Agua de Vida

Ecofiltro

3. Good Health and Well-Being 6. Clean Water and Sanitation 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 10. Reduced Inequalities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Ecofiltro (Ecofilter in English) water filters provide financially sustainable scalable solutions to the issue of affordable clean water filter scarcity in developing countries. Ecofiltro filters make it easier to have access to clean water due to its effectiveness, convenience with a very high cultural acceptance, and affordable price. This allows for people to not have to waste time and energy on boiling water while wasting firewood when these precious resources can be used elsewhere. Therefore, Ecolfiltro has the climate change impact of under 1% as opposed to the 35% impact of boiling water. The filters are low-priced (affordable, 1.3% margin in rural area, 16-17% margin in urban area) and it is produced locally with local labor and local materials (small carbon footprint).

Author

Jackson Brown

Jackson Brown

School

Wittenberg University

Wittenberg University

Professor

Sunny Jeong

Sunny Jeong

Innovation

Ecofiltro's water filters consist of clay jars that are filled with sawdust and colloidal silver which helps to filter out bacteria and bad taste in the water, resulting in clean, drinkable water. Philip does not believe in 'free give away' for addressing any social problems in developing countries. He sees poor rural people as consumers instead of charity cases. The filters are priced in a way that they will pay for themselves with the amount of money saved from not having to buy firewood and other supplies to boil it. It is priced differently ($110 in urban area, $35 in rural area with 1.3% margin, donated to local schools) so that it is affordable for all and sustainable for business and local economy, scalable for its impact. Filters are all produced locally in Guatemala with 77 employees and they only use local materials (small carbon footprint). Factory site has an organic garden where all employees and families have an access to organic food ingredients and free meals. Ecofiltro has provided clean water to over 460,000 Guatemalan families.

"I originally met Mr. Wilson when I toured the facilities, he demonstrated the ability of the filters to finely filter water from other materials. To demonstrate it to us, he poured soda down the filter, which when ready was pure, clean, tasty water!" - Student (visitor) testimonial

"Free give-away is dehumanizing and my idea to charge for a product was't always popular. I told my sister, a social worker who had been working on water purification in rural Guatemala for years. She was so upset by saying 'you know, that's not what we do. They are poor, they will never pay for it and it is ruining the spirit of our work.' and she stopped talking to me for 3 months" - Phillip Wilson, CEO and Founder.

Agua de Vida

Inspiration

Philip’s mother is an Arzú, a name familiar to any Guatemalan — her brother, Alvaro Arzú, is the current mayor of Guatemala City and former president of Guatemala, famous for signing the peace deal that ended their 36-year-long civil war. Philip’s introduction to improving water safety in Guatemala came in his teens, when he’d spend summers visiting his mother’s family. He and sister would go out into rural areas and teach women how to purify their water using chlorine, which was the recommended method at the time. They quickly found out that people did not use chlorine for purifying and drinking water but used for household cleaning purpose because of bad taste. His sister explored alternative solution and collaborated with the local scientist with his clay and silver filter he'd developed. When they were given (for free) to rural families, they did not use it or used it as a flower pot. So Philip, who got his MBA at Wharton proposed to sell them at an affordable price and he started the company, Ecofiltro.

Phillip Wilson said that by creating this business model he has been able to help more by creating a hand-up not a hand-out, by not making these people of lower classes dependent on free donations. Wilson described how he felt that he had found his life's purpose and calling by creating a sustainable business model that improves people's lives.

Overall impact

The impact is that thousands of families within Guatemala, and other countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico, and other ares within Central America now have access to clean water. This means less money needed to spend on firewood to boil water, less energy spent by having to do so, resources such as wood are saved which helps the environment, and less risk of illness from having disease-free water. A family using a filter receives US $192 annual financial benefit. There has been 200,000 TN annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions due to its water filtering technology and local production. Deaths of 3.5 person per year averted for every 1,000 filters in use due to people's access to clean water. About 832,000 children now have an access to clean water due to Ecofiltro's school program.

Something as simple as a ceramic water filter can cause a huge impact for many impoverished families that could use these resources somewhere else to help better their state. Where some filters can filter 1-3 liters a day, the Ecofiltro filter can do 2 an hour, more than the other leading brands. Again, while the filter can be a bit pricey than others, the filter pays for itself with the amount of money saved from not having to buy firewood all the time.

Business benefit

The innovation allows for it to be mass produced by local artisans, which contributes to the local economy. It's cheap enough to where it will pay for itself allowing for a big market with high demand. Higher margin in urban area (16-17%) offset the loss with rural sales and school donations. The price tag of $35 per filter in rural area is the approximate cost of two month’s worth of bottled water in Guatemala and ecofilter lasts about 2 years. This price model allows for them to slowly grow and expand to other countries as they have. This is opposed to a more expensive, mass-produced, non environmentally friendly model that wouldn't contribute to the local economy. People are thus being employed, lifting them out of poverty, who produce these filters which allows for people to focus on other things as their water is secure, allowing for them to also life themselves out of poverty.

Social and environmental benefit

It benefits society by eliminating clean water insecurity allowing for people to focus on other objective such as work, family time, etc. This also spares people from catching diseases that could cause serious harm or even kill due to the lack of sterile plumbing . The filter is made using environmentally-friendly materials such as clay, silver, and sawdust which are neither harmful to the people that use it nor the environment. Ecolfiltro has the climate change impact of under 1% as opposed to the 35% impact of boiling water.

The company's model of sourcing labor from local artisans and caring about their employees, allowing for an empowered community to make a difference in the status quo each day at work.The Ecofiltro compound has open-air spaces with recreational facilities such as a volleyball court. Meals made from local, organic ingredients are sold at extremely cheap prices for the employees, allowing them to have an easy access to food that doesnt threaten their money supply.

Interview

Phillip Wilson, CEO and Founder

Photo of interviewee

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Ecofiltro

Ecofiltro

aldea san lorenzo el cubo ciudad vieja, sacatepéquez, GT

Business Website: https://www.ecofiltro.com/

Year Founded: 2009

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Ecofiltro manufactures ceramic water filters for urban and rural people that do not have access to clean water. The Filters have sawdust and silver which naturally filter water in about 1-2 hours. This allows the owners to not have to waste time and energy on boiling water. Ecofiltro has now expanded to other countries within Central America to help with clean water insecurity.