My guest is Laurel Herter, architectural glass artist, principal of Laurel Herter Design and founder of BottlesUp Glass. When Laurel became concerned about the leaching of chemicals from plastic water bottles after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she brought her own experience as a glass artist to design a solution. We’ll be talking about the chemical contamination of water from bottles, why glass is the best choice, and why it was important to Laurel that her bottles not only be toxic-free and functional, but beautiful. www.bottlesupglass.com
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Great Glass Water Bottles
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Laurel Herter
Date of Broadcast: April 29, 2013
DEBRA: Hi. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world. There are lots of toxic chemicals out there, but we don’t have to get sick from them. We don’t have to have them in our homes or our bodies. That’s what we talk about here, how to do that.
It’s Monday, April 29th, 2013. I’m here in Clearwater, Florida. Today, we’re going to talk about water bottles, bottled water, pollutants in water and what you can do to always have clean water with you by having the proper kind of water bottle.
My guest today is Laurel Herter who has created the most beautiful water bottle I’ve ever seen. We’ll talk about that a little bit later.
But first, I want to tell you a story about something that happened to me over the weekend. Some friends invited me over to watch a video with them. It was a film called The Singing Revolution. And this inspired me so much. I want to tell you what happened.
All of these events that I’m about to tell you actually happened in my lifetime, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was so stunned to find out what I’m about to tell you.
If you’re near my age, you probably remember in the ’60s. There was a time when there was a Communist threat in America. I remember as a child, in school we all had to do air-raid drills in case the Communists attack.
In communist USSR, United Soviet – I forgot what it stands for. So United Soviet Socialist Republic, there –there is an area that is known as the Baltic state. And within the Baltic state is a country called Estonia. Estonia is a very small country, but part of its tradition was singing. Even though it’s such a small country, it has one of the largest collections of folk songs in the world.
Early in the 20th century, there were some conflicts where different countries were occupying Estonia. It went from being occupied by the Soviets to the Nazis, to the Soviets. There was a lot of destruction. In fact, Estonia has a whole history of being occupied by different countries.
This last time after World War II, they had been occupied by the USSR for 50 years. And they decided that they wanted their independence. What they did was they rediscovered their own music.
At the end of World War II, the Soviets went in and destroyed all the culture of Estonia and replaced it with Soviet culture. But inside the homes of Estonians, they were still singing their songs.
When they decided that they were going to – when things changed and there was [inaudible 00:04:16] and then they had free speech, they started not only talking, but singing.
When they decided that they wanted to declare their independence, they didn’t have any war or bloodshed. What they did was they found a legal loophole in which they could register themselves as citizens of their own independent country. And every adult in the country registered as a citizen of Estonia.
I’m making a very long story short. But there was a day when the Soviets sent in the tanks. They didn’t like this uprising about independence and freedom. They sent in the tanks. Estonian citizens walked up to the tanks in their street clothes with no guns. And they didn’t shoot.
That day, Estonia seceded from the union of the USSR. The following day, Russia, the entire country of Russia, seceded from the USSR. And the day after that, all the other countries seceded from the USSR. And there was no more USSR.
This big threat that I grew up with in my childhood just disappeared just like that. Well, not just like that, it took years, about a decade. But when it came down to it, it was people acting for their own independence, saying, “We’re going to assert ourselves as being a free people.” And by doing that, that idea was more powerful than guns and tanks.
I think that this moved me so much because what I’m working for on this show and in my work is freedom. It’s freedom from toxic chemicals.
That they were able to do this by asserting that they were free is something that I’m doing every day. There are some things that I’m encouraging all of you to do every day. Just make those choices to be free from exposure to toxic chemicals, to be free from having toxic chemicals in your body, to be free from having the negative health effects of toxic chemicals.
If a small country can bring down the USSR and make it dissolve without bloodshed, without war, we should be able to do the same thing with toxic chemicals. We should be able to have a toxic-free world.
