Eco toilets empower women and save nature in Colombia

June 28, 2019 by  
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Jenifer Colpas spends her days installing toilets, but her work has won her accolades as a Global Changemaker, Young Champion of the Earth and most recently as a winner of the United Nation’s Lead 2030 Challenge. For Colpas, her unique waterless toilet design is more than just a bathroom — its an unlikely hero and an opportunity to empower women, protect watersheds and finally flush widespread sanitation-related illness down the drain for good. In 2015, Jenifer Colpas launched her social enterprise, Tierra Grata , with some friends. They were determined to address the poverty that had first shocked them on a trip to India and then emboldened them when they realized it was pervasive back home in Colombia , too. “I was truly outraged by the fact that people lived without the most basic things, like access to electricity, a proper toilet and safe drinking water,” Colpas recalled . Related: Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity Tierra Grata, which loosely means “pleasant earth” in Spanish, not only provides low-cost ecological toilet facilities for rural communities in Colombia, it also uses the toilet installation as an entry point to open dialogue, provide skills training and empower women. The perfect toilet Tierra Grata’s solution, the baño grata , is a simple structure that can be installed with local labor at minimal cost. The ecological toilet does not use any water at all, which saves approximately 270,000 liters per year when compared to a conventional toilet. “Instead of water, a mixture of lime, sawdust and ashes is used, placed each time a stool is made; that mixture of organic materials neutralizes all the odors, while it is converting the organic matter into fertilizer,” Colpas explained. In many rural communities, residents do not have access to any bathroom facilities and therefore must use makeshift bathrooms that are at risk of contaminating the soil or local watershed. The baño grata eliminates this risk, protects watersheds and even uses the waste to produce fertilizer for plants. Some of the bathroom structures also contain a separate shower and changing space, which specifically provides women with privacy that can be especially important during menstruation, pregnancy or post-partum. The link between women and water Tierra Grata’s business model is more than just the installation of an ecological toilet. Instead, its team targets households and communities either headed by or with a larger number of women and girls. Once selected, the team trains females in toilet maintenance and sanitation practices, providing skills that ensure the facilities are sustainably managed. In Colombia and throughout the world, the lack of access to a private or accessible toilet can deter women from participating actively in society — preventing them from attending meetings and trainings that would otherwise support their roles as leaders and decision-makers. If a woman knows there is nowhere to use the bathroom for miles around, she is more likely to skip out on an activity, and the community misses out on her contribution. Related: Women are essential to climate resilience in the Caribbean — here’s why “Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right, fundamental to the realization of all other human rights. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate access, either in terms of quantity or quality of water, often impacts women and children disproportionately,” said Lis Mullin Bernhardt from U.N. Environment. “In most regions of the world, women are responsible for helping their families get access to these life-giving services, so it is essential that their unique views and challenges are part of the decision-making processes and solutions. Tierra Grata is a great step in this direction.” Around the world, millions lack water and sanitation In rural Colombia, approximately 30 percent of people do not have an adequate system for the proper separation and disposal of sewage . Throughout the world, the situation is even more dire. Approximately 844 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Moreover, 2.3 billion people lack access to what is considered basic sanitation amenities: simple toilets, hand washing facilities and soap. Of these more than 2 billion people, 70 percent live in rural areas. In many cultures, women and children are responsible for collecting water for their families, cooking and washing clothes. These time-consuming tasks often prohibit their full participation in school and other activities. When rural schools do not have adequate toilet facilities for teenage girls, many skip out on important lessons during their menstruation cycle and fall behind their male peers. Despite technological advances and innovative entrepreneurs like Colpas, the percentage of the world population without basic sanitation actually expanded in the last two decades, from 59 percent in 2000 to 68 percent in 2015. For many, the problem is not a question of comfort and privacy but life and death. Improper sanitation leads to the spread of disease and the contamination of drinking water sources. For example, lack of proper water and sanitation facilities can accelerate the spread of diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the top causes of death among children under 5 years of age. “Water and sanitation issues sit at the intersection of environmental and social concerns,” Colpas said. “Lacking water and sanitation solutions contribute to disease, stagnation and the pollution of natural waterways.” Hope for the future Tierra Grata’s unique model not only addresses the immediate need for a facility but recognizes and addresses interrelated concerns — including gender inequality and environmental protection — which ensures more long-lasting success. Creativity and dedication from people like Colpas are promising signs of a more hopeful and equitable future. “There is not a single environmental problem today that cannot be solved through innovation ,” Erik Solheim, executive director of U.N. Environment, said. “Therefore, it is essential that we do everything in our power to empower and motivate young entrepreneurs. When we take advantage of that creativity, we can discover new ways of thinking and new possibilities for a sustainable future in our land.” + Tierra Grata Via U.N. Environment Images via Tierra Grata

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Eco toilets empower women and save nature in Colombia

