Green Solutions for Green Waters
Taihu Lake, the ‘bright pearl’ of the Yangtze River delta, has recently become China’s newest contaminated body of water. The algae-infested, green, foamy waters of the country’s third largest freshwater lake are a testimony to the negligence of both local government and industry in enforcing anti-pollution measures. The contamination of Taihu Lake alone has left 7 million people in Wuxi (located between Shanghai and Nanjing in Jiangsu province) without drinking water. Wuxi residents are currently receiving bottled water imports from elsewhere in China in order to meet their daily needs. This solution, however, will prove neither effective nor sustainable in combating the large-scale water shortages expected in China’s major cities within the next few years.
Fortunately, a number of companies operating in China have responded to this imminent crisis by developing green solutions for water conservation. Yesterday, at the annual WWF meeting in Beijing, Coca-Cola pledged to reduce and recycle water used in the production of its beverages in China. According to E. Neville Isdell, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, “Our goal is to replace every drop of water we use in our beverages and their production.” In terms of shear volume, the recycling process can save 176 billion liters of water per year from global manufacturing processes. The Coca-Cola Company hopes to achieve the highest water-use efficiency among its global peers while simultaneously increasing sales volume.
While CSR practices represent an increasing trend among foreign companies in China, they have yet to be fully institutionalized. Thus to find a local Chinese hotel installing water conservation technology is quite unique. Trader’s Hotel in Beijing is, indeed, just that. The traveler’s haven is one of the first in its industry to install water-free urinals in all hotel rooms. By using a replaceable cartridge in the bottom of urinals, the hotel saves thousands of liters of fresh water each year (approximately 151,000 liters of water per cartridge). The hotel spends approximately RMB 1 million on ‘green’ technology every year with no significant financial returns. “We hope that with the installation and implementation of new technologies, such as the water-free urinals, we will encourage other properties to do the same, thus making a significant impact on the city’s energy and water consumption,” says Trader’s general manager, Teresa Xin.
Resembling more of a cheap jade in color, Taihu Lake may never regain its pearly sparkle. However, as China transforms into a more socially- and environmentally-conscious society, so too may trends in water conservation change from green lakes to green technology.