Floating Toilets That Clean Themselves Grow On A Lake

Imagine you live on a floating lake house. Open air. Chirping crickets. Clear, starry nights. Everything seems great until you need to use the bathroom.

The natural instinct might be to make a deposit in the water. But that wouldn’t be safe. Microbes in your feces would contaminate the water and could cause outbreaks of deadly diseases, like cholera.

A group of engineers in Cambodia wants to solve that problem for the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Over a million people live on or around it. Exposure to wastewater spawns diarrhea outbreaks each year. In Cambodia, diarrheal diseases cause 1 in 5 deaths of children under age 5.

To help clean the lake’s water, engineers at the company Wetlands Work! in Phnom Penh are developing plant-based purifiers, called Handy Pods. The pods are essentially little kayaks filled with plants. They float under the latrine of a river house and decontaminate the water that flows out.

Here’s how it works. When a person uses the latrine, the wastewater flows into an expandable bag, called a digester. A microbial soup of bacteria and fungi inside the digester breaks down the organic sludge into gases, such as carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen.

Continue reading.

Photo: A pod to pick up your poo: The Handy Pod features floating hyacinth plants placed underneath a houseboat’s latrine. The blue tarp offers privacy. (Courtesy Taber Hand)

In India, Dying To Go: Why Access To Toilets Is A Women’s Rights Issue

In May, two young women in rural India left their modest homes in the middle of the night to relieve themselves outside. Like millions in India, their homes had no bathrooms. The next morning, their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree. They had been attacked, gang-raped and strung up by their own scarves. Eighteen months after a gang-rape on a Delhi bus, this incident and others since have galvanized nationwide protests to end violence against women and highlighted caste-related discrimination. The tragic story also underscores the need to talk about another taboo topic: open defecation.

Access to clean, safe and private toilets is a women’s issue. An estimated 2.5 billion people globally lack access to proper sanitation, with the largest number living in India. Women are disproportionately affected by lack of adequate sanitation. Many poor women living in rural villages or urban slums wait until nightfall, reducing their food and drink intake so as to minimize the need for elimination. Girls often do not attend school if there are no private toilets, and this is especially true after the onset of menstruation. Approximately 2,200 children die every day as a result of diarrheal diseases linked to poor sanitation and hygiene, which impacts women as mothers and caregivers. Finally, waiting until nighttime to urinate or defecate is not only dehumanizing, it makes women vulnerable to sexual assault, as vividly illustrated by the appalling events in India.

(More from Cognoscenti: Thinking that Matters-90.9 WBUR)

What toilets and sewers tell us about ancient Roman sanitation

I’ve spent an awful lot of time in Roman sewers – enough to earn me the nickname “Queen of Latrines” from my friends. The Etruscans laid the first underground sewers in the city of Rome around 500 BC. These cavernous tunnels below the city’s streets were built of finely carved stones, and the Romans were happy to utilize them when they took over the city. Such structures then became the norm in many cities throughout the Roman world.

Focusing on life in ancient Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Ostia, I’m deeply impressed by the brilliant engineers who designed these underground marvels and the magnificent architecture that masks their functional purpose. Sewer galleries didn’t run under every street, nor service every area. But in some cities, including Rome itself, the length and breadth of the main sewer, the Cloaca Maxima, rivals the extent of the main sewer lines in many of today’s cities. We shouldn’t assume, though, that Roman toilets, sewers and water systems were constructed with our same modern sanitary goals in mind. Read more.

To Clean Drinking Water, All You Need Is A Stick

Removing all the dangerous bacteria from drinking water would have enormous health benefits for people around the world.

The technologies exist for doing that, but there’s a problem: cost.

Now MIT's Rohit Karnik thinks he’s on to a much less expensive way to clean up water: Use the xylem of a plant.

Now if you remember your high school biology, you’ll know that xylem is the stuff in plants that transports water in the form of sap from the roots to the leaves.

“And the way the water is moved is by evaporation from the leaves,” says Karnik.

It’s somewhat like what happens when you put a straw into a glass of liquid. Evaporation from the leaves has the same effect as sucking on the straw.

