Transforming Ocean Water into Drinking Water

Day 315 – About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water. The remaining water is found in water vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers. When you consider how much water is drinkable you are down to 1 percent. That is not much water for over 7.9 billion people.

So, why can’t we drink ocean water?

Seawater contains salt. When humans drink seawater, their cells are thus taking in water and salt. While humans can safely ingest small amounts of salt, the salt content in seawater is much higher than what can be processed by the human body. Human kidneys can only make urine that is less salty than salt water. Therefore, to get rid of all the excess salt taken in by drinking seawater, you have to urinate more water than you drank. Eventually, you die of dehydration even as you become thirstier.” – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Thankfully, there are NGOs (non-governmental organizations) like GivePower that are trying to address the issue of unsafe drinking water.

Their most recent success story is related to Kenya and the village named Kiunga, where they managed to install a solar-powered desalination system. This system transforms ocean water into drinkable water and can produce enough water for 35 000 people per day (around 70 thousand liters). Before Give Power, the inhabitants of Kiunga had to travel one hour each day to reach a water source, but it was one used also by animals and full of parasites. Such improvements, like Give Power’s initiative, are constantly needed as according to the World Health Organization, there are still 2.2 billion people around the world who do not have access to drinking water and 4.2 billion can’t access safely managed sanitation services.” – Goods Home Design

To see the amazing work that GivePower is doing, click HERE.

Tomorrow, the importance of old growth forests.

Plastic Bricks: Stronger than concrete

Day 188 – Lighter, stronger and less expensive than concrete. That’s what Nzambi Matee created when she made bricks from recycled plastic. In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, the 26 year old saw a problem and used her savings to find a solution.

Nairobi generates 550 tons of plastic waste every day.

Nzambi started by setting up a small lab in her mother’s backyard where she would prototype bricks made from a mix of plastic waste and sand. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), named her one of its 2020 Young Champions of the Earth.  When she won a scholarship to attend a social entrepreneurship training program at the University of Colorado Boulder, she took early prototypes with her, further refining them in the university’s labs. Matee also used her time at the school to design the machines needed to mass produce the plastic bricks.

She went on to found Gjenge Makers, which transforms plastic waste into durable building materials. Matee gets the waste from packaging factories for free, although she pays for the plastic she gets from other recyclers. Her factory produces 1,500 bricks each day, made from a mix of different kinds of plastic. Her factory has recycled 20 tons of waste plastic since its founding in 2017.

Gjenge Makers currently offers multiple colors of its plastic bricks in three different thicknesses — the thicker the brick, the stronger it is, but even the thinnest option is able to hold twice the weight of concrete bricks. The plastic bricks are also cheaper than ones made of concrete and about half their weight, making them easier to transport.

Nzambi’s bricks can be found at homes, car parks, and schools throughout Nairobi. She is now working to add another production line to her factory. Once in place, her startup should be able to produce three times as many pavers every day.

“The negative impact we are having on the environment is huge. It’s up to us to make this reality better. Start with whatever local solution you can find and be consistent with it. The results will be amazing.” – Nzambi Matee

Tomorrow, a plastic challenge.