Brian O'Neill

    Published: June 13, 2016

    Pelican Water Sustainability Scholarship: 1st Place Winner — Brian O’Neill

    Pelican Water received plenty of intriguing and inspiring submissions for our bi-annual College Scholarship Contest. Among the numerous excellent entries, the impassioned and relatable action plan detailed by Brian O’Neill in his essay Creativity for Change earned a well-deserved 1st place prize. By emphasizing creativity and the natural human response to emotional messaging, Brian succinctly issued a call-to-action to replace bottled water that goes well beyond numbers on a spreadsheet. We are proud to announce Brian O’Neill as our scholarship contest winner.

    Brian O’Neill earned an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Biology Secondary Education, graduating from Western Michigan University in 2013. He went on to pursue his graduate degree in Differentiated Instruction at Concordia University. Brian loves education, and focuses on the past experiences of his students to help them grow. Brian will utilize the $1500 prize from Pelican Water to pursue further education at DePaul University in Music Education.

    Q: What are some ways to increase awareness about the negative environmental and social impacts of single use bottled water and how would you convince people to filter their own water at home?

    Creativity For Change

    What is mutual to successful companies such as Marlboro, Aquafina, and De Beers?

    Underlying commonalities are that through their big business models they have secretly

    promoted unethical practices at the expense of the consumer. It is staggering to uncover De

    Beers’ involvement with conflict diamonds, or that Marlboro would continue to support the

    habit of smoking, a primary health concern. How did these companies become giants if they

    endorse such atrocity? Behind every prosperous company lurks a successful advertisement

    campaign. Who is unfamiliar with the handsome features of the Marlboro man? Do not almost

    all water companies picture fresh waterfalls or springs on their label? Who could forget the

    Water companies have done an amazing job convincing the consumer that bottled water is

    the answer. These companies personify tap water as a villain in a plot of scare tactics. They

    make water in a bottle seem like the safe alternative. In addition, elegantly shaped bottles and

    pictures of fresh water mountains entice a consumer. Giant bottled water companies have the

    power of advertisement because they make the money to fund this feat. Money to fund

    advertisement is not the only means of spreading a message. In order to increase awareness of

    the negativity that bottled water creates in our world, we must use creativity to beat the water

    companies at their advertisement game.

    One creative suggestion for advertising the negative effects of bottled water is to utilize

    technology. YouTube is a remarkable resource, one at which individuals literally become

    famous overnight. Often times, there are billboards on the subway or highway for young

    YouTube stars such as Bethany Mota or Rosanna Pansino. These stars become online

    personalities and promote activities related to cooking, makeup tutorials, and music. In

    addition, their fan base is quite large; each video easily reaches millions of views. Water is

    more than likely a part of what these personalities deal with or talk about. For example,

    Pansino uses water in her short cooking shows. Additionally, the boys of the “Superfruit”

    channel sometime drink coffee or water whilst talking in their videos. Furthermore, other

    YouTube stars such as Tyler Oakley, are entertaining in their reactions. YouTube stars could

    easily advertise the negative impacts of bottled water through their application or product

    placements pertaining to water. Another creative suggestion for advertising is to spread a

    YouTube challenge. Many young people are doing challenges on YouTube that are followed by

    the “nomination” of someone else who then accepts and performs the challenge. In the

    summer of 2014, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” spread like wild fire to support the awareness of

    Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Something similar could be started in order to steer people away from

    using bottled water. For example, the challenge could be a tap water test taste: the taster must

    choose between the cup filled with tap water and another cup filled with bottled water.

    Following the test taste, the taster nominates someone to try the challenge next.

    Another creative suggestion for advertising is to utilize our school systems. Every day

    students attend private and public schools. Many of them begrudgingly complete their

    assignments while they simultaneously state the famous line, “when will this ever apply to

    me!”. Teachers, students, and water bottle ban enthusiasts can all benefit through the

    development of water bottle impact lesson plans and assignments. The negative effects of one-

    use water bottles definitely apply to every student. These projects could further be used to

    enact change at a local level. An idea to spread awareness would be to develop a lesson plan

    for each subject area. These lesson plans would connect to a set of appropriate education

    standards while at the same time teach students about the harmful effects of bottled water

    through project-based discovery learning. For example, a government class or writing class

    could write a persuasive letter to their state or city representatives on the topic of the harmful

    effects of water bottles. Letters could also be written in regards to changing local laws on the

    sale of plastic water bottles. This is very plausible as a recent ruling in Chicago banned the

    ability of chain stores to use plastic bags for groceries. An art class might be prompted to

    create satire health or social cartoons on the absurdity of the water bottle industry. These

    cartoons might be used for a larger scale advertisement project in their city. The cartoons may

    also be featured in the local newspaper. Additionally, a science class could be prompted to

    perform experiments and report on the quality of their school water. The lesson plan and

    project ideas are endless. Furthermore, the application outside of the school community has

    Convincing people that bottled water is hurting our environment and society is only part of

    the issue. Thus far, bottled water companies have been viewed as pure criminal; yet their

    utopia view of providing pure water to people is the antithesis of scandal. Clean water is

    essential to life and necessary for human health. Additionally, asking to change one’s habits

    never works without replacing the action with an alternative solution. If tap water is the

    solution, people need to first be informed about harmful additives in the water such as fluoride,

    chlorine, and arsenic. The most impactful way to make one choose an alternative is to expose

    them to stories. Humans are very emotional beings. Often, people do not change their actions

    until the situation hits close to home. To convince people to choose filtered tap water,

    personal stories must be shared and easily accessible. For example, Dr. Oz aired a segment in

    his show called, “Is Your Water Safe?”. In this segment, he highlighted a young family whose

    water supply was compromised by additives. The impacts were very emotional. Another

    example is the recent happenings in Flint, Michigan. There are countless stories of individuals

    whose lives were ruined because of unfiltered and unregulated tap water. The more exposure

    these stories receive, the more people will be convinced that they need to take the power of

    regulation into their own hands by using a filter.

    On a less serious note, one must make filtering water a fun event! In a world where

    everything seems derivative of the next, people are looking for a spark. Water, though

    essential to life, seems extremely bland. What if it was an event to filter one’s water? The

    spark in filtered water could be to offer a flavored filter option. The idea of a four-color

    ballpoint retractable pen could be applied to a clip-on filter for tap water. One could choose

    four different flavors of filtered water to pour into their glass with a normal flow as an option.

    Large companies only exist at the hand of the consumer; if there is no demand, there is no

    supply. Ultimately, consumers need to be informed about the impact of their purchase

    decisions. A lot of money and a little bit of creativity was recipe for the success of large

    company decisions that ultimately hurt our society. Conversely, a small amount of money and

    substantive amount of creativity is necessary to combat the attractiveness of the Marlboro

    man, lush springs of water, and diamonds as our best friend.