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Ask the Scientist: Tobias Personke of Ecolab Germany

Mon, 2017-07-17 11:54

Tobias Personke of Ecolab Germany Before Tobias Personke joined Ecolab, he worked as a chef. He also studied nutrition science and home economics and worked in other aspects of the food industry. In 2007, he took a job as a senior technical support specialist in Ecolab’s Institutional Division, a part of the European Technical Service Team. Now a father of two as well as an Ecolab employee in Germany, Tobias has strong feelings about the importance of water. He answered a few questions about why water education matters in our latest installment of the “Ask the Scientist” series:

Project WET Foundation (PWF): One of the major focus areas of the Clean and Conserve program is hygiene education for young people. If you were talking to a classroom of 10-year-olds, what would you want them to know about water from a hygiene perspective?

Tobias Personke (TP): Water from a hygiene perspective is a double-edged sword. In areas of the world where clean water is abundant, water is the best basis to create a healthy environment. But if water is scarce, or water resources are not reliable, water can be also the starting point for diseases or even outbreaks. If everyone doesn’t take care of this precious resource, water quality will turn more and more toward the second alternative. At that point, reversing the process will become more and more expensive or may even be impossible

PWF: Professionally and/or personally, what are the biggest water challenges that you deal with?

TP: My biggest personal challenge at the moment is to train my two little kids to practice behaviors that are sustainable (e.g., do not let the tap run for so long) and hygienic (e.g., water + soap give better results).

PWF: How does what you do at Ecolab address some of those challenges?

TP: When training bigger customers from the hospitality or kitchen sector these days, sustainability is always an important topic, and water savings or water quality plays a big role. In many cases, these customers have already implemented and are looking to measure sustainability goals. We are always looking for the latest equipment, chemistry and processes to make these plans work or even exceed them, while also giving food for thought to broaden their perspective.

PWF: What role can water education play in addressing water challenges?

TP: Water education is similar to nutritional education. You need to embed the seed as early as possible because it is not ensured that all families can offer good role models. If you can guide the way to responsible behavior early on, chances are good those behaviors will stick.

Previous “Ask the Scientist” entries:

Dr. Raj Rajan, Ecolab’s RD&E Vice President and Global Sustainability Technical Leader

Rafael Ornelas, Regional leader of the research center for Mexico and Northern Latin America for Ecolab

Dr. Jian Kun Shen, R&D Director for the Ecolab China Innovation Center in Shanghai

Sylvia Geipel, Chemist, Ecolab Germany

The Clean and Conserve Education Program, developed through the partnership between the Project WET Foundation and Ecolab, includes lessons, activities and other learning resources for children and youth ages three through 18, as well as educators. Originally published in English, Clean and Conserve materials are also available in Chinese, Spanish for Mexico, German, French for Canada and Portuguese for Brazil (French and Portuguese materials are available for download from the English-language page). Visit the Clean and Conserve page to learn more.

 

Educator and Humanitarian Ed Valeau Supports Project WET Through Photography

Fri, 2017-07-14 10:51

Dr. Edward Valeau Dr. Edward Valeau first crossed our path in 2012, when Project WET staff traveled to Houston to take part in a water festival with the Houston Chapter of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. Friends with some of the players, Ed attended the festival and took pictures of the event, which he then generously shared. As Ed has moved away from his work as an educational consultant and strategist, he has kept in touch with us, passionate about our mission of water education. In 2013, Ed supported our program to bring rainwater harvesting to two schools in Kenya in cooperation with a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, and he has always expressed a desire to continue to support water education around the world.

Ed recently launched Valeau Photography with a show in San Francisco’s Mission District in May and has chosen Project WET as one of his nonprofit philanthropic partners. A portion of the proceeds generated from Valeau Photography’s sales will be donated to Project WET as part of Ed’s commitment to water and giving back to the community. We recently spoke to Ed about his life and art, as well as why he has chosen water education as one of his causes:

I grew up in Southwest Louisiana in a town called Patterson. At that time, it had about 2,500 people, but today the area has grown to include more than 6,000 inhabitants. Located in St. Mary Parish, the town sits on the banks of the Lower Atchafalaya River, which is an integral part of the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetland and swamp in the United States.

Ed grew up swimming in Bayou Teche, a tributary of the Lower Atchafalaya River One of my first recollections is my childhood experience swimming in the Bayou Teche River. It is a body of clear, fresh water that was very cooling in the hot, sticky summers in Louisiana. Bayou Teche flows southward to meet the Lower Atchafalaya River at Patterson. When I return to Patterson even today, I always find time to sit on its banks. These memories are special but also painful.  We swam in Bayou Teche because we were never allowed to swim in the public pools during my childhood and young adult years during the era of segregation.

I attended Hattie A. Watts High School, earning a high school diploma that read, “Graduate from an Approved Colored School.” I obtained my bachelor’s degree in English Education from Southern University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). From there, I went on to earn a master’s degree from California State University Hayward. I later enrolled at the University of Southern California for graduate studies and then went to the University of California Berkeley, where I earned a doctorate in Higher Education Administration and Organizational Planning and Development.

