Germany, Tobias has strong feelings about the importance of water. He answered a few questions about why water education matters in our latest installment of the “Ask the Scientist” series:Before Tobias Personke joined Ecolab, he worked as a chef. He also studied nutrition science and home economics and worked in other aspects of the food industry. In 2007, he took a job as a senior technical support specialist in Ecolab’s Institutional Division, a part of the European Technical Service Team. Now a father of two as well as an Ecolab employee in
Project WET Foundation (PWF): One of the major focus areas of the Clean and Conserve program is hygiene education for young people. If you were talking to a classroom of 10-year-olds, what would you want them to know about water from a hygiene perspective?
Tobias Personke (TP): Water from a hygiene perspective is a double-edged sword. In areas of the world where clean water is abundant, water is the best basis to create a healthy environment. But if water is scarce, or water resources are not reliable, water can be also the starting point for diseases or even outbreaks. If everyone doesn’t take care of this precious resource, water quality will turn more and more toward the second alternative. At that point, reversing the process will become more and more expensive or may even be impossible
PWF: Professionally and/or personally, what are the biggest water challenges that you deal with?
TP: My biggest personal challenge at the moment is to train my two little kids to practice behaviors that are sustainable (e.g., do not let the tap run for so long) and hygienic (e.g., water + soap give better results).
PWF: How does what you do at Ecolab address some of those challenges?
TP: When training bigger customers from the hospitality or kitchen sector these days, sustainability is always an important topic, and water savings or water quality plays a big role. In many cases, these customers have already implemented and are looking to measure sustainability goals. We are always looking for the latest equipment, chemistry and processes to make these plans work or even exceed them, while also giving food for thought to broaden their perspective.
PWF: What role can water education play in addressing water challenges?
TP: Water education is similar to nutritional education. You need to embed the seed as early as possible because it is not ensured that all families can offer good role models. If you can guide the way to responsible behavior early on, chances are good those behaviors will stick.
The Clean and Conserve Education Program, developed through the partnership between the Project WET Foundation and Ecolab, includes lessons, activities and other learning resources for children and youth ages three through 18, as well as educators. Originally published in English, Clean and Conserve materials are also available in Chinese, Spanish for Mexico, German, French for Canada and Portuguese for Brazil (French and Portuguese materials are available for download from the English-language page). Visit the Clean and Conserve page to learn more.