Greenery fills this sustainable glass-and-timber tower planned for Oslo

January 25, 2018 by  
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Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter AS and C.F Møller Arkitekter have won a design competition for a stunning new cultural hub set to rise in Oslo. The project, called Nordic Light, comprises a master plan for the area and a modular glass-enclosed timber tower that will further develop the Oslo Central Station area into Norway’s largest mixed-use hub. The renderings show Nordic Light with greenery growing inside and out of the building on multiple levels as part of the architects’ sustainable vision for the tower, which will aim for BREEAM Excellent certification. Created for Fjordporten Oslo S, Nordic Light is designed to revitalize the area around the main train station with new publicly accessible cultural, retail, and dining facilities. The project will consist of four main elements: the area around the 19th-century station, a cultural and conference base, a pergola that links Queen Eufemia’s Street with the station, and the modular tower housing hotels and offices. The timber structure will be wrapped in a transparent glass facade allowing views of large trees and plants that will grow inside the building at multiple levels. The building will be designed to BREEAM Excellent with a focus on life cycle costing and life cycle assessment to inform sustainable building decisions. Related: Northern Europe’s largest aquarium unveiled for former Oslo airport site “‘Nordic light’ takes its strength from a controlled and careful form expression,” said the jury. “The project’s proposed integration with the station areas and the overall draft of the blueprint will help to further develop Oslo S as the country’s largest collective hub, and will offer the travellers great new spatial and qualitative experiences. The project showcases good solutions for the design and connection of the adjacent spaces to the project. The architect’s approach provides a good potential for the rehabilitation and enhancement of the protected Østbanen structure, and will give it a central role as part of the station’s future visual identity.” + Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter AS + C.F Møller Arkitekter Images by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter AS and C.F Møller Arkitekter

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Greenery fills this sustainable glass-and-timber tower planned for Oslo

Rafael Viñoly’s Green-Roofed Mathematical Institute at Oxford University Seeks BREEAM Excellent

October 15, 2012 by  
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Read the rest of Rafael Viñoly’s Green-Roofed Mathematical Institute at Oxford University Seeks BREEAM Excellent Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “energy efficiency” , BREEAM excellent , eco design , geothermal energy , glazing , green design , green roof , Mathematical Institute , natural light , oxford university , rafael vinoly , sustainable design , UK

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Rafael Viñoly’s Green-Roofed Mathematical Institute at Oxford University Seeks BREEAM Excellent

Stanton Williams’ BREEAM Excellent Sainsbury Laboratory Shortlisted for 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize

July 26, 2012 by  
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Read the rest of Stanton Williams’ BREEAM Excellent Sainsbury Laboratory Shortlisted for 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “sustainable architecture” , Architecture , BREEAM , breeam excellent rating , Cambridge University , London , RIBA , RIBA Stirling Prize , Stanton Williams

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Stanton Williams’ BREEAM Excellent Sainsbury Laboratory Shortlisted for 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize

Enter to Receive $10,000 in Scholarships From Design*Sponge!

November 30, 2010 by  
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Calling all art and design students! This year, Design*Sponge is teaming up with Glos and Room & Board to award $10,000 in financial awards to four lucky students! This excellent scholarship aims to provide financial assistance to the next generation of talented art and design students, giving them a helping hand in their creative pursuits. Both graduates and undergraduates are invited to enter, and in addition to a monetary award, Glos will be giving all finalists the opportunity to develop a collection of creative surface coverings to be sold exclusively through Glos .

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Enter to Receive $10,000 in Scholarships From Design*Sponge!

2nd annual Ethical Corporation Awards Accepting Applications

November 30, 2010 by  
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In my inbox today: Are you proud of your company’s corporate responsibility record? Would it be useful to benchmark yourself against CR leaders from across the world?

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2nd annual Ethical Corporation Awards Accepting Applications

Modern Design with Southern Heritage: Sustainable Furniture from Structured Green

February 1, 2010 by  
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Images: Structured Green I haven’t done it yet, but for a long time I’ve wanted to write an article, some kind of hefty feature piece, rounding up a selection of the greenest, most eye-pleasing design and architecture coming out of the American South. The compendium will have to wait, but today we add another excellent specimen to the list

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Modern Design with Southern Heritage: Sustainable Furniture from Structured Green

Skeptic, Denier, Denialist: Would a Rose by any Other Name…?

December 13, 2009 by  
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Image credit: Dictionary.com When I wrote about holocaust denier and climate conspiracy theorist Nick Griffin , Konservativ Anarkist asked me nicely not to use the term ‘denier’ or ‘denialist’ to describe climate skeptics. It was, he said, an “obvious attempt to marginalize.” In general, I’m not a fan of annoying people, and I like to accord respect where respect is due. The trouble is, as Brian’s post on the excellent

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Skeptic, Denier, Denialist: Would a Rose by any Other Name…?

Affecting Behavior Change in the Slow Adopters of Sustainability

November 20, 2009 by  
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In yesterday’s Sustainable Industries Economic Forum, keynote speaker Paul Hawken discussed the political will it would take to avert global catastrophe.

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Affecting Behavior Change in the Slow Adopters of Sustainability

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