Along the way, I received honors as an American Council on Education Fellow, Fulbright Scholar and Paul Harris Fellow. I was also a recipient of the Association of California Community Colleges highest honor for leadership, the Harry Buttimer Distinguished Administrator Award. I ended my career as CEO Emeritus of Hartnell Community College in Salinas, California. During my tenure as a CEO, I served on the National Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges, Chief Executive Board for CEOs of California Community Colleges and the Monterey County Foundation Board, to name a few. I am currently a board member for a start-up company called Wexus Technologies Inc. Wexus aims to reduce water and energy usage in the agricultural industry. I also serve as their educational advisor.

I am the author and co-author of several books and book chapters on leadership and international education in the area of community colleges and their global counterparts. I co-founded the ELS Group, a very successful search firm in Northern California, and I am founder of Valeau International and Associates, which does consulting work in education, strategic planning and leadership nationally and internationally. Currently, however, I am devoting my full energy and time to creating images through photography.

Whenever I’m asked about how long I have been doing photography, I always say “not long enough, because once engaged, the quest for the shot is endless.” But to be more precise, I started snapping pictures more than 20 years ago with very little attention to details such as light, color, shutter speed, ISO and metering. About 10 years ago, I decided to invest in the right equipment and re-educate my mind to photography’s many intricacies. I set about internalizing the aforementioned concepts, being careful to learn more about the camera and the art of capturing shots. My maturity has evolved to a point where I know the power of the camera and the role of the photographer as witness to a moment of truth at a certain time, in a specific place, with objects both animate and inanimate.

During a recent trip to Canada's Banff National Park Ed photographed one of his new favorite water places, Lake Moraine What excites me about photography is having the ability to see in ways that were not possible to me before. Everything in the universe follows lines and patterns influenced by light, depth and perception. I love that my awareness of what is around me is heightened. I am excited about seeing objects unfold every day and having the ability to photograph those things for others to see, have and admire. I am also fascinated with how stories can emerge from a single picture or set of pictures. I love the freedom photography offers because it is a solo act, and when you are in the moment, there is no outside distraction. Finally, I love photography for the ability it gives me to make a difference, at least on the level I have chosen: helping organizations that help others by giving a portion of my proceeds back.

For part of that program of giving back, I chose Project WET and water education around the world because I know from personal experience what it means to not have water or for it to be unclean. I cycled with a friend through various parts of West Africa in the mid-1990s, sleeping and eating in villages and drinking polluted water out of necessity. It was a life-altering experience mentally and physically. After getting sick, I knew that I could be cured, so the suffering was temporary. But I imagined the pain of having to drink something every day that is harming your health and life expectancy—whether knowingly or unknowingly. I learned quickly we cannot take water for granted nor can we afford for it to be polluted.

I was also significantly influenced a few years ago by Project WET’s creative and powerful approach to educating a traditionally disenfranchised group of students in an urban setting on a Historically Black College Campus in Texas. As a former secondary school teacher and professor, I appreciated how students were engaged and eager to learn about something they had no idea about and likely took for granted. I saw the importance of this work, and I saw the light bulbs switch on in the eyes of the students who were learning. I knew then that I wanted become involved and assist Project WET.

To learn more about Ed and see an online gallery of his photographs, visit the Valeau Photography website. Project WET is grateful for the support from Ed and Valeau Photography.

Ask the Scientist: Ecolab Germany’s Sylvia Geipel

Thu, 2017-07-06 09:55

Sylvia Geipel, Chemist at Ecolab in Monheim, Germany With a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Applied Sciences at Niederrhein, Sylvia Geipel has worked at Ecolab in Monheim since 2013. Starting as a senior lab technician, Sylvia in 2015 became a chemist with the European RD&E Industrial Kitchen Hygiene Department. In that role, she not only handles the kitchen hygiene portfolio but also serves as a technical expert for global projects. She is also a leader in organizing customer tours in the Monheim facility.

Given that her work sometimes involves explaining complicated scientific concepts to people outside of the technical field, Sylvia has embraced the Clean and Conserve program--which is now available in German--as a way to further reach the public with information about water as “our most important limited resource.” As part of our ongoing “Ask the Scientist” series, we asked Sylvia why educating young people about water is important to her, what some of the water challenges she sees are and how water educations helps address those challenges:

Project WET Foundation (PWF): One of the major focus areas of the Clean and Conserve program is hygiene education for young people. If you were talking to a classroom of 10-year-olds, what would you want them to know about water from a hygiene perspective?

Sylvia Geipel (SG): First and foremost, I need to say that I really appreciate the opportunity to work with an organization like Project WET that is truly focusing on water education. Protecting our resources, especially water as our most important limited resource, is often not treated with the urgency it deserves. ‘Clean Water’ is one of the four primary pillars of Ecolab’s vision, the others being ‘Safe Food’, ‘Abundant Energy’ and ‘Healthy Environments’. Our general approach is to educate on the importance of water and how it is used for our everyday products along with the fact that water is a limited resource. In guided Customer Experience Center Tours, for example, we are giving our customers data and facts about water usage. When water is viewed as a limited resource, this often illustrates the need for action as a community to conserve and maintain clean water.

Drop in the Bucket graphic representing the amount of water on Earth Coming back to your question on younger people’s education; one specific Project WET demonstration comes to mind when we go into schools. The “Drop in the Bucket” activity shows how water is limited resource, available worldwide at different qualities.

The demonstration starts with a 1-liter beaker filled with water to represent the overall availability of water around the globe. From that, we extract different amounts to show how little of the liter is fresh water, and how much of that is trapped in glaciers or icecaps or otherwise unavailable. Extracting only one drop from that much smaller amount then shows young people the amount that is available to run, freely accessed, every day out of the tap in a country like Germany.

