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Field Journal

Redefining Water Filtration

Redefining Water Filtration

Remarkable Ingenuity and an Ability to Adapt
Stories Behind the Gear: Lifestraw
Written by Harriet Osborne // Photography Courtesy of Lifestraw

From pioneering disease prevention to tackling global water challenges, LifeStraw has established itself as a leader in environmental and social responsibility, backed by innovative technology and beautiful design. Its latest offering, the Peak Series collection, continues to redefine the field of filtration, providing clean and safe drinking water to millions of people worldwide.

Safe water is fundamental for human survival – yet a quarter of the world’s population doesn’t have access to it. Each year, 800,000 lives are claimed by diseases from dirty water as a result of inadequate management of urban, industrial, and agricultural wastewater.

In response to this complex crisis, LifeStraw provides a simple but effective solution: a compact and reliable water filter that protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, silt, and sand, ensuring equitable access to safe drinking water worldwide.

LifeStraw’s journey began in 1994, when founder Torben Vestergaard Frandsen partnered with the Carter Center to help fight Guinea worm disease, a parasitic infection transmitted by drinking water from contaminated stagnant sources.

After a year of incubation, the Guinea worm forms a painful blister and slowly emerges from the body, leaving the infected person in agony and unable to walk for months on end. While the disease is rarely fatal, it is entirely preventable – and a drug to treat it does not exist.

Torben and his son Mikkel used their expertise in making mosquito nets to design a mesh filter that could remove Guinea worm larvae from contaminated water. They have supplied more than 40 million filtration devices since the partnership began.

‘Both Torben and Mikkel wanted to support the eradication of a neglected tropical disease, having seen the devastating impacts first-hand and the potential to have a tangible impact on improving the lives of those living in endemic regions,’ Tara Lundy, LifeStraw’s Chief Brand Officer explains.

In 1986, Guinea worm disease affected 3.5 million people across 21 countries in Africa and Asia. By 2022, there were only 13 reported cases in four countries, down from over 100,000 cases in 18 countries when LifeStraw began its work. When Guinea worm is eradicated, it will be the first disease removed from the planet without the use of a vaccine.

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LifeStraw’s story is punctuated by moments like these. ‘Perhaps one of the most defining moments was around 2012 when Alison Hill, now CEO, proposed that LifeStraw considered the use of retail as a way to support the humanitarian efforts of the company,’ Tara explains. ‘This initiated the development of a consumer-facing brand and the establishment of LifeStraw’s Give Back Program, which provides a year of safe water to a child in need for every product purchased in retail.’

Since the program launched in 2014, over 7,681,286 children have received one year of safe water, 2,697 schools have received water purifiers, and 14,870 filters have been delivered to local communities. The program helped LifeStraw achieve B Corp Certification in 2021, aligning itself with a community of brands dedicated to using business as a force for good.

LifeStraw also supports communities across the globe in response to natural and humanitarian emergencies. ‘Climate change represents the most significant challenge to this century and poses huge risks to safe drinking water across the globe. The disruption in weather patterns has resulted in extreme weather events including flooding and drought – making water scarcity more common and severe, and contaminating available water supplies.’

LifeStraw installed high-volume purifiers for displaced families in Malawi after Tropical Cyclone Freddy caused catastrophic flooding. They have an ongoing program in South Sudan, where years of flooding have submerged half the country underwater. In 2022, they delivered 382 household purifiers to some of the most remote communities of the flooded regions and have plans to deliver another 500 purifiers this year.

LifeStraw also helps communities displaced because of climate change. ‘We’re currently working with partners to distribute personal filters to families crossing the Darién Gap – a treacherous, remote jungle region between Colombia and Panama that migrants traverse to continue north.’

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Supporting this important work requires a never-ending commitment to product innovation. Peak Series, a redesign of the iconic LifeStraw, meets the needs of outdoor enthusiasts with a collection of durable but lightweight straws, collapsible bottles, water storage, and microfilter replacements.

‘We wanted to take a fresh look at the needs of the customer and the pain points of our previous products and those of our competitors,’ Tara says. ‘One thing that was very clear was a desire for greater durability of materials. We worked on building in the strongest materials possible while still trying to maintain the light weight that the outdoor customer demands. We also wanted to optimise the size and performance of the filter, which has a fast flow rate and optimised venting against sand and silt.’

All products use an advanced hollow-fibre membrane that resembles a bundle of straws. The membrane is pierced with microscopic holes so small that organisms like bacteria and parasites, dirt, and microplastics can’t pass through, enabling consumers to safely drink water from rivers, lakes, and streams. This innovative technology is backed by rigorous testing by independent laboratories to ensure it is powerful enough to prevent some of the most harmful diseases in the world.

As a partner of the non-profit Climate Neutral, LifeStraw is committed to measuring and offsetting its carbon emissions. They recently offset 152 million single-use plastic water bottles through the purchase of LifeStraw Home pitchers and bottles in 2022. They also saved 100,000L of water by recycling test water at their lab in Vietnam. The Peak Series and Go Series water bottles also incorporate Tritan Renew, a material made from difficult-to-recycle plastic waste.

Since 1994, LifeStraw has showcased remarkable ingenuity and an ability to adapt. By addressing emerging threats, such as chemical contamination and microplastics, they turn new challenges into opportunities to make a bigger impact where it matters most. ‘Our goal is always to provide equitable access to safe drinking water. To do that, we will continue to build premium filtration products relevant to users that both keep them safe, and help to support our Give Back Program and humanitarian work around the world.’

Produced in Partnership with Lifestraw // @lifestraw //
Written by Harriet Osborne // @harrietosborne



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