Starting from the Ground up

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.
 
Bloomberg CityLab

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