One of the coolest toilets around

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I rarely get excited about a toilet (except when experiencing GI issues when visiting third world countries :) ), but I was pretty enthused when I came across this sanitation technology.

According to its developers,

The x-runner is a portable toilet specifically designed for the private households in poor urban areas, where the population does not own the land, lives in small, crowded spaces, and where a sewage system is non-existent.

This toilet does not require any water as its inside is coated with a Nano-paint that repels urine and dirt. When the toilet is full, it can be converted into a rollable device, which will then be brought to a nearby collection point – usually a public toilet – where the feces can be dumped. The collection point will ideally have a bio-digester where the feces will be processed and turned into methane gas. The x-runner user can benefit from the gas by using it for cooking, for light, or to charge his cell phone.

The innovation is not solely the product, but the integration in an existing system of technologies that has already been proven in its feasibility since public toilets and bio-digesters have been widely installed and used.

Find out more at the Xrunners blog.

Going Out of Business

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“What are you doing to put yourself out of business?” This is a comment I’ve heard a few times over the past several weeks. It’s an inquiry unnatural for any business or non-profit to ask itself. But is this ever the right question to pose?

When an organization is seeking to help those who cannot help themselves, I believe the answer is yes. While I would never want to discredit the work of someone feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and so on, I would still ask – how will these people’s lives look a year from now? How about five years? Ten years? What has been done to eliminate their dependence on aid? Have they been given the capacity to take care of themselves, or even others?

Perhaps not every individual or organization needs to address every part of the equation. But without the entire picture being addressed, efforts to help those in need will never reach their full potential. How can we make sure that both immediate needs turn into social sustainability and not “permanent disaster relief”? I believe the answer lies in communication and shared resources and ideas. No entity will have all the answers or be able to deliver on every objective across the board. Work in isolation is out; teamwork is in. Is this ever easy? Heck no! But being conscious of the need is a start!

Tomas

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Some places just don’t catch a break. Tropical storm/hurricane Tomas is about to hit Haiti, and the country has about 48 hours before the onslaught of wind and water begins. The cholera epidemic is still spreading, with roughly 450 lives lost, and the impending storm will only exacerbate the situation. All of this in a place with a fragile communications infrastructure and few places to run or hide in severe weather. 

The thousands of people who live in Port au Prince’s tent cities will have to choose between two options: (a) stay in the temporary shelter communities and hope for the best, or (b) exit the city in search of safer ground. With (a), you can still gain access to some basic services (while they last), and you have at least retain some sort of shelter. However, if local infrastructure is damaged, further outbreaks of disease may occur and food/water/healthcare shortages could result. Being stuck in a mass of people under such circumstances would not be ideal. If (b) is chosen, you can escape the dangers listed above, but you’d have to seek another form of shelter, and you’re on your own to find food and water.

Neither choice is obvious, and no one will know if he’s made the right decision until the storm has passed. Which route would you take?

Concrete MD

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Love this idea. There’s no groundbreaking technology here, just some common sense engineering to a real problem in Haiti (and any third-world country where construction quality is a problem). Where there is little quality control on mixing concrete properly, the Concrete MD seems like a no brainer.

It would be great to hear from anyone who has used this in the field to hear about its efficacy and usability. The concept seems simple enough, but I’m curious as to how the feasible and durable the power supply is.