PWF: Professionally and/or personally, what are the biggest water challenges that you deal with?

SG: I think in general, for both perspectives, indirect water consumption is the biggest challenge we are dealing with. Of course, everybody gets taught to turn off the water tap while cleaning their teeth or lathering their body in the shower. These are important but still small contributions. My challenge both personally and professionally is how we can impact the availability of water on a global scale. We are using tap water to fill swimming pools or to irrigate the garden, and the challenge is to find the right balance in our attitude toward water. The Ecolab building here in Monheim is one of the positive examples where water is both used and conserved. We use rain water for sanitary facilities but also use a lot of tap water for our testing in laboratories, with the end goal of the research being a reduction of overall water usage.

PWF: How does what you do at Ecolab address some of those challenges?

SG: At Ecolab, we focus on educating people the best we can, as shown above with our programs and demonstrations in schools. We are also supporting our customers in being more efficient during cleaning procedures related to water and energy consumption as well as water treatment. Frequent training of employees and customers support this education, as do cleaning cards, presentations, trainings and videos. When I think of developing a new product innovation, I ask myself a few questions: Are the products eco-friendly and sustainable? Do they preserve fresh water and reduce waste water? And of course, do they meet customer needs?

PWF: What role can water education play in addressing water challenges?

SG: From my perspective, training and education are key in changing the human mentality to view water as a precious resource, the way it should be treated. Project WET gives me the chance to present this important topic to our youngest generation, who are our future. Of course, changing behavior is not always easy, but everybody needs to take the first step on their own. Having multipliers like young children learn to treat water respectfully and, more importantly, pass the story on, helps tackle water challenges in the future. I always finish my lessons at school by naming the kids as “WaterStars” ("WasserHeld" or “water hero” in German). They all get stickers or pins as a kind of certification. I then tell them that with this promotion comes a great responsibility: to train and teach others to not waste water and treat water as a resource needing protection.

Previous “Ask the Scientist” entries:

Dr. Raj Rajan, Ecolab’s RD&E Vice President and Global Sustainability Technical Leader

Rafael Ornelas, Regional leader of the research center for Mexico and Northern Latin America for Ecolab

Dr. Jian Kun Shen, R&D Director for the Ecolab China Innovation Center in Shanghai

The Clean and Conserve Education Program, developed through the partnership between the Project WET Foundation and Ecolab, includes lessons, activities and other learning resources for children and youth ages three through 18, as well as educators. Originally published in English, Clean and Conserve materials are also available in Chinese, Spanish for Mexico, German, French for Canada and Portuguese for Brazil (French and Portuguese materials are available for download from the English-language page). Visit the Clean and Conserve page to learn more.

 

WaterStar: New Mexico’s Doña Ana Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association

Mon, 2017-06-12 14:36

This is the latest in a series of posts highlighting people and organizations around the world that embody the ideals of the Clean and Conserve Education Program: making the world a safer and healthier place through water conservation and hygiene education. WaterStars will receive printed copies of each book as well as enamel WaterStar pins to recognize their work. Any individual or organization that has used Clean and Conserve materials is eligible for consideration to be a WaterStar award winner. Submit your story to learn more.

Serving more than 15,000 people, the Doña Ana Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association (Doña Ana MDWCA) is a membership association that exists to provide water and wastewater services to five districts in the southern New Mexico town of Las Cruces. The Doña Ana MDWCA water system includes 12 wells and seven tanks with a 4.5 million-gallon capacity and a wastewater facility with a capacity of 200,000 gallons.

Part of the Doña Ana MDWCA mission includes public education, which led Stephanie Nelson, an accounting clerk for Doña Ana MDWCA, to download the free Clean and Conserve Education Program materials last fall. Since then, the association has shared them whenever they can, Stephanie said in a recent interview.

“The materials are handed out to visiting children in our office when their parents are completing new member information or discussing their accounts,” she explained. “The activity booklets especially resonate with the children who visit our office; however, the information is extremely beneficial for public education overall.”

In addition to reaching children and parents who visit the office, Doña Ana MDWCA also takes part in the Las Cruces Water Fair, a daylong water festival for all area third and fourth graders, hosted by the City of Las Cruces.

“About 1,400 students attend each year,” Stephanie noted. “The Fair has booths set up for various organizations, and we spend all day teaching children the importance of water conservation through public education and fun activities like those in the Clean and Conserve Activity Guide for Educators.”

Being able to offer education to consumers through materials like Clean and Conserve is critical to encouraging responsible water stewardship, she added.

“The information this provides to the public is invaluable to continue an open dialogue of water preservation,” Stephanie said. “We will continue to utilize all of the materials provided to further our pursuits of water conservation and public education, and we will also support the public schools on furthering the education of our community.”

The Clean and Conserve Education Program, developed through the partnership between the Project WET Foundation and Ecolab, includes lessons, activities and other learning resources for children and youth ages three through 18, as well as educators. Visit the Clean and Conserve page to learn more. Originally published in English, Clean and Conserve materials are also available in Chinese, Spanish for Mexico, German, French for Canada and Portuguese for Brazil (French and Portuguese materials are available for download from the English-language page).