Pulling water up to the leaves this way creates a problem for the plant, but also an opportunity for an inventor.

The plant’s problem is something called cavitation, or the growth of air bubbles, which makes it harder for water to reach the leaves. But Karnik says xylem has a way of getting rid of these bubbles.

“The xylem has membranes with pores and other mechanisms by which bubbles are prevented from easily spreading and flowing in the xylem tissue,” he says.

And it turns out these same pores that are so good at filtering out air bubbles are just the right size for filtering out nasty bacteria.

To prove it worked, he created a simple setup in his lab. He peeled the bark off a pine branch and took the sapwood underneath containing the xylem into a tube. He then sent a stream of water containing tiny particles through the tube and showed that the wood filter removed them.

“We also flowed in bacteria and showed we could filter out bacteria using the xylem,” he says. Karnik estimates the xylem removed 99.9 percent of the bacteria.

The results were published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

Continue reading.

Image: Making a xylem water filter is easy: Just peel back the bark and stick inside a tube. (PLOS ONE)

chelseaobviously-deactivated201  asked:

How do you sanitize your used products?

Hopefully this explanation is easy to follow and hopefully I don’t miss anything!

Things you may need depending on what you’re sanitizing:

  1. spritz bottle
  2. cotton balls
  3. 70% rubbing alcohol or higher (the higher the better so it dries faster)
  4. clean paper towels
  5. tissues
  6. cup or jar (something to pour alcohol in and dip products into)
  7. pencil sharpener
  8. baby shampoo

Start by filling your spritz bottle with alcohol, then fill a cup with alcohol (if you have pencils/lipsticks), and spray your sharpener with alcohol (if you have pencils).

  • Pressed powders- Gently wipe the top layer of your pressed powder with a tissue. Spritz with alcohol, the product (don’t saturate too much, one spritz should do) and the packaging..every surface inside and out.Alternatively, you can wipe down the packaging with a cotton ball saturated with alcohol (same goes for packaging on everything). Set it on your paper towels and let dry.
  • Lipstick- Wipe the tip with a tissue. Give the whole lipstick part of the product a quick dip in your cup of alcohol, spritz the packaging with alcohol, or use your saturated cotton balls. ..every surface, don’t forget the inside of the cap. Set it on your paper towels and let dry. 
  • Pencils- Sharpen your pencil, dip the tip in the alcohol, spray packaging or use a saturated cotton ball, let dry on paper towels.
  • Creams/Gels- Spray the product with alcohol, but don’t saturate it too much because that could ruin the product. Spritz the packaging or use your saturated cotton ball, let dry on paper towels. Note: If your product has a lot of divots and dips from brushes then it may not get completely sanitized. 
  • Foundations with pumps- Spritz every surface with alcohol or use a saturated cotton ball, paying special attention to the pump. Let dry.
  • Brushes- Wash with baby shampoo, spritz with alcohol. Let dry on their side.

The following can’t be sanitized: Loose powders, foundations without pumps, and products with wand applicators (mascara, liquid liners, some lip glosses, concealers), squeezy tubes like lip glosses. 

Protip: To keep products that can’t be sanitized germ-free you can use disposable applicators and never go from your face to your product with a used applicator. Using a mixing palette is helpful also, that way you can put your product on there and double dip if you need to!

anonymous asked:

In nature where does the poop go? Why are the forests not covered top to bottom in the feces of various animals? (A question inspired by groups of ferel animals that live near-by)(also from yrs of cleaning up my backyard)

But the forest IS covered with feces! You just might not recognize it! 
In the bush (and in your backyard if you are patient enough) fecal matter gets broken down in a few different ways:

1. You call them bottom feeders, I call them recyclers. 
Organisims called Detritivores (e.g. earth worms, beetles, and flies) ingest and digest organic material from other organisms and speed up the process of decomposition. Another group of organisms, Decomposers (e.g. fungi and bacteria) break down organic material using biochemical processes, no internal digestion required. (x)

