This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Three years ago, using a fake press conference posted on YouTube, in a humorous effort to raise money and attention for clean water and sanitation, Matt Damon launched a “toilet strike,” promising not to go to the bathroom “until everyone has access to clean water and sanitation.”
As part of the Sundance Film Festival, Water.org cofounders Matt Damon and Gary White held a real press conference with Stella Artois executive Todd Allen. This gave me an opportunity to ask Damon why he is so passionate about water issues.
Damon responded, “ I have four daughters. It comes at me emotionally from a lot of different angles. I think when you start having kids it is hard not to see other children as your own. ”
He went on to explain that Bono initially got him interested about ten years ago in by taking him a trip ago to help him with his work, believing that if he simply showed Damon what extreme poverty looks like, Damon would have no choice but to engage. “He rightly assumed that if he stuck me in extreme situations with extreme poverty my life would change and that is exactly what happened,” he says.
“ I saw that I could have an impact. ”
He related the story of a teenage girl in rural Zambia with whom he walked for a mile to the nearest source of water. As he visited with her, he asked about her plans for the future. She said she wanted to leave her village to become a nurse. “I realized it was like when Ben Affleck and I were in high school and we said, ‘We’re going to New York to become actors.’” He began to appreciate that people without access to clean water and sanitation were really living a “less than human existence.”
Finally, he explained, that it comes down to the question of a legacy, “It has always felt like I should always do what I can within my own sphere of influence to effect positive change for people. I’m looking at all these issues and this one is so massive it felt like there is so little awareness about it, it felt like the best place to put my time and energy.”
Damon cofounded Water.org with Gary White in 2009. The organization really resulted from the merger of nonprofits that each had created previously. Damon joked that at the time, he went looking for the world’s greatest expert on water and “when that guy wouldn’t take my call, I called Gary.” He went on to say that in fact, White is the world’s leading expert on water issues. White later returned the compliment, first suggesting that he should have called Ben Affleck, but later explaining that Damon has truly become an expert on water as well.
Damon sees access to clean water as a part of what he said that Bono calls “stupid poverty,” referring to the causes and contributors to poverty that we know how to fix, like how to deliver clean water.
At the press conference, Damon plugged the Stella Artois “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign that suggests people buy a chalice from the brewer with proceeds supporting Water.org. One chalice purchase, Damon noted, will provide five years of clean drinking water for a woman who lacks access to clean water.
Damon explained how access to clean water is a gender issue, noting that the vast majority of the time required to collect water, which totals hundreds of millions of hours every day, is spent by women and girls. As a result, women are kept from more productive tasks and girls are frequently prevented from attending school simply to make time for collecting water.
Damon’s passion for this effort came through as he explained that “We can be the generation to do this,” referring to providing clean water and sanitation to everyone on the planet. He noted that we know there are solutions and “ Americans, regardless of their politics, want to do what works. ”
One of the solutions Damon highlighted is “water credit,” the innovation developed by White to use microfinance to support people living in poor urban areas who often live atop a functioning clean water supply without access to it. By lending them the money to put taps in their homes, their time is freed to do more productive things than collect water, making it easy for them to repay the loans. Damon notes that 94 percent of the loans are to women and that more than 99 percent of the loans are repaid. I’ve previously visited with White about water credit here and here.
Matt challenged the world to help solve this issue, “What is our mark going to be? What are we here for? What are we going to do with our chance?”
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
CES, that is, nerd heaven, 2016 just wrapped in Vegas. Over 6,000 members of the media attended. More than 170,000 people were at the event that covered over 2 million square feet of exhibition space. It was huge.
Now, I want you to imagine cleaning up that mess. Think about all the waste going to the landfill. My eco-friends are crying as they think about the environmental impact.
This is where Jeff Chase , V.P. of Sustainability for Freeman, the event planning organization that supports CES for the Consumer Technology Association, enters the picture. Chase explains, “Working with CTA, Freeman helped to create and manage a waste/recycling plan to help reduce the footprint of the event. Working with several recycling vendors and partners of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo Center we help find new ways to reduce the amount of items going to the landfill by working on an awareness campaign to exhibitors on how to reuse or repurpose left over materials.”
