SPOKANE, Washington — Weighing only ounces with the ability to filter more than 1,000 liters of water, the LifeStraw personal water filter is a simple, effective and affordable option for accessing clean water in both situations of recreation and emergencies. LifeStraw products have become the go-to lightweight water filters for outdoor enthusiasts, but the same technology has been in use for decades to improve access to safe drinking water around the globe. The Swiss-based company fights waterborne illness, partnering with a long list of international organizations to provide emergency supplies during natural disasters since 1994. LifeStraw’s humanitarian mission entails “working to make clean water accessible for all.”
Since the 1960s, Vestergaard, LifeStraw’s parent company, has focused on global humanitarian efforts, providing public health products such as HIV test kits and mosquito nets. In 1994, Vestergaard partnered with a nonprofit, the Carter Center, and was tasked with creating a device to aid in improving clean water access during the epidemic of Guinea worm in Africa. LifeStraw initially utilized a “simple mesh filter” to remove “Guinea worm larvae from drinking water.” The company then distributed a prototype of LifeStraw’s now bestselling personal straw filter to affected communities in 1999. From more than 100,000 cases of Guinea worm across 18 nations, by the close of 2020, “there were only 27 cases” in six nations. Since partnering with the Carter Center, LifeSraw has provided the organization “with more than 38 million filters.”
The technology has been improved and adapted to create a large collection of filtration and purification devices made to address specific needs in communities worldwide. LifeStraw’s humanitarian mission has involved a number of projects in African nations as well as an array of other locations worldwide struggling without access to safe, clean water. Haiti, Pakistan and the Philippines are three countries outside of Africa that have received millions of personal LifeStraw filters for their communities.
How LifeStraw Filters Work
The LifeStraw personal device is incredibly portable and efficient. The pocket-sized product utilizes gravity, rather than a drawn-out chemical reaction or expensive UV lights, to filter water in a matter of seconds. The straw’s membrane microfilters capture bacteria and parasites that cause harm to the digestive system. The device is “back flushable,” meaning that cleaning the device is as simple as blowing air through the straw after use. This simple, effective design makes it instrumental in aiding vulnerable communities living in crisis or facing circumstances where there is a high risk of disease, explaining LifeStraw’s success as a retail product.
LifeStraw in Kenya
LifeStraw was brought to the consumer market with the condition that each sale would strengthen LifeStraw’s humanitarian mission. Through LifeStraw’s Give Back program, each LifeStraw product bought ensures a child in a developing region, such as Africa, is provided with access to clean water for one year.
As it is LifeStraw’s focus to provide communities with technology that will best fit their needs, the products supplied as aid are not always identical to the ones available for consumer purchase. Instead, products used in humanitarian missions are specific, large-scale systems designed for the needs of many. For every 500 products purchased, the company will donate one “LifeStraw community purifier” to a disadvantaged school, enabling access to safe water for 100 students for five years.
By the close of 2021, LifeStraw’s Give Back initiative will be able to provide more than four million disadvantaged children “with one year of safe water.” The program has 40 community members on staff to monitor the progress of each project, and after a period of five years, LifeStraw reevaluates their impact and updates each project accordingly.
The program’s reach was expanded over the past year, given that COVID-19 brought on new challenges and increased needs in every community. With schools closed, local staff in Kenya repurposed school filters as larger community resources and recycled old equipment for handwashing stations. LifeStraw also expanded its efforts to provide education on virus prevention and safe hygiene practices.
With media coverage of the pandemic and the necessitated call for COVID-19-related relief, many natural disasters went without adequate aid. In 2019-2020, LifeStraw provided critical relief to many areas hit with natural disasters:
- Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America
- Earthquakes in Puerto Rico
- Cyclone Amphan in India
- Cyclone and floods in Bangladesh
- Tropical Storm Amanda in El Salvador
- Floods in Kenya
Continuing LifeStraw’s Humanitarian Mission
Despite its success as a retailer, becoming a frontrunner for water filtration in just three years, LifeStraw continues to provide targeted relief by improving technologies to better service vulnerable communities. LifeStraw’s humanitarian mission began by creating a device to fill a gap in innovation. LifeStraw has continued to fill in the gaps, extending its scope to any region in need and adapting to the recent challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Angela Basinger