One Man’s Quest To Create a Plastic Free Self-Filtering Water Bottle

Sometimes companies are founded because someone sees an unfulfilled need. Ban Kander, Founder and CEO of WELLY, LLC saw a need for a self-filtering reusable water bottle that is made entirely free of plastic. 

Although he started the journey to create the WELLY Bottle two and a half years ago, it really began after his mom passed away. During his senior year of college, she was diagnosed with liver cancer. He missed his college graduation to be there when she passed away. He moved to New York City to start what he described to me as a “9-to-5 job.” 

Reading the book Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes and One for One, planted a desire within Kander to create a company that would also be philanthropic. After moving to London to do sales for the company he worked for at the time, he realized the tap water there just “didn’t taste good,” as he put it. However, he started drinking more water during that time after seeing his girlfriend carrying around a water bottle everywhere. 

Starting WELLY was a way to honor his mother. The name of the company comes from the nickname his father called his mother (Elly) and the word water. “When my mom got sick I learned a lot about being mindful of what we consume, what we put into our bodies.” He mentioned the toxins caused by plastic water bottles, both disposable and non-disposable. “I wanted to help people remove those toxins and contaminants from their water.”

The WELLY Bottle is free of bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. That is important because there are several different kinds of plastic, according to Breast Cancer Fund, that are known to leach toxic chemicals. One of those is polycarbonate, which leaches BPA. It is used in food packaging and plastic water bottles. BPA exposure may predispose women to breast cancer by disrupting normal breast development. Phthalates, used to soften plastic, may also leach. Phthalates exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, which is a risk factor for developing breast cancer later in life. 

WELLY water bottles are made of bamboo. He wanted to use something that is renewable and natural. “Bamboo grows extremely fast, so when you are cutting it down it's not harming the whole system,” he said. “It grows right back with minimal amount of water.”

The filters in the bottles are made of coconut shell carbon. He explained the process of creating the filters. "We take the coconut shells that have already been used, heat them up, grind them, activate them, put them together and basically, when water flows through the positively charged ions pull out the negative bacteria."

Kander discovered that there are 748 million people worldwide lacking access to clean water. Drinking wells provide water systems that are nearby instead of having to trek hours to bring back water and then boil it. Every $1 from a WELLY bottle that is sold will be donated to Charity Water to develop clean water projects in developing countries. 

He launched a Kickstarter campaign on May 4 which runs through June 18. The goal is to raise $50,000, a goal he has already exceeded with $51,717 pledged as of June 1. He started the campaign because he “wanted to make sure people wanted the product.” Judging by the funds raised, he said “it looks like they do.”