Thinking outside the bottle
By team RVO: Mariam Alshamsi, Lina Abdalla, Sarah H. Harib, Theo Huisman
How to make the UAE stop drinking bottled water in ten days? Well, simple, it just takes 5 steps.
- Form an overambitious team.
Ideally, a Wetskills team is a mixture of drought and flood, precipitation, and evaporation. With roots in Palestine, the Netherlands, and the UAE we are fortunate to be such a highly diverse team. We complement each other with expertise, skills and culture. We have one thing in common: ambition!
- Consult experts.
Did you know single use water bottles are one of the largest environmental problems? Despite our efforts to reuse and recycle, plastic bottles are not biodegradable and become land and ocean litter. As said by the world economic forum: by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Do we want this to happen? No. So, why do we drink water from plastic bottles? Simply because many people do not trust the quality of tap water. Then how do we gain people’s trust and convince them that tap water is healthy and tasty? That is a tough question. Let us first ask people why they do not drink the tap water through a survey. With the results we can design the perfect solution. So, you survey the whole UAE? No, let’s start small and focus on universities in the UAE.
- Write an action plan.
It is key to stay hydrated during a Wetskills challenge. Four bottles a day suffices for writing an action plan. The action plan itself must contain a competitive element: we started a fight between three universities. Which university gives most responses to the survey? And where are least bottles consumed?
- Have a fight
We are still debating which university is most responsive to our survey. By absolute number UAEU is in the lead, but looking at relative numbers KAUST is far ahead, and thus KAUST is winning.
Nevertheless, the real fight is to convince the students to use tap water rather than buying a plastic water bottle. How are we going to attract them? With gold! Assuming (1) tap water is produced by desalination, (2) the concentration of gold in seawater is 100,000 parts per trillion, (3) tap water contains 0.1% of the gold in seawater, and (4) a person drinks 1000 liter per year, users will drink 0.01 µg gold per year! Not convinced? We will design a fancy water dispenser dispensing not only filtered tap water alone but also sparkling and infused water. Moreover, the eye catching appearance of the dispeser will further attract the students. Last but not least, data will be presented to reassure the users that the water quality is as good as or better than bottled water.
- Say bye to plastic water bottles
The Wetskills Challenge has been a great experience so far. Sadly, there are only four days left and we will soon be forced to say our emotional goodbyes. Environmental realities pressure us to change our resource-costly behaviours and will force us to say plastic bottles farewell. The separation will be easier keeping in mind we are making small changes now for a big impact in the future. Starting with ourselves as students we will make a difference by thinking in a sustainable way. Bye bye plastic bottles.