Western Hemisphere, north to south: Northern Great Plains, Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, Mesoamerican Reef Catchments, Amazon River, Atlantic Forests
Eastern Hemisphere, north to south: Amur-Heilong River Basin, Yangtze River, Koshi River, Mekong River, Great Barrier Reef, Zambezi River
A major cornerstone of the partnership’s work is conserving key freshwater basins around the world. WWF and The Coca-Cola Company are currently focusing on 11 such regions—and while the regions themselves differ widely, addressing the challenges in each one requires common tactics.
In all of these areas, the partnership aims to collaborate with stakeholders from every sector and at every stratum of leadership—from local to multinational—to help ensure healthy, resilient freshwater basins. In addition to internal improvements to address Coca-Cola’s supply chain impacts, the partnership is also working to build widespread, comprehensive policy support and drive innovative, climate-smart solutions that will ensure a truly sustainable supply of fresh water for future generations.
The Mesoamerican Reef has been a core region for these activities since the partnership launched in 2007. Along with the Yangtze River, it is now one of two focal areas whose models are being expanded and whose accomplishments are informing the partnership’s strategies in every other basin.
The success of those initiatives has led WWF and The Coca-Cola Company to launch similar initiatives in Honduras—not just with small farmers such as José Gómez, but also with a loose consortium of regional nonprofits, municipalities, large-scale farms and local companies. One of those companies, a franchised Coca-Cola bottling plant called Cervecería Hondureña, sits farther down in the Chamelecón’s freshwater system, in a quiet outskirt of the city of San Pedro Sula.
Each month, Cervecería processes between 45 and 48 million liters of Coca-Cola, Fresca and Dasani drinks, along with a number of local Honduran brands. A day before our walk through the highland farm we toured the mechanized jungle of the plant’s interior, following an observation deck past room after room of hulking machinery and twisting pipes. Thousands of jittering bottles animated every surface, moving endlessly forward over conveyor belts, down chutes and under busy mechanical arms.
Cervecería’s processing manager, Juan Madrid, took several of us down onto the plant’s actual floor. Though he explained the functions of the different machines largely through gestures because of the noise, he shouted when we reached one particular conveyor belt. “This is the dry lubricant!”
Most of the conveyor belts used in other plants require a water-based lubricant to run smoothly and prevent grating of the different parts against each other. Cervecería, however, has switched to a dry lubricant for the majority of its belts, including the one Madrid pointed out.
The dry lubricant is one of a number of water-saving techniques that have helped Cervecería reduce its water consumption by an average of about 282,000 cubic feet per year—the equivalent of roughly three Olympic swimming pools—since it began working with the partnership in 2009. That year, the plant’s water efficiency index was 2.37, meaning it used 2.37 liters of water for every liter of finished beverage it produced. By 2012, the index had fallen to 1.93. The target for 2014 is 1.60, which would save 60% of the water used in the manufacturing process.
After the plant tour, Nathalie Cáceres, executive director of Fundación Cervecería Hondureña, took us to an outdoor wastewater treatment facility where the water used in the bottling process is cleaned and recycled through several reactors and an oxidation lagoon. Beside the facility was a tree nursery, which the company’s foundation uses in a number of green education programs for local schools and small business owners.
Half of the trees grown in the nursery are donated to reforestation efforts in parks and along riverbanks. Some of those sites are as far away as the Manchaguala, where the foundation recently contributed more than 400 trees to reforest the banks of one of the Manchaguala’s tributaries. Others are right around the corner. Cáceres drew our attention to a small waterway behind the nursery, Río Piedras, that feeds into the Chamelecón.
A few years ago, she said, the five-block stretch of Río Piedras bordering the nursery was a garbage dump caked in trash. So the foundation cleared it and reforested the banks, which are now dense with greenery.