The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted clean water initiatives and development work across the world. Right here in Canada, where some of the hardest hit communities are Indigenous, one in five First Nations communities are currently under a boil water advisory. Fill it Forward, a Canadian company that promotes reuse through its sustainable products, interactive technologies and global giving initiatives, is hoping to change that.
As part of the company’s ongoing dedication to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, this past September Fill it Forward launched the first series of the Always Giving Collection, the Clean Water Series. Purchases and engagement in the initiative have supported global clean water initiatives and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs in five locations: USA, Canada, India, Ethiopia, and the Dominican Republic.
And now, in anticipation of Giving Tuesday December 1, the company is offering consumers the ultimate “gift that gives back”. Partnering with charitable organizations Water First and WaterAid Canada, Fill it Forward has set a fundraising goal of $100,000 to go towards clean water initiatives. Their unique philanthropic giving model has a two-fold mission mission: collect one-off donations while providing an opportunity for sustained giving to benefit both environmental and social causes.
SEE Change recently spoke with Fill it Forward founder, Matt Wittek, to discuss their work and impact, as well as their new philanthropic giving initiative that, with the help of their partners, will help water-insecure communities in Canada and around the world.
How did this initiative come about, what inspired it?
COVID-19 has created challenges for organizations (including ourselves) to meet their philanthropic and environmental goals, which inspired Fill it Forward’s need to give and the launch of the Always Giving Collection. Almost all global and local charitable organizations have reported being negatively affected by the pandemic, facing a steep decline in contributions, increased costs, broken supply chains, staffing and operational inefficiencies, government and travel restrictions and an inability to meet the needs of the communities and populations they serve.
The Always Giving Collection was developed as a way to raise additional funds for Fill it Forward’s charitable partners. Specifically in relation to world water projects, charitable organizations have been faced with a significant challenge – the impact of coronavirus where they work has left populations without access to clean water and soap for proper hygiene and sanitation. This creates a higher risk of illnesses and diseases spreading. The pandemic has emphasized how important it is to have access to clean water and sanitation, but billions still go without this basic need. Urgent solutions are needed for the 40 percent of our global population affected by water scarcity.
The Always Giving Collection’s first series, the Clean Water Series was created as a direct response to the current water crisis made worse by the pandemic. The series supports global clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs in five locations: USA, Canada, India, Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic.
Tell us about the specific challenges here in Canada that this initiative is hoping to help tackle
Many First Nation communities in Canada have identified the need for certified personnel to operate and maintain their drinking water treatment systems. In Ontario specifically, 40 percent of First Nations communities are under a boil water advisory. Communities have been profoundly impacted by the global pandemic and it has brought a whole new meaning to our understanding of water.
Through the Clean Water Series, Fill it Forward is hoping to raise funds and awareness for our charitable partner, Water First, to continue addressing local water challenges in Indigenous communities through education, training and meaningful collaboration. Donating, fundraising and sharing are key ways that Canadians can support Water First as we navigate these unprecedented times. You can learn more about Water First at: http://waterfirst.ngo/
How does Fill it Forward work exactly?
By using the Fill it Forward app every time you refill your water bottle you can 1) track your environmental impact, 2) contribute to meaningful charitable projects, and 3) stay hydrated.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Place a Fill it Forward sticker on any reusable water bottle.
Step 2: Download the Fill it Forward app for free.
Step 3: Scan the Fill it Forward sticker with the app every time you reuse.
Step 4: Each scan contributes to the completion of a charitable project. (Projects are funded through product sales and corporate partnerships.).You can also easily track waste diverted, emissions saved, and how much ocean pollution you have prevented. (Footprint metrics are developed and audited by WSP).
Step 5: Our trusted charitable partners receive funding and specialize in developing clean water infrastructure that supports entire communities.
What has your impact been so far?
The Fill it Forward Community has diverted over 5,000,000 single-use bottles, cups, and food containers. In terms of impact, we have diverted over 195,000 pounds of waste from our landfills and oceans and have funded over 250 charitable projects globally including Tanzania, Asia & Latin America, India, Honduras, New Mexico (USA), and First Nation communities across Canada.
Tell us about your partners and what you hope to accomplish with the partnership
Our trusted charitable partners specialize in developing clean water infrastructure that supports entire communities. These incredible organizations like Water First, WaterAid Canada, DigDeep, Wine To Water, and charity: water are working diligently to support global clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs.
The work spans across many countries and the overall mission of all of our charitable partnerships is to ensure access to clean water to those in need, while helping to create infrastructure and training programs that make a lasting impact—especially during these unprecedented times in the face of COVID. With these partnerships in place, we hope the Always Giving Collection provides gift-givers and corporations a simple way to give a gift that keeps on giving, and one that makes a significant contribution with a small act of generosity.
The Always Giving Collection
Featuring project locations from around the world, the Always Giving Collection helps make an impact where it’s needed the most. Every purchase unlocks a $5 donation to support our incredible charitable partners around the world.