CASCADE TOWNSHIP, MI – Triple Quest, a West Michigan company that makes water filters for Third World markets, is embarking on a program that will use “carbon offsets” to expand its business.
Triple Quest is capable of making up to 250,000 filters a year, giving 2.5 million people access to clean water a year, says Christina Keller, the company’s business unit leader.
The need is great. More than 3.5 million people die each year from water-related diseases that fill up half the world’s hospital beds and kill more children than AIDs, malaria and measles combined.
But someone has to pay for the company’s $34 “HydrAid BioSand Water Filter” units. That’s out of reach for most families that need them most, says Keller. Her company currently produces about 8,000 units a year that are distributed mainly through non-profit groups.
“If we can place them in the right places, we could have a huge impact,” says Keller. “The problem we’re having is that the non-profits are having trouble getting funds.”
That dilemma may change soon.
Triple Quest is going through the process of certifying and validating its water filters through organizations that sell “carbon offset” to companies that want to become “carbon neutral.”
Once the Triple Quest filters are validated by third party monitors, companies can qualify for the carbon credits by investing in projects that buy the water filters, transport and install them in the target communities.
Keller estimates a company can offset 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by investing less than $200,000 in a program that would place 2,250 filters into a shipping container, pay for the cost of shipping and installation in a targeted community.
Besides their health benefits, the Hydraid BioSand water filter units are uniquely qualified for carbon offset credits, Keller says.
The filters, which strain water through a sand and gravel pail-like container that develops a “bio-filter” to kill bacteria and other contaminants, provides a safe supply of drinking water for households that would otherwise boil their water.
Much of that water boiling in the Third World communities is done on wood-fired cook stoves, an activity that leads to deforestation and air pollution.
In Kenya, Triple Quest estimates that each filter displaces about 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
So far, Triple Quest is in the process of validating its “Gold Standard” certification for its carbon offset project in Kenya, Keller says. Future projects elsewhere in Africa and South America will require similar registration and certification, she says.
The market for carbon offsets is growing, Keller says. Google is carbon neutral because of its carbon offset purchases and Microsoft Corp. is on track to become carbon neutral in the next year.
Other companies in the market for carbon offsets include Amway Corp., Dow Chemical Corp., eBay, Ben and Jerry’s, Best Buy, Smartwool, Aveda, Stonyfield’s and Annie’s.
Triple Quest, a joint venture between Cascade Engineering Inc., and the Windquest Group, is not getting rich on their HydrAid filters, Keller says. Resin for the filter bodies is donated by Dow. Amway Corp. donated the research and development work that went into the filter technology.
“Our projection for the third year is losing money again,” Keller says. “We hope it will eventually break even.”
E-mail Jim Harger: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JHHarger