As many of you know, I have a real penchant for water bottles and a real beef against bottled water. Now there’s a stylish Melbourne-designed bottle which is aiming to encouraging us to drink tap water and preserve a precious resource. Did you know that it takes three litres of water to manufacture one litre of bottled water? In this week’s HOT Chat I talked to designer Gretha Oost about her business Half A Teaspoon and 321 Water.

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Gretha, tell me a bit more about your background and the story behind Half A Teaspoon?

In 2004, I arrived in Australia with Willem, my husband, after we finished a 10,000km pushbike journey through South America raising funds for Oxfam. It was an amazing experience and we met wonderful people who had very little, yet were so generous and welcoming and who would share their food with us. This changed my perspective on life and made me want to do more to help people and the environment. Now I have a business Half A Teaspoon and I spend my time designing and developing products that make it easy for people to do the right thing for the environment. Our first product was the Showerwatch, a stylish 4 minute shower timer.

You’ve just launched a product called 321 Water. How is it different to other reusable water bottles?

321 Water is the first reusable water bottle that gives people all the benefits of bottled water. The plunger mechanism contains a filter that removes any chlorine, unpleasant tastes and odours, leaving you with fresh, filtered water. It’s a beautifully designed, practical accessory and as an added bonus it’s environmentally friendly. We don’t feel that being green should mean that you have to compromise on style.

Now that 321 Water has won the People’s Choice Award on ABC TV’s New Inventors, what are your next plans?

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We are using crowd funding to get 321 Water to market. Basically, we need to pre-sell 10,000 321 Water bottles to raise the funds to start manufacturing and we have around a thousand pre-orders already. We’re aiming to have the product available by March 2010 but we need everyone’s support to make this happen – go to 321-water.com and get on board!

Can you give some easy suggestions for people who want to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle?

Yes! Keep It Simple. If you can walk or ride a bike instead of driving, do it. If you can buy food with less packaging that’s grown locally, do it. Rediscover simple pleasures. They’re usually cheaper and kinder to the planet.

What challenges have you faced starting your own business and how have you dealt with them?

The usual challenges I guess; time, money, resources and connections. I’ve found that it’s well worth spending time cultivating good working relationships with people you trust. Also determination, creativity and perseverance play a huge role – it’s vital to keep an eye on the bigger picture when the going gets tough.

What are your tips for what’s HOT in Melbourne?

To find out more about Gretha and 321 Water, go to 321-water.com. You might also be interested in this article on Bundadoon, a small town in NSW that decided to be the first town in the world to ban the sale of bottled water.