2017.
Refill reports that there are now almost 300 Refill Schemes across the UK and more than 25,000 Refill Stations on the app in the UK alone—including railway stations, airports and high street chains such as Greggs, Pret and Wetherspoons.
As of August 2019, Refill had over 260,000 app downloads and 56,000 monthly app users.
Today, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan commended Londoners for joining the #RefillRevolution as the initiative reached a landmark goal, celebrating 3,000 Refill Stations across the capital.
There are now more than 3,000 London cafes, shops and businesses offering free water refills with the @Refill London programme. It’s great to see Londoners joining the #RefillRevolution and ditching single-use plastics. Download the app and find a spot to top up your water bottle
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) October 26, 2019
A true changemaker
Before fully immersing herself into environmental campaigning, Natalie Fee had a successful career in media working for various environmental channels and eventually for Made TV as a presenter and producer, where she clocked up over 200 hours of prime time TV.
It was the film ALBATROSS, which displays the problem of plastic pollution and the plight of the Laysan Albatross, that Fee credits to waking her up to the destruction that she and everyone around her were causing to the planet.
“I think it was something about seeing everyday items that I used – my brand of toothbrush, ink cartridges, bottle caps – causing the death of something so beautiful – that just floored me. And I knew in that moment I couldn’t just sit back and allow this to happen,” she said.
In 2017, Fee won the Sheila McKechnie Award for Environmental Justice for City to Sea’s #SwitchtheStick campaign, which saw all of the UK’s supermarkets ditch plastic stems on cotton buds for biodegradable paper ones.
In 2019 she won the Sunday Times’ Volvo Visionaries Award for her campaign work with City to Sea, and in 2018, she was listed as one of the UK’s ‘50 New Radicals’ by The Observer/Nesta.
In the same year, the University of the West of England awarded her the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science in recognition of her services to the environment. She was also named Bristol’s Woman of the Year.
City to Sea also runs a number of other innovative campaigns that aim to reduce single-use plastic, including #PlasticFreePeriods aiming to tackle the world’s mountains of menstrual waste.
A recent campaign under works that we cannot fail to mention, called “Be a good a**hole,” recently saw City to Sea team up with Lord of the Rings actor Andy Serkis to make a video in which Serkis is the voice of a talking a**hole asking Britain to stop flushing wet wipes.
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