Water efficiency

From poverty to millionaires – how a small Indian village turned its fortunes by valuing nature.


A small Indian village called Hiware Bazar is proving that going green makes economic as well as ecological sense.

Fifteen years ago villagers could only cultivate a tenth of their farmland, and 168 of its 182 families lived below the poverty line. Drought was common, and made worse by villagers who continued to cut down forests to expand their land use.

Today, agriculture is booming and the average income has risen 20-fold. Did Hiware Bazar receive foreign aid? Definitely not – they took the decision to look after their natural environment by planting trees and digging trenches to trap water.

Thanks to implementing a variety of sustainability efforts, the grass harvest shot up from 100 to 6,000 tonnes between 2000 and 2004, while milk production has risen from 150 litres a day in the mid-90s to 4,000 litres now.

Now the village has one of the highest GDPs in India and lessons from this small village can be model to the rest of the country to show that even the fastest developing economies are dependent on nature’s services – and only balancing its preservation with its use will ensure long term prosperity for all.

Watch the story of Hiware here

Benefits: biodiversity, water efficiency


Want to invest in a green business idea? Social investment company 33needs is helping the public support social enterprise, bring eco-friendly products and services to market and make a return on their investment. When enough people support an idea, even small amounts can make a big difference.

The 33needs.com website features profiles of social entrepreneurs, showing the projects they need funding for and the amount they hope to raise. Investors can pledge as little as $10 to support a project, and they’ll receive a fixed share of any future profits. If projects don’t reach their fundraising targets within a fixed timeframe, no money changes hands.

The site already has 700 enterprises keen to be involved since its launch in February 2011.

Discover how 33needs works

Benefits: biodiversity, carbon reduction, energy efficiency, reduce, reuse, recycle, water efficiency
Innovators: 33needs


More than two billion people live in areas of water scarcity. Innovative processes for recycling and reclaiming wastewater will play a vital role in relieving pressures from freshwater sources such as rivers and aquifers. For example, the city of Singapore meets 30% of its drinking water demand by using reclaimed wastewater. The process also consumes less energy, as the water is only purified once. Shifting to recycling is a priority in many regions and key steps towards this goal include innovative processes and building consumer acceptance of drinking reclaimed water.

Benefits: water efficiency
Innovators: Singapore; Orange County, California


‘Cradle to cradle’ is a design philosophy for creating sustainable products. It uses materials that can either be reused or recycled, or that decompose safely and naturally.

The non-profit Green Products Innovation Institute is developing Cradle to Cradle Certification. This will include standards such as transparent and traceable use of chemicals, reuse of materials, use of renewable energy, water stewardship and social responsibility. It is also launching a free public database and framework to aid sustainable design, with information on alternative processes, materials and chemicals.

Benefits: reduce, reuse, recycle; water efficiency; energy efficiency
Innovators: McDonough Braunart Design Consultants, Green Products Innovation Institute

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Puma has become the world's first major corporation to publish details of the cost of its impact on the environment. It has calculated that the combined cost of the carbon it emitted and water it used in 2010 was 94.4m euros ($134.3m; £82.8m). The figure includes the company itself and its suppliers.

The organisation wanted to find tangible ways it can consider nature and environmental impacts in their decision making and inform them to create a more resilient and sustainable business model. Since ecosystem services are vital to the performance of most companies, integrating the true cost for these services in the future could have significant impacts on corporate bottom lines.

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Benefits: carbon reduction, water efficiency
Innovators: Puma


One company’s waste can be another’s raw material. Instead of paying to send 500 tonnes of sand from its foundry to landfill, MJ Allen sent the sand to Hanson, which used it in asphalt manufacturing.

The businesses are both part of the National Industrial Symbiosis Partnership (NISP). Industrial Symbiosis programmes facilitate partnerships that generate mutual value where members exchange materials, energy, water and by-products and share assets, logistics and expertise. Since 2005, NISP members have saved £780m, used 47 million tonnes less water, and reduced CO2 emissions by 30 million tonnes.

