Lifestraw is a company that is dedicated to discovering new and cost-effective ways to provide drinkable water solutions for all. One of their unique products is a patented portable water purifying and drinking device that allows the user to convert dirty water into drinkable water. The device filters out microorganisms and particles through its filtration system.
Isidro De La Rosa
St. John's University
Vestergaard is an innovative leader in finding feasible solutions against diseases through water filtration mechanisms, especially those impacting vulnerable populations around the world. Vestergaard’s water solutions contribute to a healthier, more sustainable planet which in turn helps contribute to progressive enhancements within developing communities.
Vestergaard operates according to a humanitarian entrepreneurship business model, whereby doing good is good business. Following this model, the company devotes its entire innovative platform to producing breakthrough products and solutions for people in need. LifeStraw has developed a patented membrane of microfilters of hollow fiber that allows dirty water to pass through the comprehensive filter and clean water pass through its pores. The filter excludes bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt, and other forms of materials discarded by the technology. The sleek design also rejects any material that is too large to pass through the device. The filter removes at least 99.99% of bacteria, E. coli, parasites, and microplastics.
Contingent on the product line that is purchased, the intensity and sensitivity of the filters may differ as the different products are utilized differently. For example, the Lifestraw Go, Universal, and Steel products contain the carbon filter which helps remove chemicals like chlorine and other contaminants. The Lifestraw activated carbon with positive Ion reduces the heavy metals that are in the water like lead while also maintaining the attributes of the initial carbon filter that removes chemicals like chlorine.
The leader, LifeStraw, is inspired by helping disadvantaged people. The company devotes its entire innovative platform towards producing breakthrough products and solutions for disadvantaged people. Vestergaard, which is the company that LifeStraw spun off, was approached in the early 1990s by The Carter Center, to eradicate Guinea-worm disease found in water. While working with The Carter Center, a simple mesh filter to remove Guinea-worm from drinking water was created. The creation of this filter inspired the development of the straw with a mesh filter that could filter out a larva. LifeStraw still donates Guinea-worm straws to the Carter Center every year. The goal and inspiration behind the donations are to eradicate Guinea-worm in water.
Tara MacDowell, who was the employee that we interviewed, said, “If Guinea-worm disease is eradicated, it will only be the second human disease to [be] eradicate[d] from the planet and the first without a vaccine.” A current inspiration of LifeStraw is “to provide safe water globally, whether in your home in California or school in Kenya” according to Tara MacDowell. She also stated that the company is “working on developing larger-scale products for places like shelters and refugee camps”. This development could vastly improve water conditions for a wider range of people. Another inspiration is to provide safe water to children, which is why they started the Give Back program. The Give Back program invests 63 cents, for every product sold on the retail market, into a program that provides safe water to school children. Disaster relief is another huge inspiration for LifeStraw. LifeStraw raises money and provides safe water for areas that were impacted by natural disasters.
LifeStraw’s Innovation has a large impact on many disadvantaged individuals when it comes to providing clean drinking water. The company is LifeStraw, a spin-off from the company Vestergaard. LifeStraw develops products to provide clean drinking water to people who need it. They make contaminated water safe to drink. These products were developed when The Carter Center asked for their help. The innovation is the filter that was created to help any water become clean, drinkable water within seconds. This filter has led to many different products that can help areas and people in need in a variety of ways. In the 1990s The Carter Center approached Vestergaard and asked for their help in developing a way to reduce guinea-worm disease in water. Due to this request, the filter was created. This filter turned into a product that can be put into any form of water and will produce clean, healthy drinking water. LifeStraw not only developed products that can turn any water into drinkable water, but they also use their products to improve people’s way of life, whether after a natural disaster or when their location needs clean water.
