Peepoo, It’s All In The Bag

Peepoo–a silly name for a very serious product.

It is a self-sanitizing, disposable, single-use bag, made by Peepoople, which serves as a portable toilet to collect human waste and prevent the transmission of disease.

Without proper sanitation, human waste harbors contaminants, such as viruses, bacteria, worms, and parasites that infect fresh and ground water.2.6 billion people (40% of the world) have no access to basic sanitation (i.e. toilets) and one child dies worldwide every 15 seconds because of this.

The Peepoo bags contain a simple, but important layer of urea, a non-hazardous chemical that makes human waste pathogens inactive in just 2-4 weeks.

The biodegradable bags are buried and decompose in about 1 year making needed fertilizer for people in poverty around the world.Despite a current 15% poverty in United States, we live in such an economically privileged and technologically advanced country here that it is hard to imagine not having the basics for human dignity and health like a toilet and running water.

I stand in awe of the people that are working globally to help to those in need through the development of innovative, functional, low-cost, and environmentally sustainable products such as this.

There is so much to do to help people at both the high-end and low-end of cost and technology that it can be confusing how to invest our finite resources. For example, at the high-end, this week NASA unveiled plans for the most-powerful rocket planned projected to cost tens of billions of dollars to carry people to planets deep in space and potentially make discoveries that can alter the course of humanity in the future. Yet, at the low-end, we have billions of people with fundamental human needs that remain unmet here on Earth, who are suffering and dying now.

I remember a discussion with colleagues that ourchallenge is not simply to carve up the pie between competing alternatives (because there are so many critical needs out there), but rather to grow the pie so that we can give more and do more for everyone.

This mimics our economic situation today, if we just try to carve up our national budget between mandatory and discretionary budget items, we are left with a situation where there is seemingly not nearly enough to go around. Hence the imperative to grow the economy–through education, innovation, small business start-ups, international trade agreements, and more. We’ve got to grow the pie and quickly, because there are people that need jobs today, while there are long-term needs such as social security and medicare solvency, medical breakthroughs, and all sorts of innovation that await us in the future.

We can’t forget the people that need Peepoo bags today and we can’t stop investing in NASA and like for the future–growth in our only answer–and that comes through education, research and development, and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship.

>A House for The People

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(Source for graphic: The $300 House)

National Geographic (January 2011) reports that one out of every seven people—or 1 billion people—in this world lives in slums.

 

Forbes (11 June 2007) predicts “By 2030, an estimated 5 billion of the world’s 8.1 billion people will live in cities. About 2 billion of them will live in slums, primarily in Africa and Asia, lacking access to clean drinking water and toilets, surrounded by desperation and crime.”

 

Harvard Business Review (January-February 2011) shares an innovative idea by Vijay Govindarajan to design and mass-produce houses for the poor for $300! Moreover, these units would include “basic modern services such as running water and electricity…[and] create shared access to computers, cell phones, televisions, water filters, solar panels, and clean-burning stoves.”

 

The breakthrough idea of the $300 high-tech house is that this is not something governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or charities would develop and deploy, but rather one that is a challenge for commercial interests who can take lead on creating mass scale, “ultra low cost, high value housing…as a mega opportunity, with billions in profit at stake.”

 

While I understand that the profit motive is very compelling and efficient in getting results, I would suggest that when it comes to helping the poor and downtrodden that we need to temper this as a driving factor, and let our humanity and conscience kick in as well. In other words, sure make a profit, but by G-d have a heart.

 

With The $300 House, aside from the notion of truly helping people—en masse—and making a genuine difference with moving them from slum houses to homes is the concept of leapfrogging them in their technology.Think about it:

 

Solar power

Walter filtration

(Even) Tablet PCs

 

This reminds me of the One Laptop Per Child initiative of 2005 that sought to put $100 laptops in the hands of hundreds of millions of disadvantaged schoolchildren to advance their educational opportunities.It expands and augments it to make the change impactful to people’s lives on the ground today in terms of how people are able to care for themselves and their families, so that they can get to a brighter tomorrow and put that education to work.

 

While we may never be able to fully eradicate poverty, we can certainly significantly raise the status of living for the masses that need help through commercial opportunities, technological proliferation, and of course, through a charitable heart.