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Plymouth resident Gareth Chugg provides free refills of chilled and filtered water at festivals in the south-west

Smiley Team

6 days ago
As the summer of 2018 approached, Plymouth resident Gareth Chugg found himself getting involved with organising the town’s annual Freedom Community Festival. Encouraged to submit ideas by the organiser, he suggested setting up a tent providing free refills of chilled and filtered water – with making a donation an option – and asking the traders not to sell single-use plastic bottles.

“The organiser loved the idea, and gave me three weeks to sort it out!” says Gareth. “So it was a last-minute thing, but we managed to pull it off.”

The event went so well, that Gareth took the Aquavida project to other local events and festivals throughout the summer, and is planning to do the same this year. The operation involves running the local water supply through a 1,000-litre tank, a commercial filter, and then water chillers. Customers can get unlimited refills, on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis, using their own bottles or the stainless steel or recycled plastic bottles sold by Aquavida. The initiative reduces the use of plastic, encourages recycling, and all donations and profits go towards grass-roots organisations promoting environmentalism and well-being.

“The feedback has been fantastic,” says Gareth, an environmental geologist who personally finances the enterprise. “Normally at a festival, refill points are just a standpipe in a field. People like the water being filtered and chilled, especially on a hot day, and are very happy to give a donation.”

Around a £1,000 was raised last year, divided up between several local organisations including Clean Seas Odyssey, Plymouth Beach Clean Volunteers, and The Wave Project, an enterprise that uses surfing to treat mental health. As somebody with a lifelong commitment to the environment (and a keen surfer!), Gareth is passionate about supporting these organisations, and Aquavida’s local focus helps to do that.

“We’re operating purely in the South-West,” he says. “Other similar projects have the logistics to do the bigger festivals, but we wanted to start with the smaller events, and see how it goes from there.”

They have four events lined up for this summer so far, including the Port Eliot festival in Cornwall. With a team of around 10 volunteers, a shift rota ensures that someone is always on hand to oversee the operation.

“We’re all like-minded individuals,” says Gareth. “It’s a really good way to enjoy a festival, but also be involved with something positive. That was the basic premise, really, to raise money and do a good thing.”

If you would like to volunteer for Aquavida or find out more, go to www.aquavida.org.uk

By Theo Hooper
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