Other WaterStars:

Joseph Dabuo of Ghana (June 23, 2016)

Ashley Satterfield of the USA (July 20, 2016)

Supriya Khound of India (October 25, 2016)

Jamice Obianyo of the USA (January 19, 2017)

EECO Foundation of Pakistan (February 1, 2017)

Beautiful Minds Ethiopia (March 13, 2017)

Southern California volunteer connects with inner-city kids using water education and life experience

Thu, 2017-06-08 15:16

Rob Griffith of NWNA uses Project WET to teach about water in ways that help him connect with kids of all backgrounds When Rob Griffith stands in front of a middle school classroom in an inner-city school in southern California, he sees kids eager to learn when the lessons are interactive and fun. He also sees a bit of himself.

Rob, a zone sales development manager for Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) in south Orange County, says that he can relate to students facing life challenges that can impact their school performance.

“I grew up as a child in need, in a low-income area, with a single parent,” Rob explains. “As a result, one of my personal goals in life is to give back where I can."

Rob and other NWNA volunteers often take part in community events to teach about water After joining NWNA about a year ago, Rob looked for ways to get involved in the community through the company and soon heard about the longtime relationship between NWNA and the Project WET Foundation.

“My manager, Jennifer Dunbar, told me about Project WET,” Rob says. “She had been trained to use Project WET as part of Nestlé’s commitment to community involvement through water education and told me how to get in touch with Project WET to get trained.”

In February, Project WET USA Senior Program Manager Julia Beck and Publications Manager Megan Regnerus traveled to southern California to train Rob and two dozen other volunteers. After completing training, Rob and one of his sales managers, Richard Cardenas, jumped in with both feet, finding classrooms and other venues in which to share interactive water education with students and continually seeking out new opportunities to teach about water.

NWNA sales manager Richard Cardenas and Rob often volunteer together as a team “Richard has been doing all of this with me. It helps to have a partner,” Rob says, adding that Richard’s wife works in inner-city schools, which has helped them reach schools where resources are low and challenges are high.

“I primarily target middle schools in lower-income areas because there can be a lack of resources and volunteers in those schools,” Rob says. “The students we have met get super excited when they see us walk in to the room with the blow-up globe and the big blue water kit. You should see the smiles and the way their faces light up! I love the fact that they’re learning and are so happy to see a positive role model to inspire them.”

In addition to teaching in classrooms, Rob has also helped nurture an innovative partnership with local law enforcement to incorporate water education into community events.

“An employee in our Colton branch has kids who attend elementary school there, and in that school, there is a team of police officers with a focus on community involvement and children,” he says. “I was working a Project WET event at another school, and that Colton employee asked if I would be interested in bringing water education to police-sponsored career day events at his child’s school.”

Rob has been working with local law enforcement officers in Southern California to increase water awareness at police-sponsored community events Sponsored by the Colton and Rialto police departments, these events provide life counseling and guidance to low-income schools with limited resources.

“This Colton employee gave me the name of a police officer who was interested in partnering up to link their events with water education. As a result, that police department has invited us to more community-based events, allowing us to reach more kids with water education,” Rob explains.

Rob says that the interactivity of Project WET is key to making the lessons effective in these educational environments, where some kids are dealing with serious challenges.

“We see some children with mental health issues or with parents who have drug issues; there are kids who are facing homelessness…basically, there can be a number of different challenges that can make it difficult for some kids to stay engaged,” he notes.

“Project WET really allows me to teach kids in a way that they have fun learning,” Rob says. “That’s what I love about the program. I’m not just talking to them or showing them slides. They get to stand up, throw the globe around, make bracelets to learn the water cycle, you name it. We’re often limited on time, but even with just one activity, kids get really excited. They want to participate however they can.”

Rob says that bringing Project WET into the schools as an employee of NWNA is another way to relate to kids.

Students, volunteers and law enforcement officials gathered for a group picture during a recent event “When I go into a school and say proudly that I’m from Nestlé Pure Life, or ReadyRefresh, or Arrowhead, I specifically call that out for a reason,” he says. “What I find is that 70 to 80 percent of these kids will chime in that their mom buys Arrowhead, or their grandpa loves Pure Life. It's just one more way to show what we have in common.”

Rob and the other NWNA employee-volunteers that he works with show no signs of slowing down their commitment to giving back and teaching about water. “We’re working to get as much communication out there as we can, letting people know that we have volunteers available to teach kids about water,” he says.

For his part, Rob said he would love to visit an inner-city school each week if he had time.

“I’m just one guy, but I want to do as much as possible,” he concludes. “I was that kid at one point. I have an extra layer of understanding. That’s what drives me.”

How I Use Project WET: Engaging Kids in Need and Giving Back to the Community

Thu, 2017-06-08 14:50

Rob Griffith of NWNA uses Project WET to teach about water in ways that help him connect with kids of all backgrounds When Rob Griffith stands in front of a middle school classroom in an inner-city school in southern California, he sees kids eager to learn when the lessons are interactive and fun. He also sees a bit of himself.

Rob, a zone sales development manager for Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) in south Orange County, says that he can relate to students facing life challenges that can impact their school performance.

“I grew up as a child in need, in a low-income area, with a single parent,” Rob explains. “As a result, one of my personal goals in life is to give back where I can."

Rob and other NWNA volunteers often take part in community events to teach about water After joining NWNA about a year ago, Rob looked for ways to get involved in the community through the company and soon heard about the longtime relationship between NWNA and the Project WET Foundation.