Other schemes which help match one industries waste with another’s raw material include a biogas mapping tool recently launched by the EPA in the US aimed at supporting the use of organic waste for energy projects by mapping organic waste produces and biogas energy projects to allow for easier collaborations. Additional examples include WaterMatch, a free social networking site to help industry and agriculture find source of effluent for water re-use and RecycleMatch which operates an online business-to-business marketplace that allows companies to buy, sell or give away large volumes of waste including plastics, textiles, paper, chemicals, food, metals and building materials.

reduce, reuse, recycle; carbon reduction; water efficiency; energy efficiency
Innovators: National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, EPA Biogas Mapping Tool, WaterMatch, RecycleMatch

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Adaptive self-optimising buildings


Adaptive buildings use less energy by regulating their own heating, cooling and lighting with intelligent sensor networks and motorised systems that automatically respond to changes in temperature and weather. Higher levels of self-optimisation can significantly reduce the amount of energy that large buildings consume, through intelligent shading and ventilation. The technology can enable buildings to harvest renewable energy and rain water.

Benefits: energy efficiency, water efficiency, carbon reduction
Innovators: Adaptive Building Initiative

See it in action: Campus of Justice (Madrid), Pearl River Tower (Pearl River Tower movie)

Washing machines that use 90% less water


Washing clothes accounts for around 13% of UK household water consumption. Waterless washing machine technology has not yet reached the market, but has the potential to make enormous improvements in household water efficiency by using 90% less water than conventional washing machines. It also uses lower levels of electricity and detergents – reducing energy consumption and water treatment costs.

Benefits: water efficiency
Innovators: Xeros

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The UN predicts that two-thirds of the world’s population will live under water-stressed conditions in 2025. Drip irrigation can help cut water stress, bolster the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and improve food security. Farmers switching to drip irrigation from flood irrigation use 60% less water, increase their crop yields by a third, use less labour and fertiliser, and cut the energy they need to pump water, according to international water technology firm Driptech. Innovators including Driptech and IDEI, an Indian not-for-profit, have been distributing affordable, practical drip-irrigation technology to ‘bottom of the pyramid’ smallholder farmers.

Benefits: water efficiency, biodiversity & natural resources
Innovators: IDEI, Driptech

Butterflies stay clean using nano-scale structures on their wings. This inspired the creation of self-cleaning fabrics, paints and electronic display screens.


An increasingly popular process, known as biomimicry, is taking inspiration from nature’s genius to improve the way buildings and many products are designed. For example, the design of marine turbine blades was inspired by the shape of a humpback whale’s flipper. Nature offers billions of years of  design ideas that can be replicated to solve human challenges.

AskNature has developed a comprehensive, free online database of biomimicry ideas for designers and engineers. It also provides advice to encourage the application of sustainability principles throughout the life-cycle of any product or project.

Benefits: biodiversity; carbon reduction, water efficiency, energy generation
Innovators: AskNature; Biomimicry Institute

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The Living Building Challenge is a standard and certification programme, managed by the International Living Future Institute, which seeks to go beyond current standards and aim for restorative buildings which give back more than they take from nature. As the world's highest ecological standard for building thoughtful, sustainable architecture, the Living Building Challenge also provides guidance to make it easier for architects and designers to grasp what may otherwise look like idealistic benchmarks.

The Tyson Research Centre is one building that has been certified ‘Living’. Located at the Washington University in St Louis. The building creates more energy than it uses, captures and treats all of its water, and has improved the biodiversity of the area by transforming a degraded asphalt parking lot into a native landscaped garden.

Benefits: energy efficiency, carbon reduction, water efficiency, biodiversity and natural resources, restorative
Innovators: International Living Future Institute

Monarch butterflies flying in warmth of midday sun,  Mexico

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