Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Designer Water and Water Design

Gaviotas is a sustainable Shangri-La in the middle of the Colombian llanos, famous among sustainability gurus for its remarkable history, innovation, and vision. Gaviotan innovations include a water pump powered by kids on a seesaw - how clever is that?
This idea has been shared around the world and taken up by PlayPumps International. Their model is to fund systems for larger villages which are partially paid for by advertising - that is the big billboard you see in the background. They are manufactured by Roundabout Outdoors, a social capitalist venture "doing well by doing good." Part of the funding includes maintenance of the system; in the past many hydration projects have failed in the developing world for lack of replacement parts.
Last week was World Wide Water day. I had never heard of it before , but thanks to a Starbucks initiative to launch Ethos Water, which will help generate 10 million for water initiatives worldwide, this year it got my attention. (This is virtue marketing - it helps sell coffee, and it does good in the world.) UNICEF partnered with New York City in a clever promotion called the Tap Project where participating restaurants charged $1 a glass for NYC tap water, and the proceeds went to clean drinking water projects.
Environmentalists generally denounce American bottled water, and frugal types think buying water is the dumbest thing ever. Our drinking supplies are safe and the plastic bottles, petroleum based, are rarely recycled. This is not surprising - all you need to do is look around and you see the empties everywhere. Plus it requires a lot of energy and resources to bottle and transport this product too, which is really very silly - all you need is an empty bottle which you can refill yourself. Hurrah for Nalgene!
To me helping to bring drinking water to a community is a great thing to get behind. The kids get a gathering place to play, the women don't have to lug water from miles away, and the drinking supply is safe and free. Talk about a win-win-win. Once the mechanics have been worked out, all it takes is money. This seems like a good reply to the question, What is Money For?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Betsy names some excellent reasons why we shouldn't waste our money on bottled water. If you agree, I encourage you to take the No Bottled Water Pledge:

Bottled water is no safer than tap water, it contributes to global warming, and it undermines our confidence in public tap water.

Learn more about the truth behind bottled water at: