- Written by Antonis Petropoulos - Ecoclub
“Awareness precedes all change and social awareness related to environmental responsibility, sustainability, and stewardship is reaching a critical mass in the world”
Allen Schnaak's personal and professional life have revolved around water and the outdoors. Over 50 years ago, at the age of 12, he got his first job maintaining a neighborhood swimming pool. He was active in boy scouts, earned the Eagle scout rank with a community project involving the cleanup of a garbage dump. While in college he studied marine biology and limnology, but "since Jacques Cousteau had the job" he wanted, his career evolved around the swimming pool industry, the last 30 years focused on chemical solutions to water maintenance. Now, with BioNova Natural Pools and the promotion of natural biological filtration of swimming environments, his life and career "has come full circle". Mr Schnaak explains that the more he learns the more he is amazed, at how “nature” can so easily manage the diverse and complex interrelationships of biology, chemistry, and geology, so long as the conditions for nurturing it are properly “cared for”. He believes that there is a rising level of awareness in sustainable practices and promoting responsible stewardship of our natural resources.
Ecoclub: While preparing for our conversation, we showed images of your pools to two friends. After three seconds of awe, one exclaimed 'I want one of these!" and the other one opined that 'this is how pools should be made". Indeed. So why aren't they, we thought? There is always resistance to change, sometimes fueled by conventional scientific wisdom and other times by material posted online. A quick search reveals that there have been some studies suggesting that natural swimming pools may be at risk from fecal materials from birds and other animals and there are some online cautionary tales [inexperienced contractors apparently using cheap filtration materials or the wrong type of plants and ending up creating fish ponds]. How do you convince customers to do away with their fears and opt for green progress?
Allen Schnaak: I agree. Natural Swimming Pools should be more prevalent than they are, and to understand the reason why they are not, one only needs to “follow the money”. That sounds crass, but in the 1960’s when construction techniques simplified the process and lowered the cost for pool construction it enabled the average person the ability to afford a swimming pool. During this same time, chlorine was growing in popularity as a water treatment method to curb illness caused by water borne pathogens in drinking water across the world. It was an easy leap for chemical manufacturers to expand their business to market to this growing water treatment opportunity for recreational water. Pool businesses that evolved in the last 60 years were provided with a revenue stream of maintenance chemicals to sell once the swimming pool was installed and now the average swimming pool (18k gallons operating 22 weeks of the year) will require US $600-$1,000 per pool season, of chemicals for maintenance of a “nearly” sterilized water environment.
If the objective of a viable business is “to find a need and fill it” then chemical companies and pool businesses were simply filling a market need. For Natural Swimming Pools (NSPs) to gain a more prevalent position in the market, designers and builders of recreational water environments must first believe that there is “demand” in the marketplace and realize a profitable return for their time and effort to add it to their portfolio of pool options. For there to be more demand, there needs to be greater awareness in the marketplace of NSPs as a viable option for pool care.
That is where we are now, building greater public awareness of the viability of natural water purification. “Awareness precedes all change” and social awareness related to environmental responsibility, sustainability, and stewardship is reaching a critical mass in the world and this growing group of environmentally focused persons is seeking more options to support their “green living” lifestyles. NSPs now become one of those choices to complement their focus on environmentally sustainable choices.
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