There are many effects caused by this innovation, both short and long-term. The initial product caused a reduction in the amount of guinea-worm found in water, quickly after development. Another short-term effect is when an area is recovering from a natural disaster and in urgent need of help, LifeStraw will go to the area of need, and using their products can help provide easier access to drinkable water. For example, in February of 2020, the company went to Puerto Rico and delivered safe water and other supplies to families and communities affected by the earthquakes. They also provided safe water to flood victims in Kenya and cyclone victims in Bangladesh. Besides this innovation providing water to people who need it, they’ve also developed their products to have other uses. For example, the straw can be used and is popular for hiking and camping. Instead of bringing a lot of water with you, you can simply bring the straw product. A potential long-term effect that LifeStraw is developing is a larger product that can provide water in places like shelters and refugee camps. During our interview with LifeStraw, they stated that this product should be available in March of 2021. LifeStraw cares a lot about providing safe water to children and schools, and because of this, they have a program called The Give Back Program. This program has been able to reach over three million kids and they have committed to helping each chosen school for five years.
The initial purpose of this innovation was to eradicate guinea-worm disease in water. This initiative has been a huge success since its inception. When The Carter Center initially came to Vestergaard in the 1990s there were millions of Guinea-worm cases per year. Last year, there were only 53 cases of Guinea-worm disease due in large part to The Carter Center, Vestergaard, and LifeStraw.
After branching off from their parent company Vestergaard, a public health company in Switzerland, in early 2020, LifeStraw began working towards their full-time mission of creating innovative and breakthrough products and solutions for disadvantaged people, specifically by providing clean water. The Carter Center approached Vestergaard in 1994 to eradicate Guinea-worm disease found in drinking water. Vestergaard created the LifeStraw filter, which would filter out Guinea-worm larva from drinking water. In 1994 there were close to over 100,000 cases in 18 countries spanning Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. By the end of 2019, there were only 53 cases reported in five countries, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, Mali, and Angola. The goal of 2020 is to manufacture and donate over 390,000 Guinea worm filters to the five remaining countries. Originally, LifeStraw filtration rid the water of the Guinea-worm larva, and several years later, it can now filter out parasites and chemicals.
LifeStraw continued to innovate and in 2018 introduced a Family water purifier that could be used for in-house filtration in developing countries. In the same year, Lifestraw also launched a line of new products that met and exceeded the National Sanitation foundation standards for lead reduction. These products were highly sought after by outdoor enthusiasts as well, as they’re ideal for carrying in a backpack or jacket pocket, as it providing peace of mind for consumers hiking the backcountry. As LifeStraw continues to innovate and find ways to be the category leader in outdoor, recreational, daily, and humanitarian efforts, they are also dedicated to helping families in need in the wake of COVID-19 by not only providing clean water for drinking but for washing with soap as well. The estimated annual revenue of LifeStraw is predicted to be $7M with over 132 employees.
Lifestraw addresses multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) starting with their primary goal of providing Clean water for vulnerable communities. Once this basic human necessity is addressed, it will reduce the inequalities within and among countries as the citizens of the region, as it will enable access to more opportunities to focus on other priorities. It will also promote healthier lifestyles within the community. The products created by the Vestergaard company are distributed all over the world and are at a price point that is affordable for communities who are in need. The price range of the products goes from $19.95 to $395.
The products are intended for individual consumers and community utilization with high capacity. For example, the “Lifestraw community” product can hydrate up to 100 people for 3-5 years (~26,000 gallons). The filter holds about 13 gallons at a time and the filter removes viruses, bacteria, parasites, and microplastics. Once the ~26,000-gallon filter shelf life has ended, the required next step will be to simply change the filter. This can be a life-altering moment when communities don't have to worry about having drinkable water at their disposal.
Tara MacDowell, Social Impact Manager
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Baltimore, Maryland, US
Business Website: https://www.lifestraw.com/
Year Founded: 1996
Number of Employees: 51 to 200
"The LifeStraw journey began when the Carter Center approached the parent company, Vestergaard, to design a cloth filter to remove Guinea worm larvae from water sources. Twenty-four years later, LifeStraw and its designs have evolved to meet changing water purification and demand needs. After developing new filters that can remove virtually all microbiological contaminants from unclean water, LifeStraw produces and distributes straw-like personal water filters, family purification units, portable units, and large-scale purification units for institutional use in schools and health clinics."