Chase says they even found ways to benefit local charities with their environmental programs. “Furniture, flooring, fixtures and building materials were all given to several different charities,” he says.
Some of the milestones reported this year include recycling half a million square feet of carpet, up 70 percent from the previous year. The balance over 1.1 million square feet was reused. Almost 28,000 square feet of vinyl banner materials were repurposed into tarps, hockey rink liners and outdoor movie screens.
The effort extended community-wide. “The Consumer Technology Assocation held a wonderful E-Waste program on Sunday at the Las Vegas convention center for the local residences to bring their old electronics to be recycled. This is the first year to offer this service and will continue next year,” Chase says.
On Thursday, January 14, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Chase will join me here for a live discussion about the efforts to reduce the environmental impact of CES. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Freeman:
Founded in 1927, Freeman is the leading global partner for integrated experiential marketing solutions for live engagements including expositions, conventions, corporate events, and exhibits. Headquartered in Dallas, with over 70 offices in North America and the U.K., Freeman produces more than 4,300 expositions annually, including 135 of the 250 largest U.S. trade shows, and 11,000 other events worldwide. Customer-driven, Freeman offers a total package of solutions, with a scope of products and services unmatched by the competition. An employee-owned company, Freeman places an emphasis on respect for people and providing unparalleled customer service. Freeman has received numerous trade show industry awards for excellence in leadership, creative design, community service, innovation and customer-driven partnerships.
Jeff has been a passionate driving force on many sides of the trade show / event industry for 28 years. He spend his first 5 years as a General Services Contractor working in Nashville/Washington DC, and then got a job in California to take the position of Show Director for one of the largest tradeshows in the industry, and over the next 8 years he helped grow that show in the United States and launched it in Europe and Asia. Then he started his own event production agency which he ran successfully for 10 years and worked with clients such as eBay EBAY -4.00%, PayPal, Visa, Google and many others, then sold it to FreemanXP, the premier Experiential Marketing Agency. His current focus and passion is working as the Vice President of Sustainability. He works closely with many Fortune 100 companies like McDonalds, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, and Autodesk to help them meet their goals for green/sustainable events. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC)
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Eric Stowe saw a problem in the developing world and did something about it. He saw a need for clean water in the slums and created Splash, a nonprofit organization, to solve the problem.
“While working in orphanages internationally, I became aware of the crucial need for clean water for kids on the periphery in urban areas,” Stowe explains. “Hotels and restaurants had access to clean water, but across the street, children at poor schools and orphanages did not. It was, and continues to be, an easy problem to fix by leveraging economies and infrastructure that already exist rather than re-creating the wheel.”
Stowe’s Splash has some audacious goals: provide clean water to every orphanage in China, every public school in Kathmandu, Nepal and every “child-serving” institution in Kolkata, India.
“We want to put Splash out of business by 2030. Our ultimate goal is to ensure local success happens on its own time, on its own terms, through its own talent, and with its own funding. Charity is a means to that – it cannot be the end,” Stowe concludes.
On Thursday, August 13, 2015 at noon Eastern, Stowe will join me here for a live discussion about his efforts to provide clean water in Urban areas where it is desperately needed. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Splash:
Splash is a field-leading WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) organization focused on urban environments and, specifically, the poorest children within them. Splash works with the public, private and social sectors in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Thailand to create lasting and local safe water solutions for orphanages, schools, clinics and shelters.
Eric Stowe is Founder & Executive Director of Splash. He has worked in the international NGO sector for the last 15 years and is much-watched for his leadership in international development, transparency practices, and business-approaches to solving conditions of poverty.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
At the outset of the current millennium, the United Nations led an effort to set a group of goals to be achieved by 2015.
UN Secretary-General reported in 2014, that “the MDGs have made a profound difference in people’s lives. Global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the 2015 timeframe. Ninety per cent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education, and disparities between boys and girls in enrolment have narrowed. Remarkable gains have also been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, along with improvements in all health indicators. The likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half over the last two decades. That means that about 17,000 children are saved every day. We also met the target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water.”
