Sarah's Quest for Clean Water
In order to make polluted water potable, people in Kenya often boil it – this requires a lot of firewood. This need contributes to the increasing rate of deforestation, which leads to an increase in CO2 emissions. A climate protection project in Kenya is trying to counter this. The project involves distributing water filters to households. They not only aid human health, but also contribute to climate protection.
Four or five times a week, Sarah has to go into the forest to collect new firewood for her family. The path she must take is long. Branches and twigs lie heavy on the girl's head and shoulders – she switches between the two so that the weight remains bearable across the long distance she must walk. She could buy the wood herself, but it is far too expensive.
The 15-year-old girl lives with her family in a small village in western Kenya. Many of the people in this remote area live below the poverty line – in mud huts, without medical care or running drinking water. The closest river is dirty and contains countless bacteria, yet the locals drink the cloudy liquid, because there is no alternative. The consequences are often severe – typhoid and cholera. On the doctor's recommendation, they boil the water over an open flame. For many, this is the only way to kill the bacteria responsible for illnesses.
The demand for firewood is one of the reasons deforestation has increased in Kenya in recent decades. Wood is by far the most important source of energy there, and is used for cooking and heating – 90% of the lumber is used as firewood. The consequence of this is that the forest loses its ability to store and convert CO2, and air pollution increases.
Clean Drinking Water for Sarah's Village
Vestergaard Frandsen wants to change this: the company for disease control technologies operates the climate protection project, which so far has distributed 900,000 water filters to Kenyan households. The LifeStraw® Carbon For Water programme aims to enable people to filter their own water instead of boiling it. The project is financed by selling carbon credits. No fuel or electricity is required to filter water. The core element is a 30-centimetre plastic housing containing the filter membranes. They ensure that viruses and bacteria are removed from polluted rivers, lakes, rainwater collection barrels or puddles.
Sarah's family is among those to receive a water filter. The LifeStraw® is fixed to the ceiling of the hut with a rope. The dirty water is simply poured into the treatment unit, which contains the filter, and can be dispensed with a tap. The new method means the water can be made potable without the need to boil it. In western Kenya, 3.6 million people already have access to water treatment units with filters such as these, and use them regularly. Her parents were sceptical at first, says Sarah, but the advantages now outweigh the disadvantages: Their health has improved significantly, they no longer need to collect firewood for clean drinking water, and they save time. The sustainable programme intends for the users to be able to have the water filters repaired or replaced in service centres across the province for free. Vestergaard Frandsen therefore employs people locally to help guarantee the quality of the water.
Alongside the health and economic benefits to the people, the filter system also helps the environment: since less firewood is needed, fewer trees are felled. This allows more CO2 to be stored and the quantity of greenhouse gases which end up in the atmosphere decreases. Since the project started in 2011, a total of 4,476,205 tonnes of CO2 have been saved.
Climate Change and Climate Protection Projects
The increase in greenhouse gas emissions such as increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere leads to climate change. The consequences can already be seen all across the globe: melting ice caps, the rising sea level and the increase in extreme weather are just a few examples.
In order to stop the increase of global warming, countless measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions have been introduced since the Kyoto Protocol1 was signed. This includes, for example, offsetting CO2 emissions with the help of climate protection projects. The savings achieved by this can be traded in the form of emission reduction certificates. Each certificate represents a certain amount of CO2 saved by the project. In order to generate them, climate protection projects must meet certain criteria, for example by bringing about long-term savings of greenhouse gas emissions.
The project by Vestergaard Frandsen receives these certificates for reducing greenhouse gases. Companies, as well as individuals, are able to purchase them, thereby supporting the climate protection project. In doing so, CO2 emissions can be offset, for example those originating from the use of cars, energy consumption, or airline travel.
Kärcher is committed to sustainability and climate protection, and supports certified climate protection projects such as water treatment in western Kenya. Because using cleaning machines such as scrubber driers also causes CO2 emissions which cannot be completely avoided, for example those due to energy consumption.
In collaboration with the climate protection consultancy ClimatePartner2, Kärcher is now offering operators of its scrubber driers the option to offset the CO2 emissions generated by their machines. This is done by calculating the annual CO2 emissions generated by the fleet based on its size, the model and average use. For each tonne of CO2, a specified amount of money will be invested in an internationally certified climate protection project in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Along with ClimatePartner, Kärcher is supporting Vestergaard Frandsen's climate protection project, thereby allowing an improvement of the water supply in western Kenya. Standards that apply internationally, such as the "Gold Standard" – one of the strictest standards, developed by 40 non-governmental organisations – ensure the quality of the project.
Since it is not important where the CO2 is saved, every tonne of CO2 that is avoided benefits the climate in equal measure. It is also irrelevant whether greenhouse gases are saved in developing countries or in Central Europe. The main idea behind the offset is that for every quantity of CO2 emitted somewhere on the planet, which was not avoided, an equal quantity is prevented from being emitted elsewhere. As such, the water filters in Sarah's village also contribute to protecting the climate.
But Sarah also benefits personally from her family's LifeStraw®: since less firewood is needed, she no longer has to carry the heavy wood home and undertake the long and arduous journey, leaving her more time for school and studying.
1 The Kyoto Protocol, passed in 1997, is an additional protocol designed to set out the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with climate protection as its aim. The agreement, which came into effect on 16 February 2005, lays down mandatory target values for greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main cause of global warming.
2 ClimatePartner is one of the leading climate change consultants in the German-speaking area, and is based in Munich. Since it was established in 2006, ClimatePartner has been pursuing the goal of integrating climate protection into as many areas of daily life as possible. The company assumes responsibility on Kärcher's behalf for selecting and allocating high-quality climate protection projects called upon for the purpose of offsetting CO2 emissions and providing the TÜV-certified IT infrastructure for transacting the CO2 emissions.