830 million people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. 2.3 billion do not have access to sanitary facilities. For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of at least $4 is returned in increased productivity. (Sanitation returns $5.50 from $1 and water returns $2 from $1). (WHO 2012)
With the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people. (UNCCD).
Increased pressure on water security as well as the opening of Arctic channels are areas of great concern.
Locally, our coasts are our economy. Innovative technology designs are needed to strengthen existing decentralized wastewater systems or the implementation of centralized sewering.
Globally, 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being reated or reused (UNESCO, 2017).
39% of the global population (2.9 billion people) use a safely managed sanitation service. Most of these people (3 out of 5) live in urban areas. (WHO/UNICEF, 2017). It is estimated by 2050 85% of the global population will live in coastal areas.
Global water demand (in terms of water withdrawals) is projected to increase by 55% by 2050, mainly because of growing demands from manufacturing (400% increase). The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials. (UNESCO, 2017).
71% of the earth's surface is water, and only 5% of that is drinkable, the rest is saltwater. Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. Plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our ocean and Great Lakes.
The Blue Institute's Mission is to create the next generation of Water Thought Leaders and to support the creation of solutions to our challenges with clean water, healthy oceans and the impacts of climate change. Here is a short history of the slow, but steady progress to meet those goals. We thank you for your interest.
The Blue Institute, a non-profit 501 (C)(3), was envisioned in the summer of 2015 by Judith Underwood who in doing program research for the local community college, had identified gaps in clean water & climate change collaboration amongst academia, industry and government agencies. These gaps stifled innovation and constricted pipelines for education, research, workforce opportunities, economic development and solving community environmental challenges. Dr. Robyn Hannigan, the Founding Dean for the School for the Environment at University of Massachusetts Boston listened to Judith's idea and introduced her to the UMass system wide President's Office who were intrigued by the early vision to create a satellite UMass mini campus on Cape Cod with a specific focus on collaborative solutions to the clean water and climate change issues facing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as most global communities. Research, interviews and design concepts ensued with much of the program design premise stemming from the structure and goals of two Institutions Judith had worked at: The International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy; and the Seminar XXI Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Bringing scientific and thought leadership together to address topics of interest and challenges and getting professionals out of their "silos" to collaboratively study and research topics and issues through an inter-disciplinary lens - adding into the mix students and startups.
A second aspect of the original design was as a year-round economic development opportunity for Cape Cod whose economy is seasonally based on tourism. The campus design of 250+ visitors per semester calls for 40-70 full-time year-round jobs. The conceptual idea was readily embraced and accepted into the Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll.org) South Coast Summer 2016 Cohort. Through this social impact business accelerator, the Blue Institute was incorporated as a non-profit separately from the UMass system allowing for a working partnership with the University to provide the credits for the “Blue Semester Away” program. Through the EforAll program the Blue Institute business plan evolved into four key pillars: education, research, community engagement, and innovation and supported the decision to incorporate as a Massachusetts non-profit in October 2016.
In the Spring of 2017, the Blue Institute was accepted into the prestigious Cleantech Open (CTO), the country’s oldest and largest national CleanTech accelerator. The CTO judges unanimously supported the application - a rarity - the "getting researchers, practitioners, and educators out of their silos" to collaborate on clean water & climate change solutions" was a big draw, as was the alarming national and global news items on the state of drinking water and our oceans! Blue Institute had excellent support from teammates Andy Nicholl and Maria Petrova, Ph.D. and in particular from teamate and fellow Cape Codder Lois Andre brought her “A Game” to our development connecting more key stakeholders and helping the Blue Institute gain significant ground - particularly through encouraging Robert "Bob" Ciolek, the former COO for the City of Boston & the then head of the Boston Water & Sewer Commission to come onto the founding Board of Directors. The CleanTech Open experience brought the eyes of CleanTech investors from across the country curious to explore investing in water security, aquaculture, and BlueTech. The CTO experience also produced several surveys and myriad of significant interviews. Our research strongly indicated that a standalone non-profit incubation and commercialization program had enormous economic sustainability challenges if it was not identified with and supported directly by a university, institute or government agency. To address these two research findings the innovation pillar was pulled out of the four-pillar non-profit business plan in November 2017, and was established as a public benefit corporation, the Blue Institute labs, PBC and hosts the “Blue Incubator.” Ten percent of profits are dedicated to the Blue Institute for scholarships and fellowships supporting the goals of a circular Blue Cluster.Our longer term vision is to hoco-locate these two entities under one Foundation umbrella of a "Blue Innovation Center."
In the fall of 2017 the Blue Institute hosted its first H20 STEM Community Conference bringing together students and area "blue" organizations and three distinguished speakers: EPA Region One Interim Administrator, Dr. Deborah Szaro on, "Career Paths and STEM;" IBM's Global Cognitive Solutions Leader Michael Sullivan on Watson, "IoT and Water;" and Dr. Yuki Alysson Honjo, the Chief Operating Officer of McLane Research Laboratories, Inc. on, "Marine Research, Technology, and Entrepreneurship." The H20 STEM conference has morphed into the now annual "WaterWorks" with the regional STEM consortium at the Cape Cod Community Collage and the establishment of the Blue Economy Foundation at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and hosted nearly 350 regional high school and 4C's students and over 50 organizations and additional businesses. Later that fall the Board of Director expanded from the two original Judith Underwood and Mark Watson, to five with the addition of Bob Ciolek, Yuki Honjo, and Elizabeth Harder.
In the winter of 2018 a generous individual funded an independent feasibility study on the build-out of a brick and mortar campus and the economic sustainability of our business model - to a positive conclusion. In April 2018 we held a series of free writing workshops by Cape Cod writers at the Harwich Cultural Center in conjunction with the Massachusetts Cultural Council's "Art Week." In June of 2018 we held our first World Oceans Day event in at the Harwich Cultural Center over three days allowing for "walking field trips" for 125 kindergarteners learning about the water cycle through science, song, drawing, and stories. Community trips were also arranged to tour area water resources such as the Harwich shellfish laboratory, the Chatham wastewater facility, and the Harwich water department.
Our second World Oceans Day event in 2019 saw the origination of our "Word on Water," writing competition exploring the writer's relationship with water through poetry, prose and playwriting - the winners work is available on our website. In October 2019 a special evening of readings was arranged at the historic South Harwich Meetinghouse. This event was followed the next day by our dynamic Community Lecture Series three-person panel on Seaweed & Algae: "Everything You Wanted to Know but were Afraid to Ask."
Hundreds of individuals and organizations have provided wisdom, best practices, and wide support for the Blue Institute's mission and vision. Our Board of Directors has grown to fifteen - please meet them on the "who we are" page.
Indeed we have received interest in our “Blue Semester Away” program from over 100 universities and colleges across the US and Canada. Currently our first pilot cohort is in planning for the 2020-2021 academic year in collaboration with the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
We are also currently planning a four-day multidisciplinary festival celebrating 2020 World Oceans Day - Cape Cod (June 4-8th) is in planning - with a "Call for Submissions" for the 2020 "Words on Water" writing competition to be announced soon.
There are many opportunities to volunteer - we would love your help - please join us! firstname.lastname@example.org
Office visit available by appointment or happenstance.
Harwich Cultural Center - Suite 205, 204 Sisson Road, Harwich Massachusetts 02645, United States
The Blue Institute, Inc. is a Registered 501(c)(3), Charitable organization. Donations to the Blue Institute are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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