UNICEF’s Sweat for Water campaign: 1% inspiration + 99% perspiration

The Innovative Sweat Machine. © UNICEF SwedenThe Innovative Sweat Machine. © UNICEF Sweden

As the UK bakes in an unexpected heat wave, our colleagues at UNICEF Sweden have found a way to put one of the less enjoyable results of the hot summer weather to good use, by turning sweat in to clean, drinkable water.

Showing that the best ideas really do come through 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, UNICEF Sweden have come up with the Sweat Machine, in partnership with the Gothia Cup, creative agency Deportivo and celebrity engineer Andreas Hammar.

Developed and built as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the lack of clean water in many parts of the world, the Sweat Machine works by extracting sweat from clothing and putting it through a purification process resulting in drinkable water.

UNICEF Sweden unveiled the machine during the opening of the Gothia Cup, the world’s biggest international youth football tournament. Players and visitors at the event are being invited to hand over their sweat-drenched clothes, or to accept the challenge of drinking a glass of water from the Sweat Machine. One sweaty T-shirt should produce around 10ml of water.

While you might expect people to be squeamish about drinking water from such a source, the machine has been incredibly popular, with a number of Swedish footballers and celebrities even joining the action.

Famous Swedish football players, Mohammed Ali Khan and Tobias Hysén, were the first to drink a glass of sweat during Gothia Cup. ©UNICEF SwedenFamous Swedish football players, Mohammed Ali Khan and Tobias Hysén, were the first to drink a glass of sweat during Gothia Cup. ©UNICEF Sweden

The campaign has attracted attention from around the world, and is helping raise awareness of a serious issue: Today, 780 million people lack access to clean water, 125 million of whom are children under 5, and thousands of children still die each day because of inadequate access to safe water.

UNICEF’s goal is for every child should have access to clean water and toilets. Through partnerships with governments and local organisations in more than 90 countries, we’re working to improve water supplies and sanitation facilities in schools and communities around the world.

“We wanted to raise this subject in a new, playful and engaging way”, said Per Westberg of UNICEF Sweden. “Our Sweat Machine is a reminder that we all share the same water. We all drink and sweat in the same way, regardless of how we look or what language we speak. Water is everyone’s responsibility and should be everyone’s concern.”

Mattias Ronge of the advertising agency Deportiv0, which organised the stunt, said the machine had helped raise awareness of the issue for UNICEF, but in reality had its limitations.

“People haven’t produced as much sweat as we hoped – right now the weather in Gothenburg is lousy,” he said. “We’ve installed exercise bikes alongside the machine and volunteers are cycling like crazy. Even so, the demand for sweat is greater than the supply. And the machine will never be mass produced – there are better solutions out there such as water purifying pills.”

If you’d like to support UNICEF’s work to provide clean safe water for the world’s children, just £21 could provide 5,000 water purification tablets for use when families cannot access fresh, clean water.

Joe English is Communications Executive at UNICEF UK

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