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Albertville Man Hoping Invention Inspired by Daughter Can Help Save the Planet

Sean Hernandez is taking a small idea hatched by his daughter, Payton, and turning it into something that he hopes could be Earth-changing for everyone.

Sean (left) and Jill (far right) Hernandez and kids Gatlin, Ramsy, Payton and Kennedi are hoping Wbits takes on the world of bottled water, limiting waste and ending "bottle confusion."
Sean (left) and Jill (far right) Hernandez and kids Gatlin, Ramsy, Payton and Kennedi are hoping Wbits takes on the world of bottled water, limiting waste and ending "bottle confusion."
A small invention crafted by an Albertville man, who was inspired by his 9-year-old daughter, might just do a small part to solve a big problem on our planet. 

Or, at least a major problem at your next social gathering.

Sean Hernandez has come up with Wbits, a small, silicone rubber cap that fits over the top of your typical bottle of water. They're sold in multiple colors - 25 to be exact, with a set of pink "Breast Cancer Awareness caps coming later this month - to help you determine which bottle of water is yours. 

How? Consider this scenario: You're at "the lake" for the weekend with a couple other families and a slew of kids running around. You don't want the kids drinking soda or juice, so you break out the bottled water. The kids partake, and, suddenly, you have 15 bottles of water lying around, most with four or five sips taken from them, and you have no idea whose bottle is whose. 

"That's exactly what happened," Hernandez said. "We had all these bottles at a party we were at, and Payton, my fourth-grader, started putting stickers on her caps to know which one was hers. It dawned on me that, really, she had a great idea here." 

Though not an inventor - Sean's a finance manager - Hernandez had an idea for a rubber cap. Colors, he though, could work like wine charms. You know, those little charms you put on your wine glass stem so you know whose red wine is whose? 

A pack of colorful Wbits lid toppers features six toppers. The silicone caps fit right on top of the bottle cap, making bottles easier to open and, of course, identify. 

"We can think of something like that for wine," Sean said, "but not bottled water?"

The fact is, he said, Wbits could solve a huge problem. More than 50 million barrels of oil, it's estimated, is used by companies from Nestle to Pepsi to create and transport bottled water. As of 2007, according to an independent report, 75 percent of all plastic bottles ended up in landfills. Now, thanks to municipal recycling programs and simple awareness, that number is down, but the earth is being impacted by the bottled water craze, which is less than a decade old. 

"It's part of the pitch. It has to be," Hernandez said. "We're always talking about oil independence. This can be part of that. Not to mention the environmental impact of saving space in landfills and, simply, saving water instead of dumping out half-drank bottles." 

So far, the product's a hit. Hernandez, with the help of a video presentation from Payton, made his way into Bed, Bath and Beyond stores last August, and Wbits have been flying off the shelves. 

He's now partnered, with the help of a firm, with Bed, Bath and Beyond all over the Midwest, hitting stores around Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and the trendy Fargo, N.D. 

"We sold out in Maple Grove in a week. In Oakdale, it took a month. St. Cloud is on their second order. My manufacturer is even talking about how he's surprised. I'm just so excited. It's really cool. I've never been on this side of business and I'm learning something new every day." 

His biggest lesson may come soon. Hernandez met in early October with a distribution company down in Shakopee that works closely with Target, Walmart and Sam's Club. Wbits could be hitting stores before those holiday parties (yes, green and red are available). 

"Nobody could have anticipated this," said Hernandez, who is also looking at getting a spot on ABC's 'Shark Tank.' "When we put it on the shelves, people were just telling us, 'This makes so much sense.' When people are matching your line of thinking, that's a good sign." 

For more on the Hernandez Family's quest to color your water bottle, visit the Wbits Facebook site, where Sean's giving fans a play-by-play. They also have their own site, featuring the variety of colors

Kim Kohler October 10, 2013 at 07:47 PM
In response to Gary, I'm not so sure plastic water bottles just go away after 1 year, otherwise we wouldn't be dealing with crippling amounts of plastic bottles in landfills every year. I've seen studies that it takes 100's of years for plastic to biodegrade. We recently purchased these Wbits and they are fantastic! I sincerely hope this family does make a lot of money. They should, that's what happens when you come up with a great idea in America. Go Wbits!
Sean Hernandez October 10, 2013 at 08:42 PM
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch... Enough said!
Kim Kohler October 11, 2013 at 09:00 AM
Good job Sean, I agree all the way. I wonder how Gary would like living on an Island in the pacific or for that matter thousands of beautiful Islands around the world and waking up everyday seeing what is supposed to be a beautiful beach littered with plastic. I've done alot of traveling and diving around the world have seen it first hand. Even if some of this is micro plastics it still releases contaminates into the environment and poses a threat to marine life. Not for me. You go Payton. I also bought some and our family love them
Tommy White October 16, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Way to go Sean! Wish you tons of success with your new adventure!!
Diane Davies November 01, 2013 at 02:41 PM
I love my wbits Sean. Way to go my friend.

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