Around 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. More than 6,000 people, mainly children, die each day by consuming unsafe drinking water. Torben Vestergaard Frandsen has designed a revolutionary tool that will enable us to radically reduce the numbers stated in the statistics above. The Lifestraw is a portable, lightweight water purification tool that can convert any surface water into drinking water. It will provide people with some line of defence against water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea. Providing something as simple as safe drinking water changes people’s lives.
The LifeStraw was developed as a functional response to the billions of people who are still living without access to the most basic of human rights, water. If utilized correctly, I feel confident that this tool could prove to be one of the greatest life-savers in history. If we can find a sustainable way of manufacturing and distributing them to people in need, countless lives can be saved.
I believe that in order to promote positive social change we must start by providing a solution to the biggest killer on the planet. Access to clean drinking water is just the start of the journey to creating better opportunities for our global communities. As well as improving the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, this technology also provides a solution to environmental issues. By using the LifeStraw it eliminates the need to boil contaminated water which in turn reduces indoor air pollution from home fires and less deforestation occurs from firewood collection. As a consequence, we may accomplish a carbon saving of around 2.5 tonnes of CO2 a year for every filter that is purchased. Vestergaard receives ‘carbon credits’ as a result of this which are then sold to companies looking to offset their own pollution or costs. The company therefore makes money on its donation.
Each filter requires no energy to use and has been shown to provide 18,000 litres of clean water for a family of five over a three year period. At the end of the three year period each filter will need to be replaced.
The company is definitely benefiting economically, which does not sit well with some people. However I cannot help but empathise with those that are trying to make the world a better place. No matter how good the intentions, the members of this company will always be criticised for making money through this enterprise. The CEO of the company put $30 million of his own money into the project, providing a lot of LifeStraws, but that money is not a donation, it is an investment in a company that hopes to make a profit by providing clean water.
After reviewing the benefits as well as the criticisms of the LifeStraw as a method of promoting positive social change, I feel as though it is a powerful tool that should be utilised in the fairest and most sustainable way possible. By combining carbon finance with the development of these water treatment systems, this project will directly combine sustainable humanitarian development with international carbon goals. I feel it important to recognise that providing solutions that aid us in achieving positive social changes in an economically sustainable manner is more efficient than previous efforts offered through unsustainable charity and aid. By selling these filters at a reasonable price, it provides beneficial employment to local residents during the distribution, monitoring and replacement phases of the project.