“My manager, Jennifer Dunbar, told me about Project WET,” Rob says. “She had been trained to use Project WET as part of Nestlé’s commitment to community involvement through water education and told me how to get in touch with Project WET to get trained.”

In February, Project WET USA Senior Program Manager Julia Beck and Publications Manager Megan Regnerus traveled to southern California to train Rob and two dozen other volunteers. After completing training, Rob and one of his sales managers, Richard Cardenas, jumped in with both feet, finding classrooms and other venues in which to share interactive water education with students and continually seeking out new opportunities to teach about water.

NWNA sales manager Richard Cardenas and Rob often volunteer together as a team “Richard has been doing all of this with me. It helps to have a partner,” Rob says, adding that Richard’s wife works in inner-city schools, which has helped them reach schools where resources are low and challenges are high.

“I primarily target middle schools in lower-income areas because there can be a lack of resources and volunteers in those schools,” Rob says. “The students we have met get super excited when they see us walk in to the room with the blow-up globe and the big blue water kit. You should see the smiles and the way their faces light up! I love the fact that they’re learning and are so happy to see a positive role model to inspire them.”

In addition to teaching in classrooms, Rob has also helped nurture an innovative partnership with local law enforcement to incorporate water education into community events.

“An employee in our Colton branch has kids who attend elementary school there, and in that school, there is a team of police officers with a focus on community involvement and children,” he says. “I was working a Project WET event at another school, and that Colton employee asked if I would be interested in bringing water education to police-sponsored career day events at his child’s school.”

Rob has been working with local law enforcement officers in Southern California to increase water awareness at police-sponsored community events Sponsored by the Colton and Rialto police departments, these events provide life counseling and guidance to low-income schools with limited resources.

“This Colton employee gave me the name of a police officer who was interested in partnering up to link their events with water education. As a result, that police department has invited us to more community-based events, allowing us to reach more kids with water education,” Rob explains.

Rob says that the interactivity of Project WET is key to making the lessons effective in these educational environments, where some kids are dealing with serious challenges.

“We see some children with mental health issues or with parents who have drug issues; there are kids who are facing homelessness…basically, there can be a number of different challenges that can make it difficult for some kids to stay engaged,” he notes.

“Project WET really allows me to teach kids in a way that they have fun learning,” Rob says. “That’s what I love about the program. I’m not just talking to them or showing them slides. They get to stand up, throw the globe around, make bracelets to learn the water cycle, you name it. We’re often limited on time, but even with just one activity, kids get really excited. They want to participate however they can.”

Rob says that bringing Project WET into the schools as an employee of NWNA is another way to relate to kids.

Students, volunteers and law enforcement officials gathered for a group picture during a recent event “When I go into a school and say proudly that I’m from Nestlé Pure Life, or ReadyRefresh, or Arrowhead, I specifically call that out for a reason,” he says. “What I find is that 70 to 80 percent of these kids will chime in that their mom buys Arrowhead, or their grandpa loves Pure Life. It's just one more way to show what we have in common.”

Rob and the other NWNA employee-volunteers that he works with show no signs of slowing down their commitment to giving back and teaching about water. “We’re working to get as much communication out there as we can, letting people know that we have volunteers available to teach kids about water,” he says.

For his part, Rob said he would love to visit an inner-city school each week if he had time.

“I’m just one guy, but I want to do as much as possible,” he concludes. “I was that kid at one point. I have an extra layer of understanding. That’s what drives me.”

 

Project WET Partner in Texas Brings Water Education to Uganda School

Tue, 2017-05-30 08:03

Students in Uganda participating in World Water Monitoring activities Students at Oaks of Righteousness School, part of Restoration Gateway  in northern Uganda, recently learned about water by engaging with Project WET activities. Project WET Coordinator Melissa Mullins of the Center for Reservoir & Aquatic Systems Research (C.R.A.S.R.) at Baylor University traveled to Uganda as part of a Baylor University group. The Baylor team worked with students and teachers in exploring soils, water and birds of this unique and beautiful area on the banks of the Nile River. Students participated in "Blue Planet" and the "Incredible Journey", and supplies for these activities as well as printed materials such as the Nile River poster and Project WET activity booklets were part of the science supplies donated to the school. Students in the secondary school are also participating in the World Water Monitoring Challenge to submit water quality data from the Nile River.

Of the experience, Melissa said, “I might have taught the kids some things, but I learned far more- the trip was a joy and a blessing.”

This week, Melissa  facilitated the secondary students and their teacher at Restoration Gateway Facetiming with 8th grade students at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Waco who had participated in the World Water Monitoring Challenge this year. They shared their results comparing the Nile River and the Brazos River in Waco. Melissa noted that the students all seemed to really enjoy the chance to talk to kids halfway around the world!

 

Arkansas Project WET work on PPCP in water recognized with invitation to Clinton Foundation summit

Thu, 2017-05-25 11:09

by Barbara Miller, Arkansas Project WET

The sixth Health Matters Annual Activation Summit took place in April at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Attendance was by special invitation only, with the invitations sent to leaders in their field who deliver effective, community-based solutions. Someone submitted my name to the committee for the work I have done with pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP) in water supplies and their potential impacts.

