In honor of International Women’s Day, we were excited to host an Instagram Live with two incredible powerhouses. We were so lucky to have Genusee founder & CEO, Ali Rose VanOverbeke and Well Aware founder & CEO, Sarah Evans, join us as we discussed their paths to where they are now, some advice as women in leadership, and the current water crisis in light of upcoming World Water Day (March 22).
United Nations SDG #6
With World Water Day just around the corner, we wanted to put more focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6, which is to achieve Water and Sanitation Access by 2030. If you are aware of the current conditions of the water crisis, they may seem like a lofty goal, but this is heavily dependent on everyone’s individual contribution to conserving water as well as businesses.
Now, let’s talk numbers. UN Goal #6 is in essence, a covid-19 response. As we all have learned from the last couple of years, handwashing and proper hygiene attributes heavily to reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other highly transmissible viruses, but some people don’t have that luxury.
In fact, a whopping 3.6 billion people lack safely managed sanitation and 2.3 billion people lack basic hygiene, which makes something like COVID-19 especially hard on communities. In addition, 2 billion people around the world lack access to safely managed drinking water, which means that the water they are using to even drink could end up making them sick due to contaminants and waterborne diseases. So what is anyone to do?
The leading women we were joined by during this live session helped shed light on the water crisis from their own perspectives over the years because sadly, this isn’t a new issue, but it is a growing one.
Genusee and the Flint Water Crisis
Ali, who has a background in fashion design from Parsons, had first-hand experience volunteering in early 2016 with the American Red Cross during the height of the Flint Water Crisis.
She was one of the hundreds of volunteers delivering cases of bottled water door to door. One day they were out in a box truck dropping off water and it occurred to her that the city not only was facing a man-made water crisis but that there was a local environmental crisis happening due to the surplus of single-use plastic being brought to the city.
“I think one of the leadership lessons I am continuing to learn is that as a woman you don’t need to lead like a man – you can lean into your feminine energy and empathy, there is strength and power in that – and I really believe we need more women in leadership who are leading from that feminine place because that kind of energy is what we need to heal the world right now and build businesses with soul that care about people & planet.”– Ali Rose VanOverbeke
At its peak, it was estimated that 20 million water bottles were being used and tossed away each day. “I don’t know how to solve a water crisis, but I know how to make things.” Founder and CEO of Genusee, Ali mentioned on our live discussion, “I’m a designer and seeing the plastic waste, I started thinking about how it could be used to benefit the community instead of polluting the environment.” This revelation led to thinking about ideas on how to use plastic waste to create products with purpose and unlocking that was the key to creating jobs in Flint to raise up her community.
Drilling down with Well Aware
As many of you may already know, Well Aware has been a longstanding nonprofit partner of ours for a few years now. Well Aware is a nonprofit organization that builds sustainable water systems in East Africa and has completed 90 projects so far serving thousands of people. She and her team cover the entire project and continue to build relationships with the communities they serve to educate on water conservation, hygiene, and maintenance of the wells.
Sarah Evans, one of our guests of honor on our live discussion dove into her background and how Well Aware came to be. Through a close friend whose father was Kenyan, Sarah was enlisted to help with an issue in Africa relating to livestock dying from unknown causes. While volunteering they figured out that the livestock was not surviving, and the community was also suffering due to a lack of access to clean water.
Having found this root cause, Sarah raised money to drill a well and solve the issue. There, they dug their first well, and as luck would have it, they struck water! Liquid gold. With a background in civil engineering and law, Sarah decided to dedicate more time to developing water systems in Africa to help solve the water crisis. With years of fine-tuning and learning from mistakes and failures, Sarah and her team were able to have it down to a science. Now, Well Aware builds 100% successful water systems around East Africa that serve 300,000 people and counting.
How you can reduce your footprint
While most would expect Sarah to say “take shorter showers”, she insists that “the vast majority of water is used irresponsibly by corporations. “What I would say is to shop smarter.” Sarah stressed that there are ways we can all reuse, reduce the amount of consumption in other aspects of our lives, and pay attention to products that give back or conduct sustainable practices.
When it comes to overall sustainability and reducing your footprint, there are many ways to go about it, but never give up. “Just start! If you’re out and have to buy a single-use bottle of water, don’t beat yourself up. You can try harder. Challenge yourself and pick an item that you really struggle with like bottled water, and really focus on that.” Ali advises as she believes that never being discouraged is the key to long-term success in reducing your footprint.
“Or you can get your friends involved to hold each other accountable!” Yvonne Young, our live discussion host and Director of Marketing chimed in. “As a team, we made the effort to quit plastic for a month. It was hard, but we did it!”
What to do this World Water Day
Yvonne wasn’t too far off when she mentioned getting your friends involved! Well Aware holds an annual fundraising event called #SHOWERSTRIKE where you can join and recruit friends, spread the word about the water crisis, and help fundraise for life-saving water projects to help even more people gain access to clean water and basic hygiene, and reduce mortality rates due to a lack of access to clean water.
Now through March 22, 2022, join the LARQ Team for this upcoming Shower Strike and $50 will donate automatically towards life-saving water for communities in need. Anyone can join and recruit even more people to grow our funds! No donations are necessary, simply join and you can help us get one step closer to reaching our goal of #WaterBy2030. Join the Shower Strike.
Can we achieve #WaterBy2030? It’s in your hands now. Follow along this month on Instagram @livelarq for more water awareness facts and how to get involved and check out our #WaterBy2030 page for a curated gift shop of brands that are improving the water crisis.