Now, I’d like to introduce Laurel Herter, who is the founder of BottlesUp Glass and the principal of Laurel Herter Design in Bluffton, South Carolina.
I’m looking at the clock and I’m talking so much. There’s so much I want to say about Laurel. We probably won’t hear from here until after the break. But I want to tell you another story just because this is so special.
Laurel’s bottles are just so beautiful. I’m hoping that you all will go to her website and see her bottles at BottlesUpGlass.com.
The second that I saw them – I don’t really remember where I saw them – I wanted one. And I wrote about them on Debra’s List.
Unbeknownst to her, world didn’t know that I had done this. But on April 1st, she wrote to me and she said, “I’d like to introduce you to my bottles.” Somebody had told her that she must get in touch with me.
And then on the 15th of April, two weeks later. And I never received that e-mail. On the 15th, two weeks later, I just happened to be in Bluffton, South Carolina.
I had no plans to go there. I’ve lived in Florida. But we were just driving by and I said, “Let’s go to Bluffton.” The very first store that I went into – her bottles were sitting on the shelf.
There’s just – we talked. We finally connected. When I invited her to be on our radio show, we figured out what had happened.
So Laurel, I know you’re there. We say hello to you before the break.
LAUREL HERTER: Hi, there.
DEBRA: Hi. So we have a couple of minutes. Why don’t you just tell us a little bit about how you became interested in toxic chemicals in glass bottles, in plastic bottles?
LAUREL HERTER: I had worked for an environmental consulting company for about six years in the middle of my glass career. I’ve been doing glass, all kinds of art glass for the past 30 years ever since I’ve graduated from college.
And I just really paid attention to environmental issues and had grown up in a family that was very conscious of our wonderful planet and taking care of our environment.
And in 2007, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I just couldn’t believe it of course, but nobody can. And it really set me to wondering. What have I done wrong? At what point did this happen to me? How could I have prevented it? What can I change in my everyday life?
I had eaten very well. I had taken good care of myself. But in my business, there are lots of chemicals and solvents. There’s lead. There are other all kinds of petroleum-based chemicals.
I had been pretty careful, but I guess not careful enough because I really do believe that this was an environmental…
DEBRA: I have to interrupt you because it’s time for the station break. But we’ll continue your story when we come back.
I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: We’re back. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. I’m here with Laurel Herter, glass artist, principal of Laurel Herter Design and founder of BottlesUp Glass in Bluffton, South Carolina.
So Laurel, continue on with your story.
LAUREL HERTER: After that, I just started looking at what was around me, what could I have done, what had I been eating, what I had been exposed to. Like I said, there were lots of chemicals and solvents.
I thought I’ll be taking this one step at a time. I worked with a nutritionist and I went to the best cancer center. I had an actually pretty enlightening experience through it all. I’m now six years clean from breast cancer.
DEBRA: How many years?
LAUREL HERTER: Six.
I worked with a nutritionist who didn’t really impart much more than “Watch out for what you’re eating and what you’re exposed to.” Since then at first, I’ve been careful to not be around chemicals that I had been and solvents. And then, I don’t do any of my own stained glass thing anymore.
But I was standing in my studio, in my glass studio, the wonderful pure clarity of glass. I was standing there with a plastic water bottle and realized that, “Well, this is one thing I can start with.”
I live in the south, and the water gets real hot in plastic bottles. And you keep hearing about BPAs and PVCs being leached into your water from plastic water bottles. This was five or six years ago.
I immediately said, “At least, I can drink out of mason jars.” So I drank out of mason jars for quite a while. I took many, many less boxes out to the recycling bin because I have been diligently buying bottled water. And I’m thinking that my tap water was bad.
I started with drinking from mason jars. And then I just started drawing some designs for a water bottle that would be better, easier to drink out of the exterior thread on a mason jar so that you can withdraw with it.