No matter what audience I have, be it in a workshop or presentation, the Drug Take Back program is discussed because it is a proactive solution to eliminating these chemical compounds in our water bodies. Arkansas has had remarkable results especially when you consider it is a rural state. I use the waste water treatment facility virtual tour and webcast overview the WETteam developed and mention Project WET as a resource for all interested in preserving water quality.

President Bill Clinton moderated panel discussions and roundtables with audience participation throughout the day. Some of the distinguished speakers included:

  • Bill Austin, Founder, Starkey Hearing Foundation and Owner, CEO and president, Starkey Hearing Technologies
  • Kristine Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer, American Indian Cancer Foundation
  • Dr. Raul Ruiz, Congressman, U.S. Representative (California’s 36th District)
  • Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner
  • Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO, Global Policy Solutions
  • Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
  • Drew Boshell, Senior Vice President, Sport and Health, Special Olympics
  • Richard A. Rawson, PhD., Research Professor, Vermont Center on Behavior and Health , University of Vermont, and Professor Emeritus, UCLA School of Medicine
  • Dr. Kim Janda, Ely R. Callaway, Jr. Chaired Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Immunology; Director Worm Institute for Research & Medicine; and Skaggs Scholar, The Scripps Research Institute

In addition to the panel discussions, two Lightning Round Impact Announcement sessions were held. AstraZeneca, The Arkansas Department of Higher Education with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and The Bipartisan Policy Center headed one session while Harvard Medical School and HarvardX Adapt Pharma headed the other.

The event concluded with closing remarks by President Clinton.

Guest Post: Watershed Model Helps People Understand Their Water Address

Tue, 2017-05-23 14:39

By Maddi Phillips, South Carolina Project WET

The GCSWCD watershed model is topographically accurate, featuring local waterways, roadways, landmarks, municipalities and watershed boundaries The Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District (GCSWCD) in South Carolina recently introduced an impactful new teaching tool: a watershed model of Greenville County. The model is similar to an EnviroScape, but instead of an imaginary landscape, this model is a topographically accurate map printed with aerial photography of the area and adorned with local waterways, roadways, landmarks, municipalities and, most importantly, watershed boundaries. The board is waterproof, making it easy to “make it rain” (with the assistance of a spray bottle) on the landscape and watch the water travel through the watershed, ebb and flow in the rivers and drain into what staff affectionately refer to as “Lake Greenwood” (the lake downstream of Greenville).

The idea for the model began in 2015 when GCSWCD staff was brainstorming for an upcoming litter pollution campaign. It seemed that there was little concern for roadside litter but that attitudes changed when that litter was in a river. After researching, talking to residents and meeting with local conservationists, the consensus was that people know not to litter, but there is a disconnect between trash on the ground and trash in the waterways. Put another way, many people do not understand the concept of a watershed.

One nature park director spoke on the countless comments from concerned park visitors about the amount of trash in the river that runs through the park. “People are leaving their trash in the river," they would complain. "Why aren’t you doing anything about this?” A park curator whose life's work some days seems to be endlessly picking up litter--only to have the efforts be erased after each rainfall--can get understandably defensive, since the struggle is not litter originating in the park but litter originating upstream in the highly urbanized watershed. Thus, the need for a model.

Maddi Phillips of the Greenville County Soil and Water District using the new watershed model After a year and a half of planning and execution, a watershed model was delivered to an eager Soil and Water District.

Happily, it works exactly as intended and has been an effective tool in educating the public. We generally start by locating students’ homes, offices or schools on the map. From there, they are able to see in which of Greenville’s 10 watersheds they are located and, therefore, which river their stormwater (and its accompanying pollution) flows into. Conversation segues are endless. Discussions are started on pollution, water quality, living downstream and many other critical topics.

The model has been in use for a couple of months, and the initial response has been positive. At the beginning of the demonstration, when asked “Do you know what a watershed is?” the majority of participants answer no, looking stumped. By the end of the demonstration, they are able to describe, in detail, the function of a watershed and recognize that what pollutes the land will also pollute the water. From elementary-aged students to adults, people understand the model and concept. As a result, they leave more aware, educated citizens, ready to make responsible choices for our watersheds.

A Project WET Co-Coordinator in South Carolina, Maddi Phillips is the Community Relations Coordinator for the Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District, one of Project WET's partners in South Carolina.

 

How I Use Project WET: Teaching Children to Protect Water

Mon, 2017-05-22 15:58

Heather Hess has organized World Water Day festivals in Stamford for the past three years For the past four years, Heather Hess has had plenty to do as the Customs and Trade Compliance Manager for Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA). Even as she oversees imports and exports for the United States and Canada, however, she has taken time each year since 2015 to organize a World Water Day festival using Project WET activities at the NWNA headquarters office in Stamford, CT.

Heather says her motivations for being involved with Project WET come from both personal and professional experience.

Kids at the festival learned about the water cycle using the Incredible Journey activity “The Project WET activities that we use fall right in line with NWNA’s sustainability story,” Heather explained in a World Water Day post on the NWNA blog. “They teach the children about how precious water is, how they can protect water sources, and the things we all do that impact water and what we can do better.”

“I’m a mother,” she told Project WET recently, “so I really enjoy sharing my passion for learning with children. I love seeing the students’ reactions to the activities and every year,  I learn something from them.”

Heather first used Project WET in 2015 when she organized her first festival. She said  she loves Project WET activities because they are “pertinent, so easy to understand and apply, and fun!”

