At Passion Passport, we love promoting brands that share our vision — brands like Mizu. Created in 2008 by professional snowboarder and former Olympian, Jussi Oksanen, Mizu products — insulated water bottles, cups, growlers, and others — are functional, durable and creatively designed. Just as important, though: they are environmentally-friendly. In fact, Jussi is particularly passionate about protecting our planet, and hopes to soon live in a world that is plastic-free. With Mizu and his non-profit organization, Protecting Where We Play, he is inspiring a whole generation of adventurers to be conscious consumers.
You’ve had such an accomplished career in snowboarding. Where has the sport taken you and what were some of your favorite destinations?
I would say the trips that were more about adventure and less about “action” were the most memorable — those that were less scripted and more free-flowing, take-it-as-it-comes. I really enjoyed spending time in South America; Argentina and Chile in particular. The culture is so different and the food is fantastic. I also loved New Zealand. It’s such a beautiful country and the scenery, no matter where you are or where you look, is mind-blowing. Alaska was also a highlight. Taking helicopters to untouched peaks was a pretty special experience. I felt very small on the top of mountains and glaciers there, like I was really riding in Mother Nature’s hands.
What about spots for adventure travel? What are some places that you’d go out of your way to get to?
Over the last two years, I’ve spent a lot of my time exploring the areas around where I live in California. I traveled so much for snowboarding that I never got the chance to explore my own neck of the woods. Once I did some research and looked at the maps, I was surprised to learn what I could find so close to my own doorstep. I’ve taken about ten trips to the Sierra Mountain Range and I just can’t get enough of it; I find something new to explore each time. My favorite loop is the Eastern Sierra all the way up 120. Take the cross to Yosemite and then hit some spots on your way south, or split to the coast and drive through Big Sur — you can’t go wrong. My recommendation is to go in spring or fall to avoid the crowds and experience these places in the right way. Also, do your own research. It’s pretty easy to find misty little fire roads and public land where you can camp out off the beaten track a bit.
Tell us what inspired you to found Mizu.
It was my filmer Brad Kremer and I — we had got to talking one day about all the plastic junk we’ve seen over the years and it was kind of a lightbulb moment. We were both huge advocates for reusable bottles already — that’s the way we had grown up in Finland — but we felt like there were no impactful brands on the market that spoke to the youth market, with an aim to also educate them on the issue. The idea to start Mizu was kind of born out of that conversation. At first, it wasn’t really set up as a business. We wanted to focus on creating a movement that would get younger people on board with ditching their single-use plastic bottles. Down the road, once we gained momentum and started to hear positive feedback from people — comments like “thanks for giving me a bottle, I haven’t bought a plastic bottle in a year” — we decided to develop the business side of things.
How has your outdoor backcountry experience shaped the design of your products and creative direction of your company?
I’ve always been into product development — it was a huge part of what we did at Burton Snowboards as pro snowboarders developing our own boards, and I really enjoyed the process. When we started with our first bottles, it was a lot of product testing and trial and error, perfecting things down to the angle on the bottleneck so that water doesn’t build up any kind of pressure point. That may seem inconsequential, but quality is very important to us and attention to detail is what allows for the best drinking experience. Plus — and I know this first-hand — after spending 12 hours in the backcountry, you really want to have a product that you can trust to perform at top level no matter what you’re doing or where you are. This idea ultimately got me working on our insulated bottle line, as drinking frozen water is not very practical. We developed our V-Series, which keeps water hot for over 12 hours. During the winters, I fill up with warm water in the morning and throw some lemon in it – it’s so tasty when you are out in the cold!
Mizu’s dedication to being an eco-conscious business is pretty admirable. Tell us about the non-profit you started, Protecting Where We Play, and how it’s helping you achieve your goal of ridding plastic bottles from our environment.
We’re really excited about the launch of Protecting Where We Play! With the start of Mizu, we knew we were headed in the right direction in terms of eliminating single-use plastic bottles, but shortly after, we noticed the serious lack of free-to-use water refill stations. That was really frustrating — knowing it’s easier to buy a plastic water bottle than to find a place to refill your own reusable bottle. We wanted to fix that. Our mission with Protecting Where We Play is to install water-filling stations in places where we literally play — beaches, parks, skate parks, ski lodges. We have already installed about 20 stations with Mizu — 1% of all sales goes directly toward the funding of these stations — but now, with our new foundation, we are hoping to take this to a whole new level and expand to more sites.
Who is the Mizu customer and what are some of the ways they are using your products?
Mizu customers are passionate. They are very much like us — always up for a good time and an adventure. They are frequently on the move, surfing or snowboarding or hitting up the trails on the weekends. They live most of their lives outside and explore as much as they can, inspired by the environment they play in. Enjoy the Journey. Leave nothing behind. That tagline pretty much sums up the Mizu brand and community.
And what is it about the journey that you enjoy most?
The freedom and the unknown, and embracing every moment of it. Even when things aren’t going the way I had wanted or hoped, I embrace them. They usually make the journey more memorable in the end.