Environmental footprint of water purification
PRé offered Sustainable Brands Innovation Open winner Ecofiltro a complimentary life cycle assessment of its water filtration systems. We also compared Ecofiltro's method to other methods of water purification available in Guatemala.
Guatemala-based start-up ecofiltro developed a simple water filter that provides clean drinking water. For placing first at the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) competition, held at the Sustainable Brands ’12 Conference (San Diego, CA) in June 2012, ecofiltro was offered the services of PRé North America to conduct a lifecycle assessment (LCA) of its product, as well as a comparison to two alternative methods of water purification.
Three water purification systems were analyzed and compared, based on the water consumption of a typical Guatemalan family in one year (2,920 liters of potable water). The systems studied include delivery of water via:
- An ecofiltro water filter
- Bottled water
- Boiled water
The scope of the study is “cradle to delivery,” which includes raw material extraction through delivery to the consumer. The analysis for all three methods includes raw material extraction, manufacturing, and distribution to the consumer.
Compared to bottled water and boiling, ecofiltro water filter has several characteristics that positively impact its environmental footprint:
- ecofiltro water filter is made from low impact raw materials (clay, sawdust, water, and a small amount of silver), all sourced from Guatemala.
- ecofiltro’s production process requires little energy.
- One ecofiltro water filter is guaranteed to supply an averagesized Guatemalan family with potable water for two years — and many last for three or four years.
- The plastic bucket that holds the ecofiltro water filter can be reused for several years.
ecofiltro’s climate change impacts are less than 1% of the impacts of consuming the same amount of bottled water, and 35% of the impacts of boiled water.
The environmental impacts assessed in this study are global warming, energy, water, and human toxicity. When compared to bottled water and boiled water, the ecofiltro water filter has drastically lower emissions in all impact categories analyzed.
For the filter, the plastic bucket and manufacturing process are the main contributors to global warming potential, though these impacts are very small overall.