The Future Of The Toilet

In the latest installment of our Half-Baked Design Challenge, we gave some of our most creative friends 30 minutes to redesign the toilet. Their solutions are at once absurd, profound, and probably not the answer to all our problems, so we also rounded up the fully-baked ideas at the forefront of this global sanitation issue.

In the latest installment of our Half-Baked Design Challenge, we gave some of our most creative friends 30 minutes to redesign the toilet. Their solutions are at once absurd, profound, and probably not the answer to all our problems, so we also rounded up the fully-baked ideas at the forefront of this global sanitation issue.

IDEO's Clean Team

At public toilets in Kumasi, Ghana, locals joke about a “smell so bad you can hear it.” But 80 percent of residents use the facilities anyway because they don’t have a choice—the city simply can’t afford to build more sewers. Portable toilets at home are an option, but they have been just as gross—until now. Design firm IDEO worked with global personal care company Unilever and nonprofit Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor to find a new system that could keep toilets clean. They created a service run by local operators that rents portable toilets and picks up the waste two to three times a week. The operators have a chance to earn a living, and families have a safe, clean place to go to the bathroom without the risk of disease.

Sanergy's Fresh Life Toilets

Residents of Nairobi, Kenya, frequently refer to “flying toilets”—small plastic bags full of waste that people toss into the air because there’s no other place to put them. The main alternative for poor residents has been pit toilets—deep holes in the ground that aren’t connected to sewers, and often overflow because they’re difficult and expensive to empty. Sanergy, a social enterprise founded at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has designed a new network of franchised pay toilets that collect waste in sealed containers, keeping the toilets spotless. Later, the solid waste is separated to make fertilizer for nearby farms. Part of the strategy is rebranding the idea of the public toilet; when a new toilet launches in a community, the company celebrates by throwing a block party with balloons, face painting, and music.

CalTech's Solar-Powered Toilet

Designed by a team of engineers at California Institute of Technology led by Michael Hoffman, and currently in testing stages, this toilet uses solar power to break down waste into fertilizer and hydrogen gas. The gas, stored in fuel cells, provides another source of electricity to keep the system running. The toilet also recovers and sanitizes water, which can be reused to flush the toilet or potentially irrigate crops. Amazingly, all of the materials, apart from the rooftop solar panel, can fit under the floor of an ordinary bathroom. The toilet will go into large-scale tests next year, and one of the first locations might be a refugee camp in Jordan, where thousands currently live without plumbing.

Illustrations by Thomas Porostocky

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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