The Vital FEW (Food, Energy, Water) are critical to our survival as a human race and much of the life that surrounds us. We need to innovate with environmental intelligence and use materials that have the potential to be upcycled at their end of life as a primary component to achieve sustainable methods of development, consumption, and reuse. We look for solutions that can be used as best practices and offer smart options that eliminate waste and can impact resource efficiency at a significant scale.
“The need for clean, safe water has become one of the most critical issues facing our world. Lack of access to safe water is a leading cause of illness in developing countries, particularly for kids. The United Nations has stated that 80 percent of illnesses and death in the developing world are water related. Yet both governments and development organizations have struggled to find ways to address the problem – something I know from experience. My family’s foundation (Familia de las Americas) tried for many years to tackle this problem by distributing free ceramic filters in my home country of Guatemala. Ceramic pot filtration has proven to be an effective clean water solution – it removes bacteria and parasites from water, and is culturally accepted by customers, who often object to the taste of water that’s purified by chlorination. Yet when our foundation gave away filters in poor communities, our dependence on donations limited us to reaching only about 2,000 families a year. And besides being financially unsustainable, this approach was frequently ineffective, as recipients of the free filters often neglected to use them.
I founded Ecofiltro with the goal of reaching 1 million families with clean water in Guatemala by the year 2020 – a lofty goal that initially seemed like a tall order. I planned to do this in a transactional way, by selling a low-cost filter to the poor. However, it finally hit me that the rural poor are just like us: They want good-looking products. They want aspirational products that they can show off to their neighbors. So we launched a new low-cost aspirational model: They are modern-looking and colorful and we cannot keep them in inventory. In the last seven years, we have sold filters to over 250,000 rural families and over 150,000 urban homes. We are scaling, and as a social enterprise, Ecofiltro is not dependent on donors. We are profitable and constantly finding ways to accelerate our impact at the bottom of the pyramid. I am absolutely thrilled by the CARBON model and its mission. They will be a great catalyst to our efforts throughout the world.”