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Friday, April 29, 2011

Whiz Kid: Erin Rigney

Whiz Kid: Erin Rigney
SipSavers water bottle tag inventor
(Posted to 4/29)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – A school project inspired her clever, eco-friendly product idea. Now the middle schooler has begun rolling it out to the masses.

When Erin Rigney, now 13 and a seventh grade student at Tomlinson Middle School, was a fifth grader at Dwight School, she was challenged with devising an invention for the school’s Invention Convention competition.

“I was on soccer and basketball teams and team members would toss their water bottles on the sidelines,” she said. “Often, they would get mixed up and then thrown out because no one wanted to drink from someone else’s bottle. I thought an i.d. tag would be a good idea, and came up with Tag-It.”

Designed to attach to the neck of a bottle, the unique tags were initially made of laminated card stock and secured with twine. They were also created in an array of distinct pastel colors and different shapes like triangles, hearts, circles, stars, etc.

“It was a family project to help make the tags,” said Rigney’s mom, Laura. “We used stencils and made about 100.”

Five best inventions, including Erin’s tags, were picked at the school competition and entered into a state contest at the University of Connecticut. “I won a ‘Recognized Inventor’ award, a $100 U.S. Savings Bond and some Microsoft software,” said Erin.

Equally exciting for her was the feedback Erin got about her invention. As Laura recalled, “Everyone loved them, especially parents, who encouraged Erin to develop the tags as a product.”

“I decided to stop laminating the tags and find a material that was more environmentally friendly,” Erin said. “We researched and found seed-infused paper. When you’re done with your drink, you rip the tag off, soak it in water and plant it, and wildflowers will grow.”

Erin also changed the name to SipSavers and replaced the twine with cotton string. The string has since evolved to latex-free photodegradable bands.

To introduce them to the marketplace, Erin and her mom came up with eco-friendly packaging that didn’t require plastic, created a fold-over tag to hang them at store displays and, through a Japanese company, obtained two logo options. Erin’s 5th grade class chose the winning logo.

“We introduced SipSavers at Fairfield’s Earth Day celebration last year,” said Laura. “Chef’s Table on the Post Road had embraced them just two days earlier and began selling them there.”

“Since the introduction, I won a Fairfield County Green Coast Award for student initiative and environmental responsibility, and SipSavers have been picked up by a number of stores and nature centers throughout Fairfield County,” said Erin.

Looking back on her path to success, whiz kid Erin said, “I never thought a school project would turn into something bigger like this and land me in the news. And people have been so supportive, especially because it’s an eco-friendly product.”

SipSavers are sold 10 to a pack for $2 per pack. For more information, visit:

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