Peter Thum, the founder of Ethos Water, discussed his dream of helping to end the world water crisis with an audience of about 200 people during a presentation at the University of Central Florida Tuesday.

The event, organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office, was a co-curricular component of the UCF General Education Program Unifying Theme, the Environment and Global Climate Change, and the 2011-2012 university-wide programming theme of the same name.

Thum began by emphasizing that almost everyone in the United States and the developed world grew up with access to clean water.  He said this creates a disconnect between ordinary people in the developed world and the world water crisis.

However, he said, the reality is that nearly 1 billion people live without access to clean water. Further, about 2 billion lack access to toilets. Approximately 2.5 million children die every year from diarrhea, which is directly linked to a lack of clean water and sanitary conditions, Thum said.

Thum said he was fascinated by how people are willing to pay money to purchase luxury brands of water, stating that the added quality to those products is how they make consumers feel. He explained that this is how he got the idea of creating a bottled water brand that would be tied to raising money for water charities. That way, customers would feel good while raising awareness about the problem.

With this vision, Thum said, he started Ethos Water on a small scale, targeting establishments frequented by affluent members of society.  He sought out investment from billionaires while his product gained popularity.

Eventually, Starbucks purchased Ethos Water in 2005.  That development helped Ethos Water raise more than $6 million for water charities and give more than 420,000 people access to clean water and sanitation, Thum said.

Thum went on to describe how his work on water projects in Africa inspired him to start his current venture Fonderie 47, a fine jewelry company that make items from recycled guns, with some proceeds going to help collect and destroy weapons in war-torn regions of the world.

In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners of Thum’s presentation included the UCF Office of Undergraduate Studies, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, The Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship program, the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, the UCF Political Science Department, UCF LIFE, UCF Focus the Nation and the Global Connections Foundation.

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