2. Coprophagy (or why I’m glad I’m not a hindgut fermenter)
Some animals ingest the fecal material of other animals. Now they might do this because they specialize in fecal matter consumption (like our friend the Dung Beetle who is a lovely Detritivore), or perhaps it is in order to gain bacteria required to process plant matter in their environment. (x) Some species, like those in the order Lagomorpha (i.e. hares, rabbits, and pikas) have very short digestive tracts and so they will re-ingest their own fecal material so they can metabolize all of the nutrients within. (x) These are called hindgut fermenters. (x)

3. Don’t drink the water (unless you know it’s treated)
The environmental conditions like the temperature, moisture, and oxygen content of the area will affect the decomposition rate. Hint: This is why it seems like there is dog poo EVERYWHERE after that first big snow melt!
As feces break down they act like every other organic (and inorganic) compounds do, they become a part of the ecosystem they are in. Now this could be through the ways I listed above, or by being integrated into the terrestrial cocktail (if you don’t think poo is in soil please talk to a gardener), or by joining the watershed. That’s right friends, the water is full of poo. 
This is why modern conveniences like water filtration plants are amazing… but something we seem to take for granted. 

Did you know that approximately ONE IN NINE people world wide do not have access to clean water?!? How about 3.4 million people die each year from water sanitation related issues. Of which, the majority of illnesses are caused by fecal matter! (x)

So yes, dear Anon, poop is everywhere. Not always in those neat little scat droppings in the forest, or the cow pies in the field, but it’s in the soil, it’s in the water, it’s even in the air in what is called a fecal mist for up to two hours after you flush the toilet!!! (Who’s gonna put the lid down now?) (x, x
Clearly it isn’t going to kill you… but I would still wash your hands regularly, avoid cross contamination in the kitchen, and don’t go drinking water from a stream or anywhere without the appropriate sanitation / sterilization pills, filters, or other treatment methods

You’ve gotta love a good scat chart.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a washer or a wiper, a sitter or a squatter; the human user interface should be clean and easy to use, because after all, taking a dump should be pleasurable.

Frances de los Reyes

“There are 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to adequate sanitation,“ environmental engineer and toilet enthusiast Francis De Los Reyes says. “And there are 1.1 billion people whose toilets are the streets, river banks or open spaces.”

According to De Los Reyes, a good toilet is hard to come by (and he would know, since he loves to take photos of toilets around the world). He says that finding solutions to the global sanitation problem starts with thinking about human interfaces, or toilets, in a more thoughtful way. This means studying how poop is collected, stored and reused, to create more accessible toilets for people to…enjoy.

Happy World Toilet Day! For more on toilets, watch this>>

It’s a game-changing piece of technology, an instrument that brought forth a revolution in sanitation and public health thousands of years ago. Yet most of us in the developed world pay it no mind until the moment it clogs. 

Unbelievably, there are an estimated 2.5 billion people living today who don’t have access to a clean and safe toilet. It’s more than an inconvenience–life without a loo levies huge health and economic fines on people and societies. 

Today is World Toilet Day, which is meant to focus attention on this major issue. This infographic was created by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program. Click here to see the full-size version with more information. Read more below to see journalist Rose George’s TED talk on toilets and sanitation.

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Talking Toilets in Ecuador

Drive north out of the gritty port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, and the traffic-clogged streets widen to broad highways lined with spiffy new shopping malls, American fast food restaurants … and gated community after gated community.

Guayaquil reminds me of the few other South American cities I’ve visited in the sense that the income disparities here are vast and almost always in your face.  They can even vary by block.  

Case in point, as the sprawl finally starts to recede, we turn right off the highway at a roundabout and onto a dirt road. Within just a couple hundred yards, it’s a completely different world.  Here is the area called Sabanilla, a rural neighborhood of subsistence farmers and deeply entrenched poverty.

It’s where 27 year old Raquel Alvarez lives in a wooden house with her two small children.

Photo by Kirk Siegler/NPR

There are chickens everywhere pecking at the dusty ground.  Her family also raises goats and turkeys that don’t seem to be bothered by the screams of kids riding bikes and playing around them.  

The reason I’m here is to see what’s tucked behind a back corner of this modest home, near a clothesline.  It’s a “trono,” Spanish slang for throne; an outhouse with a composting, dry toilet and a sign that reads (also in Spanish), “wash your hands after use.”