These NWNA employees joined hundreds of other Nestle Waters employees in teaching kids about water using Project WET on World Water Day “Here’s an example: one of the activities we do is about recycling,” Heather wrote. “When the children come into the room, they see items representing trash spread all over the ground. The first thing we tell them is to imagine it’s their yard or neighborhood or playground and what should they do? Pick it up! They collect the trash and put it in a can. Then we take it out and ask them to sort it by type and talk about each – can it be recycled, composted, or can it be reused? Their ideas are so creative and inspiring. We often get responses back from the schools telling us that the students have taken the learning from this activity and applied it to their own lives, both at school and at home. Helping them to make that connection is what makes these events so impactful.”

Project WET and Nestlé Waters have been working together for more than 20 years, and thousands of employees like Heather have taken part in festivals on World Water Day and throughout the year, reaching hundreds of thousands of children.

“Water is something I think about every day,” Heather concluded. “I’m proud to take part in activities that help focus the world’s attention on it. I encourage everyone to find opportunities to be responsible water stewards every day.”

 

Recycle and Reuse: Environmental Benefits of Water Recycling (Guest Post)

Tue, 2017-04-25 09:39

Earth in a water drop (Image credit: gruene-europa via Creative Commons) by Bob Gorman

Our world's resources are far from infinite. Water often seems to be abundant, but humanity is actually putting a great deal of strain on the available surface and groundwater water supplies. Our failure to conserve our water supply is causing droughts, dust storms, and other environmental problems that hurt both humanity and nature. The only way to minimize the situation from turning into a disaster is to start conserving and recycling water.

What is Water Recycling?

The water cycle ensures that used water will eventually work its way back into nature, but it doesn't always end up in reservoirs that we can access. Most humans get their water from rivers, lakes, or groundwater reservoirs. When we put those resources under heavy use, we often draw water from them faster than they can replenish themselves. When we take too much from a surface water source, we could disrupt the rate of recharge and cause the little streams that branch off from it to dry up. When we take it from a lake or from groundwater, we cause them to dry up. They will eventually recover, but only if humans stop drawing water from them.

Water recycling refers to strategies to reuse water beneficially to reduce the use of available natural water resources. Every drop of water that we recycle is a drop that we don't have to take from our limited water resources. At the simplest level, water recycling can mean harvesting rainwater in a barrel. More complex systems collect greywater, which is the slightly dirty water that is left over from washing and similar activities, and use it for irrigation, toilets, or other uses where complete purity isn't a concern.

How Does it Help?

Water recycling offers several benefits, both to us and to the world in which we live. The biggest benefit comes from preventing water shortages. That offers protection to the world's water resources, which would get drained to ensure that humans can continue to prosper while we run out of water. Recycling also ensures that we have enough water to grow crops, maintain our hygiene, and simply stay hydrated. Almost every aspect of human life uses water at some point, so running out could cause our entire civilization to collapse.

Recycling also helps to prevent pollution, especially in an industrial context. Many machines and appliances produce wastewater that carry some pollutants. If that water enters the environment without treatment, it can spread those pollutants across a surprising distance and give them a chance to kill plants and animals. Wastewater treatment and water recycling prevents the water from contaminating our rivers, lakes and groundwater.

The Future of Water Recycling

Right now, most people think of water recycling as an optional activity. People who care about the environment or want to save money on their water bill do it, but most other people are quite content to ignore the issue. That is likely to change in the future.

The demand for water is directly connected to both the number of people in the world and the standard of living that they want to maintain. The world's population is high and still climbing, so the demand for water is not going to drop any time soon. The developing world is also getting richer, and the increased desire for luxury products will keep increasing the amount of water that gets diverted to industry and inefficient forms of agriculture.

This means that we need to find other ways to conserve water. Recycling is not our only option, but it is one of the things that everyone can do to help. As the demand for water increases, the price of potable water is likely rise, and more people will recycle water. Even the people who don't care about the environment will start to recycle in order to save money.

Our purification technology is also improving. That will make water recycling even easier in the future, both on a large scale and at a personal level. That makes it seem likely that water recycling will play a large role in most water management systems in the future, especially if more people get started with it now.

Bob Gorman is a freelance writer from Melbourne, who likes writing articles that cover environment and sustainability related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time on the beach with his family. Find Bob on Twitter at @bob_gorman82.

Members of Levi’s Service Corps use Project WET activities to engage with factory in Mexico

Fri, 2017-04-21 14:45

Panorama of one section of the factory floor in Mexico Ask someone what an apparel factory in the developing world looks like and you might not expect to hear airy and clean, but that was what Project WET Senior Program Manager Morgan Close found when she recently traveled to Mexico. She was meeting up with members of the Levi Strauss & Co. Service Corps—an immersion program that allows selected LS&Co. employees to experience what life is like for apparel workers—near the site of one of the companies that produces LS&Co. jeans to train employees and local educators to use Project WET.

“I was very surprised with how bright and open the factories were,” Morgan said.

Levi Service Corps members learned about some of the work that goes into making a pair of jeans by trying it themselves It wasn’t the only surprise of the trip, either. While learning about the process that it takes to go from raw denim to finished jeans, she found out that that a typical pair of 501 jeans is touched by about 125 people from start to finish in the production process.