Today, the world is looking forward to what we can accomplish over the next 15 years. The UN has established the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
Amina Mohammed is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning.
Mohammed notes, “The sustainable development agenda addresses the root causes of poverty, inequalities and environmental degradation. It looks at the links between the social, economic and environmental agendas, and it presents more opportunities than the MDGs, which largely focused on the symptoms only.”
In an effort to broaden the impact of the U.N.’s efforts, she says, “The sustainable development agenda looks at the links between the social, environmental and economic agendas so it presents more opportunities than the MDGs, which focused purely on the social agenda.”
She notes that the new goals are not simply updated outcomes for the old goals, but that the UN is seeking to incorporate all that has been learned. “The sustainable development goals will continue the unfinished business of the MDGs, build on their lessons learned and go well beyond to address new and emerging challenges. Sustainable development is a universal agenda that applies to all people, in all countries and will leave no one behind.”
She adds that the Secretary-General said it best in his Synthesis Report, “The Road to Dignity by 2030: We must transform our economies, our environment, and our societies. We must change old mindsets, behaviors, and destructive patterns. All in pursuit of international peace and stability.”
On Friday, July 10, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Mohammed will join me for a live discussion about the new goals. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about the United Nations:
The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States. The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.
Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria is the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning.
Ms. Mohammed was previously Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals after serving three Presidents over a period of six years. In 2005 she was charged with the coordination of the debt relief funds ($1 billion per annum) towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria. From 2002-2005, Ms. Mohammed served as coordinator of the Task Force on Gender and Education for the United Nations Millennium Project.
In the context of one of the country’s most conservative states, Alan Naumann runs a multi-platform publishing company called Green News Utah.
Alan explains, “Utah needs an independent news source for environmental issues. There is a lack of information in some of the most important issues facing Utahns.”
“For instance, there is no severance tax on coal in the state of Utah. All the neighboring states have a 3.3 to 7 percent severance tax on fossil fuels. Utah, has the lowest tax on oil and gas extraction. In a state with the lowest [financial] commitment to education in the country, fossil fuels are an obvious source of revenue,” Alan adds.
Alan’s passion for the environment is exemplified by his argument, “Little is being done to reduce air pollution, in fact the opposite is true. Millions of dollars are being spent to prevent the listing of sage grouse as an endangered species, green building codes are being undermined and the speed limit was raised recently. Permits are being granted to local refineries to grow and subsidized by the state of Utah to convert to Tier III fuels. A bill to spend $20 million to convert the oldest, dirtiest diesel school buses was not funded even though the legislation passed.”
“The facts are not being agreed upon and keep changing. The sources of air pollution were set officially at 25% created by the biggest polluters (stationary sources), several years ago. Now its only 11%, a figure clean air activists dispute,” Alan concludes.
On Thursday, June 18, 2015 at noon Eastern, Alan will join me for a live discussion about his work and his passion for the environment. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Green News Utah:
Multi media outlet focused on environmental issues in Utah. We cover activists, regulators, politicians and businesses with divergent perspectives on sustainability and energy issues that matter to Utahns. We cover renewable energy more than any other news source in Utah. Our focus currently is on air quality, consistently one of the most important issues to the state. We have a Facebook group of the same name, GreenNewsUtah.com.
Alan Naumann is an Energy Consultant with American Solar Power in Utah. Naumann changed his profession to renewable energy in 2009 with a solar course at Salt Lake Community College. Naumann is the Founder and Producer of the annual Solar Day Salt Lake event held in the fall. Naumann has a background in construction since a childhood apprenticeship with his grandfather in the granite business. Naumann owned granite businesses in California and Utah, with a bank building façade being his biggest job. Naumann has been a free lance journalist and radio talk show host. His last story that aired nationally for Free Speech Radio News (fsrn.org) was in 2005 on nuclear waste in Utah. Naumann is a member of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable as a representative of the Deeksha Oneness Bleesing community of 1,200 blessing givers in Utah.