London department store Selfridges has been highlighting the dangers of plastic bottles to the world’s oceans for over five years. This summer, they raised the bar with a month-long pop up, including exhibitions and events on the theme of water.

Between five and 14 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the world's oceans every year. This has formed an island of man-made debris estimated to have reached twice the size of the United States, a barely comprehendible fact that was the catalyst to Selfridges' commitment to green ecology, developed through the company's Project Ocean campaign, in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Marine Reserves Coalition. Selfridges’ immediate action was to remove all single-use plastic bottles from its restaurants and foodhalls, while initialising schemes extending this to the wider store space. 

Taking the lead of the project, curator Jane Withers brought together a diverse group of creatives (including Studio Swine, who presented their Gyrecraft project) to inform visitors and inspire solutions.

Withers’ contribution includes a Water Bar, developed in collaboration with Italian gastronomic design collective Arabeschi di Latte. The bar invites visitors to explore idiosyncratic drinking experiences, offering water-based cocktails enriched with charcoal, minerals and herbs. A display of ancient and modern drinking vessels also offers alternatives to the ubiquitous plastic bottles.

The collective's Francesca Sarti – who co-developed the bar with Withers – was inspired by Italian thermal spas, and wanted to explore new social rituals for drinking water. 'The idea behind the water bar was to invite people to a richer water culture to try and imagine a world without the disposable plastic water bottle,’ explained Withers. ‘It's a recent invention but we've become addicted.’