Mario Figus (left) with D 2080 Gabriele Andria, 2021-22 District Governor, at a District 2080 event. On the right: The public cheering for the Ferraris arriving at the show which the Cagliari Rotary Club organized to raise money for Solar Safe Water.

By Ariel Miller, ESRAG Newsletter Editor

Fresh from winning support from clubs throughout Rotary District 2080 in Italy, Mario Figus, a member of the Rotary Club of Cagliari, and his District are ready to expand their impact exponentially by inviting industry to contribute to the Solvatten Solar Safe Water project. This ESRAG project will enable businesses to buy top-quality carbon offsets by equipping Kenyan families to reduce deforestation, prevent illness, and save time and money.  D 2080’s strategy provides a road map for Rotarians to scale up effective climate action.

Spearheaded by Swedish Rotarians as a collaboration between ESRAG and WASH RAG, the Solar Safe Water project is based on the award-winning Solvatten solar-powered water treatment kit, a suitcase-sized device that uses heat and UV light to purify 10 liters of water in 2-6 hours. An indicator light tells the family when the water is safe. Figus is an environmental engineer specializing in water quality systems.  Excited to discover Solvatten, he decided to challenge the Clubs of D2080 (Italy) to fund 100 kits at $145 each.

Kenyan children enjoying clean water from their family’s Solvatten kit.

72 of the District’s 98 Clubs have already contributed, funding 110 kits which have liberated over 600 people in communities in the Tharaka-Nithi region who struggle without access to community water treatment systems or electricity.  For people enduring this plight around the world, Solar Safe Water is a major advance in sustainable living because it greatly reduces their need for firewood to boil water.

Sardinians Scale Up Solar Safe WaterThis chart illustrates how D 2080’s contributions have already advanced all seven of Rotary’s humanitarian Areas of Focus. The 110 kits will save 5,550 trees and prevent 70 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over their seven-year useful lives.

Now, the opportunity to scale up: Solvatten’s projects in Kenya, which ESRAG’s initiative Solar Safe Water supports, will be certified this summer according to the Gold Standard for carbon dioxide credits. Mario Figus is thrilled by the opportunity this presents for Rotarians to use their influence with the business community.  His next goal for D2080 is to persuade manufacturers to fund a thousand kits. Italy offers many opportunities. For example, Figus’ club is on Sardegna (Sardinia in English), “with many metallurgical industries and electrical power plants,” he explains.

“We are planning to sell the units as highest-quality carbon offsets,” he explains. “Clubs will be asked to reach out to local manufacturers. This is a way for companies to earn goodwill by fulfilling their pledges to reduce their carbon footprint.  This gives them a marketing advantage: people are asking for products that don’t damage the environment.”

Once the Solvatten carbon credits are certified, other Rotarians can easily replicate and expand this turnkey project. “I am very excited: this will be a tremendous step forward,” says Figus. “Clubs and districts can talk to entrepreneurs in their networks. Rotarians have very good counterparts who need to offset carbon emissions.”

Fast road to big impact: Starting in 2021, Mario Figus introduced Solar Safe Water at a series of District meetings for club presidents and project committees, bringing a Solvatten kit and demonstrating how it works. He also organized a webinar in Rome with Solvatten inventor Petra Waldström and ESRAG Board member Gunilla Östberg speaking via Zoom.

The kits are so affordable, and the impact so transformative, that Solar Safe Water is winning enthusiastic support.  Of course, classy Italian marketing helps!  The Rotary Club of Cagliari organized a Ferrari show and sent the ticket proceeds to Solar Safe Water.