When I imagined my first trip to Sundance, I didn't think I'd be discussing water, of all things. But last week's critically-acclaimed film screenings paled in comparison to the global water crisis initiative Stella Artois is spearheading.
Let's be honest: A number of global issues and foreign affairs, such as the water crisis, often go unnoticed. Sure, the news will slip and slide down our timelines, but mostly we RT and keep scrolling.
That is, until it becomes the elephant in the room. And in recent news, the issue came to the forefront of our attention via the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
The lead-contaminated water flowing through Flint has led to an incredibly tragic situation, and the community is struggling to recover as the government responds with measures that are too little and too late.
The situation in Flint is so shocking not only because US citizens have seemingly been poisoned by the government, but also because Americans can hardly comprehend what it means to live without access to clean drinking water. But for 663 million people across the globe, finding safe water is a daily struggle.
To put this into perspective, that means around twice the population of the US doesn't have access to safe water.
As co-founder of Water.org Matt Damon explained, most of us in the West have no idea what it's like to live without clean water:
Fortunately, activists and politicians have slowly but surely worked to address the global water crisis in various ways.
But many of us still need to make a greater effort to understand the devastation of not having access to clean water in any capacity.
Thankfully, I got an unfiltered glimpse of how we can help at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where Water.org co-founders Matt Damon and Gary White, along with Global Vice President of Stella Artois, Todd Allen, introduced the second year of their "Buy A Lady A Drink" initiative.
So here's how it works...
Now I know, at first glance, the phrase "buy a lady a drink" can conjure visions of some creepy rando trying to holla at a dive bar. However, Stella Artois' partnership with Water.org is a powerful and socially-conscious endeavor.
It encourages consumers to buy Stella's chalices to provide people in developing countries with five years of clean water.
For each chalice sold, Stella will donate $6.25 to Water.org. So far, the formula has successfully provided more than 290,000 people with access to safe water.
This year, Stella crafted three limited edition chalices designed by three female artists from Haiti, Kenya and Peru, respectively.
What's so beautiful about this initiative is it succeeds in attempting to provide everyone with access to the world's most basic resource, while offering a particular focus on women -- who are especially at-risk when it comes to acquiring safe water.
The global water crisis disproportionately affects women and girls.
In the US, uncontaminated water used for drinking, cooking and cleaning has literally been at our fingertips our whole lives, but we don't always have a great respect for it.
We don't understand having to forfeit our basic rights to education in order to walk several miles to find water.
Women and children in developing countries, however, collectively spend 125 million hours each day just to fetch water for their households.
As Damon put it during a Stella sponsored panel discussion,
Stella Artois taps filmmakers and artists to help spark change.
We've seen endless examples of how storytelling can change the world.
Take for instance, "Catfish," a film (then later, a series) about false identity. It became a cultural phenomenon and shaped the way we approach online dating.
The same goes for "Making A Murderer." Whether you think Steve Avery is innocent or guilty, the 10-episode documentary on Avery's trial and subsequent life sentence continues to influence public opinion and bring awareness to the flaws in our criminal justice system.
It's been proven a powerful narrative can draw attention to any issue, which is why Stella Artois commissioned a three-part documentary created by award-winning director Crystal Moselle, titled "The Waterfront."
Moselle told the crowd during a panel discussion,
Alongside Oscar-winning producer Fazeelat Aslam, Moselle, who won the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for "The Wolfpack," showcased women from Kenya, Haiti and Peru and how collecting water affects their everyday lives.
Though these women have very little reason to celebrate anything, Aslam says, "the people are incredibly vibrant and resilient," somehow managing to maintain an inspiring level of joy and hope.
Donating money isn't the only way you can help.
Those who can't fit the purchase of chalices into their budget, let alone any adult glassware, might be wondering how they can leave their mark on the world.
Suggesting our generation can help brainstorm more solutions to solving the water crisis, Damon says,
Indeed, spreading awareness is one of the most impactful means of offering assistance without overdrawing your bank account.
So, can we be the ones who solve the global water crisis? The short answer: Yes.
According to Damon,