It was a beautiful spring day in Boston and we were packing up from Earth Day festival, when a calm yet concerned police officer came by shouting “have you heard of the water ban?” At that particular moment, we had not and the officer proceeded to inform us that the main water line to Boston had sprung a leak causing millions of gallons of fresh drinking water to spill into the Charles River. On top of the wastefulness, the water now pumping into Boston and the surrounding areas was untreated back-up pond water. This meant the water was technically unsafe to drink and could cause illness. The city issued a boil water announcement, asking residents to boil water for at least a minute or use bottled water before drinking or washing dishes and hands.

Honestly, I didn’t mind it so much. It was kind of an adventure to process my own water and who really cared if the shower smelled a bit like a lake?  However, an uproar was heard throughout the city when residents quickly realized this order caused hundreds of restaurants and cafes to either shut down or not serve such modern necessities like coffee. I have to admit, I was a little upset about not being able to enjoy one of my favorite drinks, but this still seemed a small price to pay. Bottled water, a despised product by environmentalists, had become a hot commodity and were flying off the shelves at exorbitant prices. Most people just went along with daily life and saw the issue as a minor inconvenience.  Within a few days the city had fixed the  leak and normality resumed with no reports of disease.

But this all got me thinking, this is how millions of people live every day. We are lucky we have such easy access to water. Those four days, we experienced not only how life was a few hundred years ago, before all our modern conveniences, but how much of the world still lives today. And many of those people, have it even worse as they have to travel miles to gather the water and sometimes it still may not be safe after boiling. Access to clean drinking water is a serious issue with over a billion people affected. This being compounded by economics, politics and serious environmental issues.  And with Climate Change knocking on our doors, this is likely to get worse. In fact it is estimated that by 2050, a third of the world will not have access to clean drinking water!

Water issues are a major problem throughout most of the world. Boston’s recent boil order was just a little slice of that life. It really emphasized how much we take for granted in urban and suburban United States. For the time being, many in the US have access to safe drinking water, but it is a luxury and we should be thankful for it. Actually, not only should we be thankful for it, but we should take action to help others in this country and around the world who are not as fortuitous as we are. For some ideas on how you can help and more information about the world water crisis, please read an earlier blog of ours entitled A Tale of Thirst: A World in Crisis.

While the city of Boston was able to quickly cure their water leak and life soon returned to normal, I couldn’t shake the lesson I had learned. The order issued by the city, hopefully made many no longer take our plumbing and water infrastructure for granted. I know I won’t.  Water issues around the world will still be on my mind. I hope other residents of our city will see this as a sign and will influence us to help others. It is interesting where and how we learn the lessons of life. After all, sometimes something amazing can spring from a leak.

-Gina Williams

Everyday we turn on a faucet, open a bottle, flush a handle, or even stand around the cooler at work. Yes, everyday, without little thought, we have access to clean and safe water. What may seem as a simple pleasure to us here in the States, is a luxury for many around the world. Unfortunately, many, actually it is estimated that about 1 billion people do not have safe drinking water throughout the world. And even worse about 2.6 billion lack proper sanitation. In fact, many scientists and social workers refer to lack of clean water as an all out worldwide water crisis. It is estimated that by 2050 about a third of the world will not have access to fresh water.

Water is not often thought of as a resource or a commodity, but the truth is, it is both. Water is one of the most necessary natural resources, as we need it to not only sustain our lives, but for farming and sanitation. For some parts of the world, the lack of accessibility to such resource is a major problem. For instance in Africa some 40% or the continent’s population lack access and Asia is even worse at about 53%. These numbers are troubling and not surprisingly many of the water issues have to do with economics and politics, but some are just purely environmental. In many of the countries without proper access, the infrastructure just simply does not exist for plumbing or their lack of water is due to drought in the area, which are sure to get worse in the coming years. Another issue is that for many rural people, they must travel miles by foot to find water in faraway lakes and streams. And worst of all, some are surrendered to purchase bottled water at inflated and unattainable prices.

It is clear, we do have a serious water crisis on our hands. Luckily, there are many people out there awakening to this crisis. This last monday marked World Water Day, which drew the attention of the public and press to these issues. What is World Water Day? It is day to bring awareness to the water crisis from the government and the US public. This year, many major US corporations stepped up and got involved! On top of NGOs out there doing wonderful work to bring access to people, brands like Pepsi, Nestle, and Intel have made public commitments to help end the water crisis. Pepsi has actually pledged to help bring safe water to 3 million people by 2015! We say, way to step up your game Pepsi! Nestle is continuing their program of Project WET of water education for schools, including providing information kits. Ok, so giant corporations aren’t always evil. And even us, tiny, little, Autonomie Project has tried to help this crisis by directly funding water projects in the communities from which we work with.

So maybe you are thinking, “I am not a company, but what can I do to help the water crisis?” The answer is, you can do a lot! The Huffington Post, just recently posted an article on numerous ways to get involved including volunteer opportunities locally and abroad and donating money to NGOs such as Give a Drop and Give Clean Water, just to name a few. You can also contact your Senators and US Representatives and let them know your concerns about the water crisis and urge them to get involved with WASH efforts, an organization looking to bring all people safe water and sanitation. You can educate yourself on the crisis though many organizations listed above but also through this wonderful National Geographic guide, Freshwater 101. Also, don’t forget to spread the word about these issues, which is much easier now with the world of social networking and text messages! The more people educated and doing something about this crisis, the more we can avert the tremendous effects it may have on our world and people.

Safe water is becoming more and more scarce across the world and at home.  As mentioned above, in some places bottled water is sold at high prices to combat this issue. Bottled water is not the solution, in fact, it is part of the problem. A wonderful video, just released this week called “The Story of Bottled Water” points to this very issue. Plus it comes with cute animation and music. Check out the video below for more information and let’s help end this water crisis before it is too late.

Today marks the internationally celebrated Earth Day (though at Autonomie we encourage you to be earthy friendly every day of the year :) )

For this Earth Day, we thought we’d share some tips from the good people at Ideal Bite, a daily e-newsletter that offers easy ideas on how to live green. They put together a phenomenal list on how to turn your office green, and what better day than today to actually do it!

Happy Greening and Happy Earth Day!

  • Get a Water Cooler: every year 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to make plastic bottles, and over 75% of those end up in landfills. Do your part, join the efforts of San Francisco, and ban plastic water bottles from your office.
  • Be Computer Savvy: set your office’s computers to sleep mode so that they shut down after 5 minutes of idle use. Also make sure to shut them all down completely at the end of the day and watch the energy savings come in.
  • Get Inked: ink cartridges take eons to decompose and are just filled with terrible toxins. Make sure to recycle your used cartridges and buy the refillable ones instead (which also cost about 75% less so if you have a cranky boss, you know how to spin it!).
  • Quit Bagging it for Lunch: pack your lunch in reusable containers rather than zip lock bags. Yeah, you have to do more dishes at the end of the day, but little plastic baggies are a major landfill problem and usually contain toxins that you really don’t want touching your food!

For the rest of the top 10 ways your office can go green, and other fun and cool ways you can help save the environment, make sure to check out and sign up forIdeal Bite.

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