UAE eco-campaign to cut water-bottle waste
On March 22 2013 – World Water Day – Karena Albers and Jenifer Willig launched Whole World Water (WWW), a social media campaign to get hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants to filter, bottle and sell their own water.
In exchange for a fee, the company becomes a member of WWW; for hotels this is US$1,000 per property. That bestows the right to use WWW branding and be included in the marketing campaign. The next step is to install the filtering system and start bottling sparking and still water. Lastly, the company agrees to give 10 per cent of the profit from the water sold to the World Water Fund, which aims to raise $1 billion a year to help the 1 billion people worldwide who do not have access to clean water.
The pair also say that switching from plastic bottles to filtering can boost the company’s bottom line by as much as 25 per cent.
“Everyone has been very receptive to the idea because it’s so simple,” says Ms Willig, who adds that filtration systems are fairly cheap and easy to install.
“Not only do they understand the size and scope of the water [problem] but everyone is also trying to figure out a way to reduce their use of plastic. I think the challenge now is how quickly everyone can bring it on board.”
In the UAE, nearly all water is desalinated. But Ms Albers is optimistic that the idea of filtering desalinated water is catching on.
“The standards of desalinated water [in the Gulf region] are very, very high,” she says. “People are starting to filter the desalinated water in their own homes. I think there is a big movement to look at new ways to address the fact the whole region is running out of water and the idea of shipping in millions of plastic bottles just isn’t a sustainable solution.”
So far, about 20 chains or individual hotels have signed up, including Dusit Hotels and Resorts, Jetwing and Virgin, where Sir Richard Branson is an adviser. WWW aims to have 1,000 hotels participating by the end of the year.
However, they might have their work cut out.
Gerald Lawless, the chief executive of Jumeirah Group, is seeking more clarification from WWW. He points out that Jumeirah provides guests with water in their rooms free of charge, but WWW wants hotels to charge guests for filtered water.
“We are in business to do business and, yes, we must have a very responsible approach to sustainability. But we must do it in a way that [is] sensible and measured and that is commercial,” Mr Lawless says. “And I don’t like that guests would have to pay for water that we are [currently] not charging for. For me, the jury is still out on that particular one.”
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