The only water involved here is rain collected from the roof and used for washing in the small sink attached to the hut.  The toilet is “flushed” with saw dust, or whatever biomass can be found locally such as leaves or duff from the forest.

“It gives us privacy,” Raquel Alvarez says in Spanish through an interpreter.  It’s safer and cleaner for her family than the way it was, she adds, plus you don’t have to go so far out at night.  

Before the “trono” was installed a year ago, like many of their neighbors, the family put their waste in a plastic bag and tossed it in the brush-covered hillsides behind the home.  

While troubling sounding, this is not some unique occurrence.  Sanitation is one of the biggest problems facing the developing world.  Even if Ms. Alvarez and her family had indoor plumbing, it’s doubtful this area would be much cleaner – or safer – from a public health standpoint.  

Only five percent of all the wastewater in Ecuador is treated, according to the Guayaquil-based group Fundacion in Terris.

The Fundacion is one of a growing number of NGOs and government agencies around the world that are trying to change the model of sanitation and how new water infrastructure systems get planned in developing countries, assuming they get planned at all.

“The water toilets were a great invention, they saved millions of lives,” says Marcos Fioravanti, the group’s director.

But Fioravanti says they’re doing little to help the estimated 2.5 billion worldwide who either have limited or no access to sanitation largely because building expensive new infrastructure projects that support them isn’t practical.

Marcos Fioravanti stands next to one of his group’s test models. Photo by Kirk Siegler/NPR 

According to Fioravanti, bringing traditional sanitation – water toilets – to a community like Sabanilla costs about $2,000 per family, compared with $300 for a dry toilet like what the group gave Ms. Alvarez and her family.

$300 isn’t exactly cheap either, though Fundacion in Terris has managed to distribute eight of the systems in the Sabanilla area so far – including one at its small school. The group hopes to sell most of its toilets to local NGOs or government agencies who could then distribute them.      

While the scope of the sanitation challenge here isn’t nearly as big as in countries such as India, upwards of three million Ecuadorians are still thought to fall under the category of having limited or no access to clean water or bathrooms on a daily basis.    

For now, what’s not clear is if the dry toilets that have been distributed so far are in wide use.  There are long-standing cultural norms to consider, and it’s hard to just change any thing overnight.  

Driving toward Sabanilla through one of Guayaquil’s more upscale neighborhoods I can’t help but notice as we pass an appliance store with modern, shiny, new water toilets on display in the window.    

- Kirk Siegler

Bill Gates Raises A Glass To (And Of) Water Made From Poop

In places where fresh water is hard to come by, how do you come up with clean drinking water?

Easy — get the water from poop.

It’s a scientifically sound idea, and Bill Gates has a video to prove it. In the video, released this week, he stands in front of the Janicki Omniprocessor, a giant new machine that can turn human waste into clean drinking water in minutes. He waits patiently as Peter Janicki — the engineer who invented the contraption — fills his glass with crystal-clear water from the machine.

Without the slightest hesitation, Gates takes a sip. “The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle,” he wrote on his blog. “And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.”

The Omniprocessor is one of the latest projects funded by the Gates Foundation (which also supports NPR), and the philanthropist wants the rest of the world to back it up as well. The machine’s purpose is to help the 783 million people living without clean water and the nearly 2.5 billion who don’t have adequate sanitation.

“You go into a community and you open the tap. What comes from this is even worse than [the water] you get from the roof when it’s raining,” says Doulaye Kone, senior program officer at the foundation.

Here’s how the Omniprocessor works. Sewer sludge feeds into the machine and is boiled inside a large tube. That separates water vapor from the solid waste, and then the two part ways. Water vapor travels up and through a cleaning system that uses a cyclone and several filters to remove harmful particles. A little condensation takes place and voila — out comes clean drinking water!

Continue reading and watch the video.

Photo: Bill Gates takes a sip of water that came out of the new Janicki Omniprocessor. (Courtesy of the Gates Foundation)


More people have access to mobile phones than to bog-standard sanitation around the world.

The numbers are actually quite close – both are around the 4.5bn mark. But the implications are clear: we value a text, a tweet over one of our most basic sanitary needs: the loo.