Boosting the Fight Against Child Labor and For Clean Water: Where Aveda's "Earth Month" Funds Go


Men in northern India lift the cover to a water source that now pipes clean water to their village.
Photo: Rachel Cernansky

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume most people will agree that Earth Day is a real let-down—for lots of reasons, including the hollow "Celebrate Earth Day every day" email blasts, Tweets, bumper stickers, etc. But as much as I hate the expression, we do have to recognize and reduce our impact on the earth more often than one day a year, and that's important to emphasize now that Earth Day is over and the talk has faded. What's the point of doing anything, besides going to the dentist, once a year?

Some efforts, though, do last all year. Aveda's Earth Month campaign fits into that category.

During April, Aveda staff put up signs in their stores, they wear t-shirts, organize individual Walk for Water events, and have cut-a-thons—all focused on both raising awareness about clean water around the world and the one in seven people who do not have access to it, and raising money to support efforts to rectify that ratio. It's impossible to live healthfully without clean water, and no one should have to try.

Disclosure: I went on a trip to India with Aveda late last year, and visited some of the projects that receive support from the company and its Earth Month campaign.

I visited just two of many projects in India alone that are part of this network of beneficiaries, but each had a wildly different focus and I was really impressed with the impact that each has had on the lives of the people it is seeking to help. (And I am picky about charity and aid efforts around the world.)


Children in a classroom at an ashram run by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which feeds, educates, and rehabilitates kids after they are rescued from forced labor.

We visited Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an organization that has been fighting against child labor for 31 years, and has really suffered for doing so—the current head of operations said that two activists have been assassinated and almost every senior BBA employee "has been beaten to within an inch of his life." He said these attacks have slowed in recent years, but they still occur, and a rescue team was attacked less than two months ago, leaving four BBA workers hospitalized.

But BBA has won incredible victories, as well. The group conducts raids on factories employing children illegally, and has managed to transform the government's attitude from viewing its efforts as something to stifle, to now working collaboratively during these raids. BBA says that since its founding in 1980, more than 76,000 child and/or bonded laborers have been freed.

How Aveda and Clean Water Fit Into the Picture
Aveda has helped BBA to install wells and handpumps so that the children they are trying to help can have clean water—because while they're also working to improve equality in education and to improve other health issues, a lot of that is lost if children get sick from drinking contaminated water.

And the company has been working with BBA to clean up the supply chain of mica, a mineral that is often mined using exploited child labor for the gain of large electronics, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics companies.

Elsewhere in the country, Aveda is supporting efforts like clean water projects in small villages. In Tilwari, for example, water from a natural source was piped to a place in the village more accessible than hiking up a steep slope carrying a bucket of water—but the project also supported a rainwater harvesting initiative, where a family that is too far to benefit from the piped water has installed gutters on the roof of the house that direct water into a cistern that they keep underground behind the house.


Men stand around the 8,000-liter underground tank that stores the harvested rainwater.

This part of India has running water most of the time from a government-operated system, but the system will defect now and then—and when it does, it's out for a month or two at a time. So the rainwater collected serves as a buffer for during the dry season and when the municipal water system is down.

By harvesting and storing rainwater, the family is able to maintain more of a subsistence level of farming than before, when they would have to rely on buying produce because their own harvest failed them during dry months, especially during years with poor rainfall. Other families with similar needs are hoping to learn from and replicate this collection system.

All this came about because of good ideas on the ground that were accelerated and enabled by funds from Aveda—and, notably, with the Global Greengrants Fund playing the (essential, in this case) middleman, because it has such an effective network for scrutinizing and selecting projects with the potential to make the greatest impact in the community and hopefully beyond.

More on water, sanitation and poverty:
Aveda and Global Greengrants Fund Increasing Access to Clean Water to Rural India
Five Poverty-Fighting Clean Water Projects and Designs
Millions May Gain Access to Clean Water After Clinton Global Initiative 'Mega-Commitment'

Tags: Developing Nations | Drinking Water | India | Poverty