All eyes are on this year’s COP26, the annual UN Climate Summit, where countries and corporations are committing to further curb emissions. While the focus on greenhouse gases (GHG) is paramount to tackling the climate crisis, it’s important to remember how the changing climate is actually affecting our world. With temperatures rising, we are seeing severe weather patterns take a significant toll on our water resources. From depleted reservoirs in the southwest U.S. to extreme rainfall in Europe, climate change is shrinking and contaminating water supplies for millions of people around the world and reducing the ability to adequately grow food. The depleting water supply is also causing widespread disease due to lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation. As of today, 14 of 20 of the world’s largest cities experience water scarcity, and two thirds of the global population is projected to live in water-stressed areas by 2025.
We Can No Longer Deny That Our Actions Are Hurting the Planet
When the world went into lockdown due to COVID-19, there was a visible improvement in the environment around us. Pollution lifted and in many parts of the world the air became cleaner and clearer the first time in recent memory. Since the world began reopening, pollution levels have started to rise once again. It has become abundantly clear that our everyday actions are negatively impacting the planet’s health. While it can feel overwhelming to see how much our actions are impacting Earth, we still have a small window of opportunity. The time is now to capitalize on this new collective consciousness to change behaviors that can lead to a better planet.
Globally, we consume 4 trillion cubic meters of water per year. On average in the U.S., water use at home (water from the tap, toilet, dishwasher, etc.) averages around 138 gallons per household per day or 60 gallons per person per day (around 522L per household and 227L per person). Additionally, in the U.S., about 19% of all energy delivered to households is used for heating water. These eye-opening numbers call for more focused efforts on water use and water conservation. For example, by changing how we consume, store and distribute water, the water sector alone could eliminate 10% of global GHG emissions.
Changing Behavior Without Forcing Behavior
According to a Barron’s study, two thirds of North Americans prefer to buy eco-friendly products. Harvard Business Review also indicates that most U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. While these findings are admirable, it's up to companies like Kohler to make it easier to for consumers to choose better. That’s why Kohler is focused on developing kitchen and bath products such as EPA WaterSense®-labeled toilets, showerheads, and faucets that are not only beautifully designed and deliver gracious consumer experiences, but also reduce water—and energy. The mission to develop products that are both beautifully designed and better for the environment is also why Kohler began its in-house incubator, Innovation for Good (IfG). Started over a decade ago, IfG provides an opportunity for Kohler associates to innovate with a social purpose. Over the past four years, it has evolved into a formal business unit that hosts the annual I-Prize, an internal Shark Tank style innovation competition that produces viable solutions to pressing issues like water conservation, hygiene, and reducing GHG emissions. As of this year, more than 81 ideas have been generated, 2 ideas have been mainstreamed into the business, 3 projects are currently in the incubation phase, and over 14,000 lives have been positively impacted.
In order to significantly reduce household water use, more drastic measures are needed. That’s why Kohler became a founding member of the 50L Home Coalition, a global, action-oriented platform that’s working to develop solutions that could reduce water consumption in the home to 50 liters per person per day.
While Kohler is relentless about innovation, the company knows that to develop water-saving products people will buy and use, it must continue to deliver on performance, design, and experience. Although the thought of reducing our individual daily water use to 50 liters per person per day may seem like a daunting task, Kohler believes that this can be achieved through a collective commitment to innovation in technology and innovation in policy frameworks needed to implement these solutions. By changing how we approach water challenges, solutions will not only come, they will also have an everlasting impact that will result in better lives, better communities, and a better planet.
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