I knew that I wanted a wide mouth that I could put ice in and that you could clean. I also wanted to do something beautiful like the art glass that I had been designing for so long.
After drawing these designs, I then had molds made up in Seattle, wooden molds for a glass store here in Savannah, to do some preliminary bottles with. We went over there and spent weeks doing that.
We just couldn’t get it consistent inside diameter. We knew that they were going to be very expensive. But my idea here was that this is the art glass bottle. This isn’t just an alternative to plastic bottles.
This is the combination of my craft that I had been honing for so long. And this is the combination with good environmental sensibility and a wonderful aesthetic.
So I had the samples made and they just weren’t quite right. They weren’t consistent and they were wildly expensive.
I started working for a solo in Mexico where I was advising on a construction project and doing some stained glass down there.
Every time that I was coming to town, I would drive by this large glass blowing company. I knew that they supply the glass drinking, the glasses and Margarita glasses and shot glasses for Pier 1 Imports.
They had maybe 300 employees. I thought, “Maybe they can do something that’s a little bit more of a production item than fully hand-blown.”
So I went to see them and I dragged in my wooden molds. They humored me. I made some more samples and realized that they too were having the same problem. We couldn’t get a consistent inside diameter.
They referred to a company in Mexico City that has their own curbside recycling program. They use 75% recycled glass. And it turns out to be the same glass that we use in our bottles now as Don Julio Tequila and the Patrón Tequila.
It’s a beautiful hammered texture that looks like hand-blown. But it has all the technical parameters that we needed to be able to make the closure that was seal-tight.
We also had a commitment to not wanting to use any plastic at all in our products or packaging, which turned out to be a really tall order.
We looked at food grade silicone. And we looked and looked and looked. It was very hard to find a silicone manufacturer.
We wanted everything to be made in the United States, but the glass is impossible. We knew that because it’s only the large glass companies and fully automated companies that are able to make a consistent inside diameters to the bottles.
So we knew that we had the good thing going with the company in Mexico. And we started doing prototypes with a company out of Maine who makes a wonderful – they do a lot of scuba diving equipment and hospital grade silicone for medical use.
I went up there and talked to the fellow. He was intrigued by the idea.
And I worked with I think three different industrial designers to get the cap to fit just right on the bottles. We finally came up with eight different colors of food grade silicone and gripper rings around the outside that are interchangeable for identification and just for fun.
DEBRA: It’s such a beautiful bottle. Could you just talk to us for a minute about – we really have a minute until the next station break. Could you talk to us a little bit about silicone?
I know a lot of people are just unsure about it. It sounds like that you have some experience with it. So could you just tell us how toxic or non-toxic? I don’t have any problem with the silicone rings and the top on your bottle.
Could you just tell us what you know?
LAUREL HERTER: What I do know is food grade silicone is one of the cleanest of the – it does have plasticizers in it, but it is about as pure as we can get for any kind of closure that we could be using for a re-sealable bottle.
It’s not a petroleum-based product. A silicone is made from sand, the silicones.
It is even used in medical inserts. People get the silicone in their bodies, and it is all throughout the medical industry.
It can be heated to very hot temperatures. You can bake with it in the oven. So that’s made so that we’re able to use it over and over again in the dishwasher. And it doesn’t change color or stretch or change at all.
DEBRA: Good. We need to make another commercial break. When we come back, we’ll have more with Laurel Herter about water, water bottles and beauty.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: We’re back on Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Laurel Herter, founder of BottlesUp Glass and designer of the most beautiful water bottles I’ve ever seen.
Laurel, I want to make sure that we get in this question. Why is beauty important to you in this bottle?
You could have just made – I have so many glass bottles. They’re all pretty utilitarian, except for my favorite – my second favorite now because here is my favorite.
My second favorite until I saw you was just a regular glass bottle, but it had stars etched in the glass all over it. And I would drink my water out of those above all.
What I noticed about your bottle is that it has a quality to it that goes beyond utilitarian function that I actually experienced the beauty and the art of it. It enhances my experience of drinking the water.
