“Right now, we have a supply chain where poor people are buying their daily drinking water jug by jug, plastic bottle by plastic bottle. And we want to change that on a very global scale.”
Episode #8 features Elizabeth Clandos, CEO and Co-Founder of Ola Filter Corporation, joined by Raise Green co-founders Franz Hochstrasser and Matt Moroney. Elizabeth is a designer and social enterprise developer dedicated to bridging the gap between poverty and access. “Raise Green” is a podcast series exploring the climate crises through the minds of local leaders and global experts. Listen to the approximately 15 minute Episode #8 here on Spotify.
A little while back, Elizabeth was working to help set up a solar power installation in the remote rural highlands of Guatemala. The group had brought along a small portable water filter, the kind that you can find at almost all camping equipment stores in the US. A local man, upon seeing the filter, inquired about where he could purchase one. The answer was nowhere nearby, so Elizabeth offered to see if they had an extra one that they could give him. But that answer frustrated her.
Accessing clean water is a burden for more than 2 billion people. In places where tap water isn’t safe to drink, people in poverty are forced to either spend a large portion of their income on bottled water or accept the risks of drinking non potable water. For many, the former isn’t even an option.
Waterborne diseases from unsafe drinking water cause one third of preventable deaths in the developing world. These deaths are 100% preventable because the technology is readily available, it’s just not accessible to the communities that need it.
Elizabeth explains that most of the water filter provision that goes to the developing world either goes to cities (i.e. where the higher income brackets are concentrated) or is given out on a donation basis. This leaves the bulk of the population that makes around $5 a day waiting to be given a water filter. Even if they were able to access the water filter supply chain through an alternate mechanism, it would cost them a week's worth of wages to buy the ones that are available.
“Where can I buy a water filter?” Elizabeth tells us that this was the question that she was asked again and again as she worked with different nonprofits in communities lacking adequate infrastructure.
Water scarcity is increasing hand-in-hand with water privatization, and this means that bottled water is becoming even more unaffordable. Thus, using existing sources of safe tap water is crucial.
Elizabeth and her team’s solution was Ola Filter. The Ola Filter uses incredibly simple hollow fiber filtration technology and is designed to be long lasting, easy to clean, and require no replacement parts. It is a comparable price to a cooking pot, putting it at a price point that is actually accessible to the billions of people lacking access to clean water right now.
Ola Filter is a project that anyone can invest in on the Raise Green crowdfunding marketplace.
Originally, Ola Filter had tried other sources of funding – namely, venture capital (VC) firms. But they were consistently told to come back in a year. Crowdfunding allowed them to get off the ground and get many steps closer to their goal of ending water poverty in the developing world.
However, Raise Green has given Ola Filter more than just a platform for crowdfunding – Elizabeth affirms that “the value that Raise Green has given us has been phenomenal,” assisting her team with finding a lawyer, marketing, and their Form C. She and her team had created or run a start-up before, but she explains that “Raise Green has created this foundation where it doesn’t matter that we aren’t serial entrepreneurs.”
If you’re interested in making an impact investment into Ola Filter or other environmentally-impactful projects, check out the Raise Green Investor Marketplace. If you’re considering creating your own sustainable project, check out the Raise Green Originator Engine.
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