The "aha" moment: Chris Hotell switched to reusable water bottles after his wife, Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, became an advocate for slowing climate change. But Hotell, a former pro snowboarder, had a hard time cleaning the narrow bottles. Standing at the kitchen sink one day, he resolved to come up with a better design.

R&D: Hotell began sketching designs for a segmented bottle that could be twisted apart for cleaning. He worked with Anvil Studios to create a prototype made of 50 percent recycled stainless steel and polypropylene. Anvil also helped him find an eco-friendly manufacturer in Indonesia.

Hitting the market: Nice Reusables, Hotell's Oceanside, California, company, has sold more than 4,000 Alex bottles for $25.95 to $29.95 on its website and in small shops on the West Coast. In November, the company signed national accounts with the Container Store and Karmaloop.com.

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