It feels good in my hands. The bottle feels like it just belongs there.
The opening – it’s a wide-mouth bottle. Like you said earlier, you can put ice into it. It’s easy to drink out of.
It just overall is an aesthetic function – aesthetic and functional experience.
What was that – William Morris said something about that quote, “If it’s going to be functional, it should be beautiful” or something like that. I should look that up so I know what it is.
So tell us your thoughts about why it was important to you to make those a piece of art.
LAUREL HERTER: The idea of form-following function or function-following form has always been an age-old question. And it’s something that in our school, we discuss ad nauseam.
My mom is at 97 and still an incredible painter and fine artist. Then my father is – they were both naturalists. We’re outside all this time.
We had an appreciation for the natural world around us. In my career, that’s really what my focus has been, just making beautiful objects.
So much of the time, they do several functions. They are architectural. Everything I make. My mission to do was built into buildings. They serve no other function than that.
One of the things that appeals me about doing this is that it serves a utility. It was better for the environment than a plastic water bottle that I could use.
I saw it as a real challenge. I saw my health crisis as something right. A lot was almost revealed to me about how I can make this a beautiful thing and a beautiful alternative to the 38 billion plastic water bottles that were going into our landfills every year.
Maybe it helps to impart not only a sense of environmental stewardship, but to hone their own aesthetic and to see that this is a more beautiful bottle.
I also have a real commitment to glass and to just the beauty and sparkle of glass. And the glass packaging, it has a great slogan of “Glass is nothing.”
That’s part of what we see. Everyone else who is making a glass water bottle, they need to cover it because they’re using [inaudible 00:30:14] just utilitarian glass. It just serves the function of getting away from plastic.
But I wanted this to be beautiful. I wanted this to stand alone. We do have carrying bags, but certainly not bags that you want to leave on the bottom. This is something that you want to have next to your bed or in your office or in your car.
So it’s the statement that you have aesthetic awareness, as well as an environmental awareness.
DEBRA: One of the things that’s important to me – by the way, the quote from William Morris is, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This bottle is both.
One of the things that has been important to me as a human being over the years is that many years ago when I first discovered that toxic chemicals were making my body sick, my only concern was to be in an environment that didn’t make me sick. Aesthetics just went out the window.
But as I was able to start to piece together a non-toxic life, what came back to me was that life is more than simply avoiding chemicals. I had gotten to a point where that was all my life was about. But now, it’s about having a life that’s free from exposure to toxic chemicals.
So I’ve been an artist in one kind or another all my life. I was a professional musician. And I keep up with my music now and my writing. And my house is an aesthetically pleasing place to be.
So it’s not just about a world with toxic chemicals and a world without toxic chemicals. The world without toxic chemicals has so many wonderful things in it that are enjoyable and soulful and healing in their own right because of their beauty.
I just really want to thank you for having all of these elements together in a truly unique piece.
I want to also make sure that we talk a little bit about why people should be carrying their own water, making their own water and having their own water bottles.
Do you want to tell us something about some of the, first of all, water pollutants that we need to be not drinking tap water and then pollutants in bottles that lead us to have glass being a better choice?
LAUREL HERTER: It’s too bad that you have to list them in orders of priority. But truly, bottled water I think is much more of a threat to our physical health and the environment than tap water is.
Tap water is regulated by the EPA much more strictly than the FDA regulates bottled water. One third of the bottled water that we buy in these terrible plastic water bottles that are very, very and frequently recycled is just tap water. Bottled waters are 2000 times more than tap water.
I think the horrible thing here really is the plastic water bottles, not only now they can be recycled – I think the only 20% or at the most, 30% of all the 38 billion single-used plastic water bottles are actually recycled.
It’s just the time it takes, the space it takes. To learn to filter our tap water, to learn what’s in our tap water, to learn what the actual source of our tap water is, is a really important responsibility that we all have.
