Nalgene launches reusable water bottle by Diné designer
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Nalgene Outdoor, maker of reusable water bottles and of the Nalgene Water Fund has pledged its support to the Navajo Nation with the launch of its exclusive “Tó éí iiná” (Water is Life) bottle, by Diné designer Jaden Redhair.
Five dollars from every sale will go toward future water efforts to provide additional resources for Navajo Nation residents. The bottles are available to purchase at Nalgene.com for $15.
In addition, an initial donation from Nalgene of $15,000 to the Community Outreach & Patient Empowerment (COPE) program (a Native-led community-based organization), will fix six water filling stations across the Navajo Nation.
COPE will also distribute 90 Nalgene Carboys, 13-gallon, re-usable leak-proof containers to Navajo residents to transport water from refill stations — about $14,000.
Redhair, 20, a member of the Jemez clan, said he did some work with COPE several years ago, making posters for them to promote drinking water. He said that is why he was considered as a possible designer for the water bottle.
“I thought it was pretty important that they were reaching out for designers to create the bottle,” Redhair said. “I thought it would be more impactful if a Navajo designer were to create the bottle.”
Redhair said it took about four to five months to create the design, which is the iconic landscape of Monument Valley framed within the map of the Navajo homeland. It originally was Window Rock, but it was important to Nalgene that the design could be recognized off of the Navajo Nation as well.
Redhair said a lot of care went into the design to make sure that what is portrayed on the bottle would be something that was okay culturally to display.
“The design symbolizes the sacred role water plays in the Diné people’s lives,” Redhair said. “I hope it draws attention to my people’s plight. Right now, one in three Navajo Nation households struggle daily because they do not have access to running water.”
Redhair, who is studying electrical engineering at Stanford University, said design is a way for him to take a break from his studies.
“Design is not what I’m studying. In high school, I took three years of design class and ever since then I’ve been using it as a way to make money but also as a way to get away from all the numbers and stuff I deal with in engineering,” he said.
The Nalgene Water Fund
Elissa McGee, general manager for Nalgene Consumer Products, said The Nalgene Water Fund was put together in 2019 to support domestic communities struggling with access to clean water, like in Flint, Michigan and on the Navajo Nation.
McGee said when looking at charitable water projects, mostly they are concentrated overseas in third world countries, where there is a significant need.
“But I think a lot of people don’t realize just how many populations in the U.S. struggle with something so intrinsic to life,” McGee said. “Water is central to what we’re about. We’re a water bottle company. We’re all about being outdoors in nature. We thought this was a great place to put some of our time and energy. If we could do any small part in raising awareness about what some of these communities are dealing with, it was something we wanted to do.”
McGee said Nalgene is working with COPE, which will ultimately be the ones who decide where the water filling stations will be.
She said COPE has sites already identified, as well as back up sites in case there are any issues that arise once installs begin.
Nalgene worked with the U.S. Water Alliance to find grassroots organizations in the communities that could help with the partnership.
“That was really important to us,” McGee said. “We really wanted to work with an organization where we knew the money we were setting aside would go directly into those communities that were in need. This was really about getting money in the hands of the people.”
Nalgene is also talking with DigDeep about longer term infrastructure projects.
McGee said sales of Redhair’s bottle have been great so far.
“I think we’re closing in on 2,000 bottles sold,” McGee said, adding that the company is just beginning its push to communicate about the bottle and what it stands for.
“I think this is one of the fastest selling bottles we’ve had up on the website, which really speaks to Jaden’s talent because it’s a beautiful design," she said.
McGee anticipates the bottles will be sold for up to six months to a year. After that, the company is considering working with Redhair on a second design as they continuing conversations to help the Navajo Nation in the long term.
“We see this as a partnership,” McGee said. Does the next installment, does it make sense to be for another six or twelve refilling stations or does the installment make sense to go toward DigDeep and some of the longer term infrastructure things they’re working on to actually get houses piped for running water. We’re definitely in this for the longer term.”
More information about the bottle and The Nalgene Water Fund is available at https://nalgene.com/nalgene-water-fund/.