From the air, the island of Leyte looks like a green gem set in a backdrop of sparkling blue. As soon as the traveler touches down, however, he would still see traces of the devastation wrought by super typhoon Yolanda. The urban areas have already made efforts to get back on its feet, as commerce now seems to go on as usual. The lingering effects are more conspicuous as one moves towards the countryside, at the barangay level.
At Barangay Union Coastal, Mayorga, for example, basic necessities are still lacking, such as clean water for their laundry needs. It is easy for city dwellers to take water for granted, as all one has do is to turn on the tap. But potable water is still scarce in some areas of the Philippines, particularly those hit by Haiyan. The residents of the barangay source their water from artesian wells, which they report as being contaminated by impurities such as dirt and oil, making it difficult for them to do even the simplest household tasks like their family laundry.
Unilever, in keeping with its campaign to introduce and strengthen sustainable living concepts globally, installed a simple solution to meet the barangay’s wash water needs. Through partnerships with the Local Government Unit and non-profit organization Operation Compassion, it has installed the first of what the company promises to be a series of renewable water facilities to help ease the burden of many households in the community.
The Surf Labahan Station is a water-recycling system that makes use of a sustainable filtration technology that the residents can maintain themselves. Their wash water can be pitched into a drainage system which leads it back into a special tank with layers of fine gravel, activated charcoal and porous sponge. Here, it is then filtered and ready for reuse.
The washing facility is housed in a simple shed covered by a galvanized iron roof; its floors made with eco-friendly pavers which were manufactured using recycled Surf sachets, sourced by a free cellphone load promo launched back in 2013. According to Lavin Gonzaga, Unilever’s Sustainable Business and Communications assistant manager, the Labahan Station can recycle up to 6000 liters of laundry water every day and accommodate up to 20 people at a time.
“This Surf Labahan Station is our way of contributing to water sustainability and conservation, especially in an area that is still suffering from the effects of typhoon Yolanda,” says Gonzaga. “In line with Unilever’s Sustainable Living Program that aims to bring a brighter future to one billion people worldwide, we want to provide a sustainable source of clean water through this facility.”
Surf Assistant brand manager Cha Francisco says the water recycling facility makes an ideal learning tool on sustainable water management that can benefit both the community and the environment. They hope to replicate the campaign in other areas of the country after the initial assessments done in the Leyte pilot project.