A lot of us don’t even know where our city water comes from. So much of it is just fine. If you don’t like it or you don’t like the taste of it, leaving it in the refrigerator overnight where the chlorine is dissipated or using charcoal filters such as Kishu is wonderful.
Charcoal filters that we’re now selling through a woman in Denver, who is importing from Japan. It’s almost carbonized charcoal that absorbs most of the chemicals that you would find in any tap water.
So I really think that tap water really isn’t the problem. The plastic water bottles are the worst.
DEBRA: Okay, I hear you.
LAUREL HERTER: It’s too bad that we have to list them, that we have to number it that way. It’s not all just pure and clean water.
DEBRA: We’re going to take a break now. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. We’ll be back in a moment.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. We’re here talking about water and water bottles with Laurel Herter of BottlesUpGlass.com.
We’re getting to the end of our hour, Laurel. I wanted to – I just, during the break, went to your website. I was looking at your Kishu charcoal, which looks like a very interesting product.
I just want to make sure that I understand and our listeners understand what it will remove and what it won’t remove. Water is pretty complex. So could you address that a little bit more?
LAUREL HERTER: I don’t have a label in front of me. It does say it on my website and on her website, which is KishuCharcoal.com.
It doesn’t of course remove heavy metals, but it does remove tastes. I wish I had the list from…
DEBRA: Yeah, I would think that it would remove chlorine and various other things that are absorbed by charcoal. This looks like a really, really good charcoal.
I’m seeing on your site that it’s made from special oak trees that are sustainably harvested then slowly fired in traditional kiln ovens over many days. And it’s very simple because you just place the charcoal in the bottle, and it starts absorbing impurities and pouring healthy minerals like calcium and potassium. That’s what it says.
LAUREL HERTER: It looks like just a stick. It’s a beautiful stick that, after six months, can be used as an air freshener either in your refrigerator, your shoes. Or it’s often used in Japanese flower arranging as a Feng shui to clear the energy in the room and keeping it clean.
DEBRA: I think that probably in Japan, when people started using this, it probably handled whatever impurities were in the water.
But I’m thinking it probably doesn’t remove things like fluoride or radiation or things like that.
LAUREL HERTER: No, it does remove lead, mercury, copper, cadmium, chlorine, and it really does make the water taste sweeter.
I would recommend it for something out of a stream in Bangladesh or something or someplace where…
DEBRA: My point being not to put down your filter because I’m sure it works very well for what it does. And it’s certainly very beautiful and natural and in line with your bottle.
I just want to make sure that – because our water pollution is so complex – those listening understand that it’s really important to know what is in your tap water, perhaps even have it tested so that you use the appropriate device to remove whatever pollutants you want to remove. This is where the pollutants need to be matched with the filter pretty correctly.
I just don’t want people to think that there’s one filter that can just remove everything. It needs to be pretty matched well. But I’m sure that it makes the water taste much sweeter.
LAUREL HERTER: It is much like so many of our filtration systems that we use, like a Brita filter. I’m pretty sure it’s the exact same stuff that’s just in a different form and it doesn’t come in a plastic package.
It doesn’t say toxic chemicals are out of your tap water. It’s pretty darn good for tap water.
DEBRA: Yes. I think that it does what it does, I think, very well.
It’s just that I want people to understand that if you really have seriously polluted tap water, you need to have a match for that. Yeah.
So we just have a few minutes left now. Is there anything else that you want to say that you haven’t yet said?
LAUREL HERTER: One of the things too that we’re going to be offering in the future, we’re researching more different filtration systems because we really believe the water that we need and can make great use of is all around us.
There are some amazing filters that are coming out now anywhere from a five dollar very simple stick of carbonized charcoal to some ultraviolet filters that are in hundreds of dollars. We’re looking into those and are going to be offering those on our website as time goes on and as we personally look into what their qualities are.
