Bill Gates Reinvents the Toliet

Bill Gates is reinventing the toilet. That’s right; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is donating a staggering $41.5 million dollars in grants to various organizations involved in developing new sanitation technology.  Here is a breakdown of where some of the funds will be going:

  • $12 million dollars is going to the African Development Bank in their effort to bring sanitation management services to 1.5 urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa
  • $10 million is going to a German-Kenyan collaboration to improve sanitation services for people living in Kenya
  • $8 million to UNESCO Institute for Water Education, increasing education focus on water solutions that work for the poor
  • $8.5 million going to USAID’s “WASH for Life”, this program will try and determine the best ways to deliver sanitation, water and hygiene services to the poor.


Perhaps the most interesting use of the $41.5 million dollar donation is the $3 million that is going towards the “Reinventing the Toilet Challenge.” This grant will support eight universities across the world, including CalTech, Delft University, and Stanford to participate in the challenge of reinventing the modern toilet. The challenge outlines include remodeling the toilet as a stand-alone unit that does not use piped in water, electricity or a sewer connection. In addition, the unit has to work on less than 5 CENTS A DAY.

Although one of the smaller financial commitments, the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge presents a unique opportunity to change the world. The invention of the toilet nearly 200 years ago significantly changed the world.  As Sylvia Matthew Burwell, president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated:

“No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save the lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by the  invention of the toilet,” Burwell continued, “But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.”

There have already been some rather interesting ideas generated in regards to this challenge. For example, turning waste into useful fertilizer or the creation of “dry toilets”. Whether a new toilet is invented or not, the nearly $42 million dollar donation will, no doubt, allow for significant advances and aid to those countries that need it most. While many people in Western countries take their toilets for granted, most people around the world do not have access to fresh running water or toilets. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seek to change all that, and along the way, hope to reinvent the toilet

Celebrities for Clean Water Spotlight

Just like bottled water companies, clean water advocates in nonprofit efforts have caught on to the best advertising tool in the market: Celebrities. Many celebrities have given their fame and money to good causes. (Sadly, many celebrities endorse bottled water, also, but that’s a post for another day.) The latest trend among stars like Mark Ruffalo, Adam Lambert, Alyssa Milano and Matt Damon is clean water. We thought we’d take some time to highlight what these celebrities are doing to ensure access to clean water in the U.S. and beyond.

Mark Ruffalo – The Fight Against Natural Gas Fracking

The grassroots organization, Frack Action, was struggling to garner media attention for their opposition to natural gas drilling in New York State, until they brought Mark Ruffalo on board. Fracking is a process that involves injecting water and chemicals under high pressure into rock formations, in order to extract natural gas. Filmmaker, Josh Fox, recently portrayed the consequences of fracking in his documentary, Gasland, in which farmers across the U.S. can be seen to light their tap water on fire from natural gas contamination.  Ruffalo dedicates himself to the cause with full force, as an unpaid volunteer. He has attended meetings and hearings, lobbied with activists and visited colleges to raise awareness among students. His fame is helping to bring attention to an issue that, otherwise, may have received very little. In fact, it was rumored several months ago that his private screening of Fox’s film may have landed him on the government’s Terror Watch List. Whether or not the rumor is true doesn’t matter; Ruffalo is one celebrity who won’t sell out. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.

Adam Lambert and Alyssa Milano – Happy Birthday to the Less Fortunate

2009 American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert is donating his 29th birthday to charity: water – one of many water charities dedicated to bringing clean water to those in developing countries. The concept is simple: instead of asking for gifts for your birthday, ask your friends and family to make donations through your mycharity: water website (which is very easy to set up). All of the proceeds will go toward funding clean water projects in countries like Africa, Asia, Honduras and Haiti. With the mycharity: water website, everyone can follow in Adam Lambert’s footsteps. In fact, Lambert is not the first celebrity to donate his birthday to water charity. Alyssa Milano’s mycharity: water campaigns raised over $92,000 for her 37th birthday in 2009, and another $39,551 for her 38th birthday at the end of last year. Lambert’s goal, is $290,000 by the 29th, as he said in a recent tweet.

Matt Damon –

If you follow us on twitter, by now you probably know that we are big fans of Like charity: water, this organization is dedicated to funding clean water, hygiene and sanitation projects in developing nations. Matt Damon co-founded with Gary White, and has since been heavily invested in its work. Recently, he accepted the Joel Siegel Award for his work with, at the Critic’s Choice Awards. We think you should follow them on twitter: @Water.