JUST Water, co-founded by Drew Fitzgerald, created a plant based carton that releases up to 74% fewer carbon emissions than plastic bottles similar in size. The other co-creator? The musician Jaden Smith.
Jaden Smith has been dedicated to stopping climate change since he was 11, when “[his] surfing teacher taught [him] that the ocean was alive, and [his] environmental science teacher taught [him] that the ocean was actually dying.” Now, at just 23 years old, he is the co-founder of a company that provides clean, environmentally friendly packaged water. He also hosted a segment for TED’s Countdown conference about climate change along with environmentalist and politician Al Gore.
Smith’s inspiration for JUST traces back to his days learning to surf. A ten year-old Smith wasn’t able to stop thinking about a plastic water bottle that had been floating in the water next to him when he was surfing, which pushed him to take action. Filled with spring water sourced from mountains and packaged with 88% plant-based material, JUST's cartons are an impressive creation on their own. But that's not the company's only invention. JUST also created a recyclable aluminum bottle filled with either spring or sparkling water. Additionally, JUST’s website contains articles with content that ranges from explaining their packaging process to educating the public on how much water they should drink. But that isn’t where the artist’s environmental activism ends.
Smith and Fitzgerald are also the founders of the non profit 501CTHREE, where they created the Water Box along with the First Trinity Baptist Church. The Water Box removes common contaminants from water such as lead, arsenic, and E. coli. A Water Box was donated to Flint to combat the public health crisis of contaminated water that started in 2014. A video on 501CTHREE’s website titled ‘The Water Box in Flint’ sheds much light on the origins and process of the creation of this invention.
Around 2018, most people forgot about the crisis in Flint. “People around the world think that the problem in Flint is just not existent anymore,” Jaden says in the video and explains that this isn’t true. “The problems have not been solved, people cannot drink the water. It’s just that simple.” At the time, the First Trinity Baptist Church had been distributing bottled water to the citizens of Flint every week for the past three years, but the donations of water bottles to Flint had decreased significantly. Additionally, the process was tiring for the people involved, who were mostly individuals in their seventies. “[...] So good to be able to help, but that water’s pretty heavy, I’ll tell you,” says Pastor Bobby Jackson. That’s when Smith and Fitzgerald jumped in. They brainstormed with those at First Trinity Baptist Church. From there, the idea for Water Box was born, and the engineers at 501CTHREE made it a reality. The Water Box has three filters as well as a UV lamp and can filter 10 gallons of water every 60 seconds. ‘[...]If you run it 9 to 5 for a full year, that would produce the equivalent of 1.5 million bottles of water or something along those lines,” Smith says.
Smith’s accomplishments have led him to receive awards from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Environmental Media Association as an environmental activist. So while we may know of Jaden Smith mainly through his music or his family, the activist side of his life is certainly worth talking about as well.