DEBRA: Yes. I think that you’re – I’m totally in agreement with what you’re doing. I think that every person needs to filter and take responsibility for and carry their own water with them.
I’ve been looking at water filters for 30 years. I’ve had several different kinds myself. Yes, I’m just studious about this at home. When I’m away, I haven’t always – I don’t drink tap water in a restaurant or something like that.
And refilling, I’ve just gotten to this point where I just don’t want to do that and that I’m much more willing to carry my water with me now. I go to a restaurant and look at that glass sitting there, and I don’t want to put it to my lips.
And I’m starting to carry your bottle into the restaurant.
LAUREL HERTER: Now, we have some bags. We’re planning on having lots of more choices of bags for exactly that because we have several friends here in Bluffton who have gotten used to using the bottles. They’re even using them on their road bikes.
We laugh that these bottles are sturdy. They’re really heavy like an old coke bottle and purposely so that they really can withstand the everyday stumble.
We get wonderful testimonials from people. “They rolled off the back of my car, under the pavement and it didn’t break.”
It can break. I’m not saying it won’t, but people just – you would have to make a change. You get used to it. And we have friends who are using them on their road bikes where the bottle weighs almost as much as their [inaudible 00:45:31].
DEBRA: Having you found that once you become aware of toxic issues and how much harm they can cause your body and how much better you can feel and how much more healthy you can be by taking these simple steps, doesn’t it make you feel like – obviously not only did you want to do them for yourselves or it made you go through everything that you did to design a whole product that goes into this category.
There’s an inspiration to actually do it when you see the benefits to compare.
LAUREL HERTER: It really was an inspiration. I felt like I was being groomed to come up with this idea that was then really just revealed to me. “I’ve got glasses. We’re talking about chemicals and I have a wonderful environmentalist background.” There it all is. I’m hoping to bring it together with the combination of form-following function and function-following form that they can really work together with a great aesthetic.
DEBRA: That’s really great. Really great. I’m so happy that you are with us today. Thank you for coming.
LAUREL HERTER: Thank you. It’s a wonderful coincidence that we met up.
DEBRA: I just want to give Laurel’s website again. It’s BottlesUp.com.
LAUREL HERTER: No, it’s actually BottlesUpGlass.com.
DEBRA: BottlesUpGlass.com. She has this beautiful glass. And then there are these rings that go around.
You can choose your color in little bottles, in little filters. And you’ll just be off set to walk into any restaurant of any kind. You’ll just be as elegant or as casual as you need to be.
It’s heavy, but not too heavy. And it’s just an all-around, wonderful product.
Thank you very much, Laurel.
LAUREL HERTER: Thank you. I appreciate it.
DEBRA: Just to close, I just want to remind you of the resources that are available at my website. You can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com. Across the top of that page, there’s a menu.
One of the things that’s available to you is my Q&A, which is totally free where you can post a question. I and my readers will give you answers about how to live without toxic chemicals from our own experiences.
I have more than 3000 questions posted there. More than 12,000 answers. And then if that isn’t enough, you can go over to Debra’s List, which is a directory of more than 500 websites that sell non-toxic products. BottlesUpGlass.com is on that list and as are many other non-toxic products.
If you have a personal question that you don’t want to ask in public or it’s a very specific thing you need help finding a specific problem or solving a specific toxic problem or looking for a product or trying to understand what it says on the material that you see in a few data sheets or any of those things, you can always call me up. Do a personal paid consultation with me. I’m available to answer your questions.
If you haven’t read my book Toxic Free yet, that’s a really good place to start because it explains what the problem is about toxics in consumer products and how they affect our health.
It gives you 50 suggestions of things that you can do to remove toxic products from your home and what to replace them with. It tells you how to remove toxic chemicals from your body. It tells you what kind of nutrition you need to help your body heal from our toxic exposures.
And on Fridays, you can call this show. It’s an open phone, so you can ask your questions.
That’s all for today. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio.