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Gates Foundation Addresses Pooping in Public
By: Cindy Wendland
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Solar projects are exciting and their applications are limitless, but who would have thought that solar would help to power new toilet facilities in India? The Gates Foundation challenged scientists to reinvent the toilet and present their inventions in New Delhi this past weekend.

Different cultures find different things acceptable. With the huge population and poor sanitation infrastructure in India, pooping in public is acceptable! In addition to the obvious unpleasantness, it also causes death from diarrheal diseases in over 700,000 children a year. So the Gates Foundation decided to tackle the issue by encouraging toilet innovation that sanitizes waste, uses minimal water or electricity, and produces a usable product at low cost.

In several of the inventions that were presented, solar energy was involved to superheat the waste and turn it into biochar, a charcoal that can be used as a soil amendment. The ideas were promising and creative approaches to solving a massive problem. The Gates Foundation selected six projects that will split a $2 million grant to further their projects.

Contests and challenges seem to be the way to inspire massive change. Without this, most product managers are unable to radically change their products, and most consumers are too lazy or closed-minded to be open to unique products and concepts. Ideas from these new toilet innovations may filter into our culture but they may be minimal and slow to occur. It would be great if product redesign in this country involved more than a new scent, flavor, or toilet cover lid shape but actually included some real enhancement and solar application. That would really be exciting!

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About the Author
Cindy Wendland has a background in marketing and finance. She is the creative director for an online men's health magazine, BrainBrawnBody.com, and she gets to write their leisure/travel blog. She is also a web designer helping her clients with online community engagement, websitesbywendland.com. Prior to her web years, she worked in pharmacy consulting.
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