Making a Ripple, bottle by bottle

Xavier student brings clean water initiative to campus with big aspirations

By Katie Sanchez, Staff Writer

In his three years at Xavier, senior Zach Kane has been an RA, a Manresa leader, a campus tour guide and a student worker at the Office of Disability Services. While that’s more than enough for most students, he also has a unique side gig: helping run a nonprofit that has raised over $64,000 in less than a year.

Photo courtesy of Zach Kane
Xavier senior Zach Kane poses with the Ripple bottle. Kane brought Ripple to campus earlier this school year, and it has sold more than 8,000 bottles.

Kane, a health services administration major, is the Growth Strategist for Ripple, a company that sells colorful, stainless steel water bottles. Ripple’s nonprofit branch uses a portion of its online water bottle sales to build solar-powered wells in a Ugandan community without access to clean water. 

Ripple began in the dorm room of Joe Knopp, a Walsh University student who had already started two businesses. Knopp wanted to start a business that would positively change the lives of others. Determined to help those struggling from the water crisis in rural Africa, he filled his dorm room with the first 1,000 Ripple water bottles and began recruiting students like Kane from universities all over Ohio who shared his passion for creating change.

Photo courtesy of Zach Kane
Zach Kane (bottom right) and Ripple founder Joe Knopp (top middle) pose at a pop-up tent for Ripple in downtown Cincinnati earlier this year.

In the 10 months since Ripple was founded, Kane and his partners — all current Ohio college students or recent graduates — have sold more than 8,000 water bottles and raised enough money to build eight wells, serving over 25,000 people in Uganda.

Ripple administration’s mission is to connect communities to water and to ensure that it is safe and dependable.

By building wells in the center of communities, the company’s nonprofit division hopes to  remove the dangers that arise when children have to walk several kilometers alone every day to retrieve water, making them vulnerable to human trafficking.

Kane added that bringing clean water to previously-isolated areas also helps other community assets like schools, orphanages and hospitals to operate in cleaner, safer ways.

“It’s more than giving clean water to someone,” Kane emphasized, recalling how he teared up when he received a video of Ugandan children celebrating their first day at a school that was able to be built because of the water that a Ripple well provided.

Working with Ripple has been a great source of joy for Kane, as he has watched it grow from a dorm room project to an international organization.

Even as the venture grows and Kane has the opportunity to work with prominent business leaders, he says his favorite part of the job is simply talking with people about the work Ripple does and seeing the good that grows from it.

“I love being able to do this, but really all I do is tell a story,” he said.

Kane has been particularly influential in spreading Ripple’s story on Xavier’s campus, where he often hand-delivers orders to students.  Brightly-colored Ripple water bottles can be spotted with Xavier students and faculty from every college, being sold at basketball games and even in the office of Dr. Colleen Hanycz, president. 

“The university has been really amazing in supporting the mission because it’s something that resonates with (Xavier’s) values,” Kane explained. He credits Hanycz and the greater Xavier community with helping Ripple connect to industry leaders and spread its message.

In his future with Ripple, Kane wants to maintain the organization’s growth by demonstrating their past accomplishments and the hopes that he holds for the future. 

“I’m not just selling a water bottle,” Kane said. “I’m selling the chance to become a part of something greater than ourselves, the chance to make a difference.”