Worldwide, the vast majority of all the wastewater from homes, farms, and businesses is flushed back to nature without being treated or reused. This pollution contaminates our already limited supply of clean freshwater. Fair trade organizations around the world are working to lower their impact on the environment. These are some of those stories.
Association of Craft Producers (ACP), NEPAL
Conscious of the fragile Himalayan ecosystem they live and work in, the team at ACP decided to install a wastewater treatment plant and a rain harvester to their workshop. The harvester collects clean water from the air, providing water for operational purposes, cleaning, and drinking. In Kathmandu, a city still rebuilding its infrastructure, this kind of independence is critical for maintaining their business, and the health of the makers who rely on the work.
The wastewater treatment plant that ACP has installed has a larger capacity that the previous one, it lets heavy metals and dangerous chemicals settle out before the water is filtered, treated, and released. Groundwater in the rocky Himalayas is the only source of water, so ACP remains committed to keeping it as clean as possible.
Noah’s Ark, INDIA
Clean water is a huge priority for Noah’s Ark, an exporter based in the North of India, east of New Delhi. They have a program called Project Pyas (meaning ‘thirst’) which helps workshops in their home city of Moradabad and beyond gain consistent access to clean water and reliable wastewater disposal. They have installed a water filtration system in each of their 40 workshops, some with rooftop basins and collection apparatus. Noah’s is also working to build clean modern washrooms in workshops and homes, an expensive project that prioritizes workshops that employ women.
Appreciating the link between clean water and good health, Noah’s Ark digs shallow wells deeper to pump cleaner water, and installs motorized pumps to provide round-the-clock water access. This is a huge upgrade for workshops and communities, who prior to the installation have had to organize their days around limited water availability.
Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS), NEPAL
After the 2015 earthquake forced them to make significant repairs to their school, workshop and showroom, KTS updated their on-site water treatment plant. A little-known consequence of an earthquake is an uncountable number of waste and chemical spills. Holding tanks, vehicles, and pipes rupture, creating a chemical soup that can be dangerous and hard to clean up. Leadership at KTS doesn’t want to contribute to the mess, so has switched to chemical-free Activated Effective Microorganisms (AEMs) in their water treatment, a collection of bacteria and organisms that remove harmful by-products from the wastewater. Not only are they keeping their water clean day-to-day, but they’re preventing serious disaster in the future.
CRC Exports, INDIA
In India, they have been tanning and dying leather for centuries. It’s always been labour-intensive, but 20th Century developments in chemistry introduced new chemicals meant to speed up the process. We now know that many of these chemicals are pollutants that do not dissipate – things like azo dyes and formaldehyde.
At CRC, they’ve taken a different approach to leather tanning that they call eco-leather. Using naturally-derived tea bark extracts, waxes, and plant-based dyes, rather than the harmful chemicals, CRC’s process is better for workers’ health and for the watershed. Furthermore, the gentler process requires a higher-quality leather to begin with, which means the finished material is cleaner, lower-odor, and more durable than most other leather.
Around the world, fair trade makers are reducing their environmental impact by investing in better ways to manage wastewater. In many cases, these makers live and work near heavily polluted rivers and streams, and are beginning to feel the effects of a changing climate, too. In Canada and the Global North, especially on days like today, we too should be thinking about how to conserve and protect clean water, and looking to our global neighbours for inspiration. It doesn’t take much to take the first step.