“Seeing the time and process that goes into making a garment was really shocking,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s experiences with the Service Corps in Mexico taught her about the work and lives of the people who make Levi’s products. She also had a chance to teach, training 14 local school teachers, 15 LS&Co. employees and five factory staff to teach students about water using Project WET activities about water conservation and water, sanitation and hygiene.

Service Corps members helped kids understand how germs spread through the Human Knot activity “The LS&Co employees really enjoyed the activities and are excited to use them after the trip when they return to their home offices and communities,” Morgan explained. “Having local teachers involved in the workshop and student teaching was fantastic. The teachers were dedicated and provided essential information for the Service Corps members on how to work with the students. And the factory staff who participated are excited to teach the activities to all 5,000 of their employees.”

The newly trained Water Ambassadors got the chance to put their training into action right away by teaching local children about clean water and healthy hygiene habits using Project WET’s hands-on activities.

“We worked with about 400 students in grades one through six,” Morgan said. “Watching the LS&Co. and factory employees as well as the local teachers help children in the local community understand the importance of clean water was inspiring.”

About 400 students learned about clean water and healthy hygiene habits with Service Corps members In turn, Morgan said, factory workers and their families were able to share their life experiences with the Service Corps.

“They seemed to appreciate the opportunity to connect with LS&Co. employees about their work and homes,” she said.

The first Service Corps trip was in 2015, and past trip participants have traveled to Haiti, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Future trips are already in the planning phase. Speaking to the company’s Unzipped blog, LS&Co.’s Alexis Bechtol, who manages the Service Corps, called it “an incredible program for some of our most engaged employees from around the world.”

“Whether directly or indirectly, everything our employees do day in and day out at LS&Co. has social and environmental sustainability woven into it,” she continued. “The LS&Co. Service Corps program ties all of these pieces together, giving employees a unique opportunity to see our innovative programs in action. They come back to their desks more engaged, thinking about how the decisions they make have a direct impact on the people in our supply chain.”

LS&Co. has been sponsoring the Project WET Foundation since 2015. In 2016, company leaders made a commitment at the White House to use Project WET to train 100 percent of their employees about water and sustainability by the year 2020. To learn more about what LS&Co. and Project WET are doing together, check out these stories:

Workshops in Shanghai and Guangzhou Help Students, NGOs and Ecolab Employees Make the World Cleaner and Healthier

Thu, 2017-04-06 08:17

Guangzhou workshop participants learned how germs can spread from person to person While the water conservation and hygiene education materials developed for the Clean and Conserve program are most often used in classrooms, participants in a recent workshop in Shanghai came up with another creative implementation idea: children’s parties. Project WET’s international projects assistant Allison Howe was in Shanghai for the workshop and reported that participants brainstormed using the “Do Knot Pass It Along” activity—a whole-body activity that emphasizes the importance of proper handwashing—at kids’ parties before passing out treats.

It was one of numerous creative ways the 25 workshop participants came up with as they discussed possible methods for scaling up the Clean and Conserve materials at one of two recent workshops held in China—one in Shanghai and one in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

Shanghai workshop participants played tag to discover how healthy hygiene habits can protect people from illness In Shanghai, about half of the attendees were Ecolab employees. Students and representatives from Project WET implementing partners Shanghai Roots and Shoots and other NGOs including the Alliance for Water Stewardship and The Nature Conservancy made up the remaining participants. Project WET Senior Vice President John Etgen also attended, working together with Allison to train at the Shanghai workshop before heading to Papua New Guinea for another educator workshop.

According to Allison, the Shanghai workshop attendees were overwhelmingly positive about the materials and the potential to use them with their communities.

“Many people noted how important the topics that Clean and Conserve covers are, especially in China,” she explained. “Water conservation is emphasized in China, in part because of its large population. Preventing germ transmission in areas of high population density is also a key lesson that these newly trained educators are hoping to share widely.”

Participants in Guangzhou included Ecolab employees as well as representatives from NGOs and universities Later, in Guangzhou, a sprawling port city northwest of Hong Kong, Allison trained another 25 participants to use Clean and Conserve. Five of the attendees were Ecolab employees, while the others represented organizations and universities in the region.

Among the NGO participants were representatives from Taiwan’s Guandu Nature Park, a Project WET partner since 2011. Sandra, a Guandu employee and seasoned Project WET educator, was able to lead the activity warm-up for “Healthy Natural Environments”. A local Ecolab employee, Candy, pitched in with a compelling demonstration of a soap molecule for the “Soap Science” warm-up.

In addition to discussions about water conservation, participants also examined how ocean water might be used to provide fresh water, Allison said. “The ‘Drop in the Bucket’ demonstration prompted a lot of conversation about using desalination,” she noted.

With approximately 50 new educators now implementing Clean and Conserve in China using the Chinese-language resources—adding to the dozens of others trained in previous workshops—the program is well underway not only in China but around the world. The Project WET Foundation and Ecolab are working to reach 2 million people with water conservation and hygiene education by the end of 2017.

Developed through the partnership between the Project WET Foundation and Ecolab, Clean and Conserve includes lessons, activities and other learning resources for children and youth ages three through 18, as well as educators. Visit the Clean and Conserve page to learn more. Originally published in English, Clean and Conserve materials are available in Chinese, Spanish for Mexico, German, French for Canada and Portuguese for Brazil (French and Portuguese materials are available for download from the English-language page).