Students searching for ways to alleviate extreme poverty found a solution right under their feet: replacing dirt floors.
More than a billion people live in earthen-floored shelters—which drives high rates of childhood diarrhea and other health issues linked to parasites found in human waste.
- “On a hard floor it’s much easier to see fecal matter,” explains Paul Gertler, a University of California at Berkeley professor—making hard floors easier to clean.
- A Torren, Mexico floor improvement program reduced diarrhea incidents in children by 13%; anemia cases fell by a fifth.
EarthEnable, a hybrid operation founded by former Stanford students (structured as a nonprofit in the US with for-profit local businesses in Rwanda and Uganda), went a step further.
They developed a flaxseed oil that dries to form a plastic-like, waterproof, sustainable resin when poured over floors—emitting fewer greenhouse gases than concrete production to boot.
Bonus: It’s also cheaper—averaging $50/house compared to the ~$162/house cost of a concrete flooring program in Mexico.