Global Vision Advisors, a wealth management firm in Hingham, Mass., provides its high-net-worth clients with a holistic approach to financial planning. Now, they're taking their efforts to the streets-literally.

Pat Durkin, a partner at GVA, is leading an effort to get rid of all the plastic bottles in Hingham. He's founded Water Works, a community-generated sustainability project. Durkin and GVA created Water Works as a way to make a difference in the community while gaining visibility for its wealth advisory business. Hingham, a community of 20,000 residents, is approximately 10 miles south of Boston along the coast.

"One of our inspirations is a desire to contribute," says Durkin. "Our primary orientation to the topic is that we think green is a critical component of investing in the future, and we think the trend runs into a bigger and more dominant trend right now," says Durkin. "We think the contraction of capital markets will dominate successful investment themes in the next several years. So, green is great, but capital market contraction is a stronger trend."

"Also," he adds, "we can distinguish green investing as a sector type of investing versus being more attentive to what it takes to help individuals be fulfilled with their wealth. What we are doing is helping create a better world by helping people hold onto their wealth."

In partnership with Aquarion Water Co., the local water company, Water Works has installed "hydration stations" around the community at no cost to citizens, providing public water fountains for residents to fill reusable bottles. Water Works has also formed a partnership with CynerGreen, Little Rock, Ark., which produces the stainless steel water bottles used in the project.

Durkin got the idea for Water Works about four years ago while serving as chairman of the town's Long Range Waste Disposable and Recycling Committee. "When I started using reusable water bottles, there weren't many in town," explains Durkin. People would dump their plastic bottles in bins scattered around the town and in nearby fields. The project was an effort to rid people of that habit, he said.

He approached Aquarion Water Co., which agreed to become involved and made several commitments. One was to install two hydration stations, the first to be installed at the local high school.

Aquarion Water also agreed to purchase and supply 200 stainless steel bottles from CynerGreen with the Water Works logo on them and distribute them to residents. Thirdly, Aquarion Water agreed to install hydration stations free to those local businesses that wanted to supply water to customers.

Harry Hibbard, vice president of operations for the state of Massachusetts at Aquarion Water, said the water company fully supports GVA's efforts. "We take our responsibility to protect the environment seriously. We want to educate the public that town water is good to drink," said Hibbard.

Along with providing a community service, the Water Works program has provided benefits to Global Vision Advisors. Although some advisory firms spend hours and valuable resources on expensive Web casts, videos and Webinars to communicate with clients and prospects, Global Vision Advisors does so indirectly through the program they've implemented in the community, which subsumes the sales aspects with a higher, loftier goal.

In keeping with the holistic aspects of its practice, the firm also points out the virtues of socially responsible investments to clients and recommends such investments whenever possible. They've created a Water Works pledge which they hope people take. Water Works promotes itself through social networking media such as Facebook and Twitter.

"The program has made it easy for us to meet people," said Durkin. "Every financial advisor wants a stream of new people they're meeting. Some people do that by joining the local boards of hospitals and other organizations. But if you're doing that just to meet people, my suspicion is it falls flat. People snuff it out quickly, whereas in our case we are motivated by our desire to contribute.

"What started out as a project to get 1,000 people using reusable water bottles has turned into something with global implications. If enough people are walking around using a reusable water bottle, we think it will create a change that will have plastic water bottles viewed like a cigarette in a restaurant."

Bruce W. Fraser is a financial writer and author in New York and frequent contributor to Financial Advisor magazine. He can be reached at (212) 862- 0351. Visit him at