Nalgene’s Rich History Spans Across Several Earth Days (Exclusive)

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Apr. 21 2023, Published 9:00 a.m. ET

Three People Cheers-ing Nalgenes On a Blanket
Source: Nalgene Outdoor

While many major companies continue to ignore the many dire problems affecting our planet, Nalgene is one that's put effort in minimizing single-use plastics from the start. The brand, which came to life in the 1940s, was popularized by outdoor exploration.

That said, the company has been around for many Earth Days, which is why we spoke with Nalgene Outdoor's Marketing Director, Eric Hansen about the brand's latest innovations, history, and future plans.

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We're all about shying away from consumerism on Earth Day, which is partially why we're tuning in with Nalgene (their bottles literally last forever). The brand is also all about promoting exploration of the great outdoors, reducing single-use plastic, and — not to mention — they've been around for many years (much like Earth Day!).

That said, Q&A with Eric Hansen, below.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

People Lying On a Beach With Nalgenes
Source: Nalgene
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GREEN MATTERS: Tell us a little about the latest sustainability news with Nalgene.

ERIC HANSEN: As of January 2023, all Nalgene lifestyle water bottles will be manufactured with material derived from 50 percent certified recycled material — the company was first to market with this initiative in 2020 when it introduced a reusable water bottle made with repurposed material. Nalgene’s next generation reusable bottles will continue to effectively reduce single-use plastics, and repurpose waste otherwise destined for landfills.

GM: Why is Nalgene's transition to 50 percent recyclables so important?

EH: In many ways this full conversion of lifestyle bottles fulfills our original promise to consumers over 70 years ago with the "OG" reusable bottle: to reduce the use and impact of single-use plastics on the planet. Ultimately, we’re striving to make Nalgene bottles from 100 percent recycled materials and also maintain the same durability and high quality expected in a Nalgene bottle.

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GM: What inspired the creation of Nalgene?

EH: Nalgene was born from science. Literally! Back in 1949, a Rochester, N.Y. chemist named Emanuel Goldberg developed the first plastic pipette holder. Obviously, it wasn’t the kind of stuff you toss into your backpack for a weekend in the woods. But there were rumors floating around about scientists taking the smaller, more convenient bottles out of the lab and using them on hikes and excursions.

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By the 1970s, this “unofficial” use for Nalgene bottles caught the eye of Marsh Hyman (President of the Nalge Company in Rochester, New York). Marsh had a son who was in the Boy Scouts. He and his fellow Scouts used Nalgene lab bottles on the trail. When he learned about these great new uses for his lab bottles, Marsh Hyman went to the Nalge Specialty Department with a mission: “Spread the word to outdoorspeople all over! Tell them about this new line of high-quality camping equipment.”

As people began to drink more on the go and think about ways to save money and reduce waste by using a reusable bottle at school or in the office. That’s when we went from being a camping/hiking/rock climbing product to more of an everyday bottle. We were “athleisure” before it was a thing. We added colors to our products in 2002, and the combination of colors and the macro trend to consume more water exploded our business.

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This article is part of Green Matters’ 2023 Earth Day programming, Past Forward: A series of stories about keeping the spirit of the first Earth Day alive. We hope these stories inspire you to get active in the fight for climate justice.

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