A selection of more innovation from ShelterTech
NuupTech’ co-founder and CEO Alejandra Téllez lives in Cozumel, a Mexican island on the Caribbean Sea with an economy that relies heavily on tourism. Many divers and snorkelers come to the area to explore the reefs and the marine life that feed on them.
“The main problem in this area is that the reefs are being degraded because of waste water,” Téllez says. “The water filters into the aquifers which connect directly to the sea. Black water from toilets and gray water from sinks and appliances are one of the main sources of contamination of water sources, so this is not only about the reefs, but about preserving the water supply.”
With a master’s in sustainability, Téllez began looking for an affordable way to prevent families, especially those from low-income areas, from polluting their ecosystem and harming their livelihood. Her start-up offers families a low-cost waste treatment system. It includes a user-friendly dry toilet that accelerates the transformation of waste into organic material (terra preta) that can be used as fertilizer.
“Dry toilets already exist, but they have pitfalls. The rudimentary ones are not very user-friendly and are not easy to adapt inside a home in a way that’s comfortable,” Téllez says. “The more technical ones are expensive and still not adaptable to low-income homes. We make them way cheaper, user-friendly and have added a social context to them.”
The lack of affordable housing is a huge problem in Mexico. So is the pollution. Mauricio Enriquez sees his company as a way to address both.
Ecolam sells an affordable construction material made from used toothpaste tubes and other recycled industrial plastics. Many of the materials are difficult to recycle but Ecolam has developed a process that works.
The material, commonly used to construct ceilings and roofs, requires less maintenance and uses less CO2 to manufacture than other alternatives. “This material can help families improve their quality of life,” says Enriquez, Ecolam’s CEO.
Company: Ion Ag+
An estimated 12 million Mexicans don’t have access to clean drinking water.
“When people drink dirty water, they get sick. Parents can’t go to work. Kids can’t go to school,” says Alexis Ortega, co-founder and CEO of Ion Ag+. Too often, people die.
Ion Ag+ works with local governments and development organizations to design and build integrated water solutions for rural communities. The company’s products don’t require electricity, which is important for communities not connected to the Mexico’s electrical grid. Products do include a filtration system that creates an electromagnetic charge that kills bacteria.
Ion Ag+ also is launching a bottled water line called Happiness, with profits from the venture being used as matching funds for government water infrastructure projects. “With Happiness, anyone can participate as an investor or agent of change. We are deeply concerned about transparency, accountability and creating awareness about the water issue in our country. We see this as a call to action,” says Ortega, who began working to improve the water supply for rural communities 15 years ago.
Ortega has met people who walk as far as 5 miles to get clean drinking water.
He also believes that the number of Mexicans without access to clean water may be underreported. He has met families that don’t record their children with government officials until after their fifth birthday. That is because many children die before turning 5.
“Our goal is to bridge the inequality gap in Mexico and the world,” Ortega says, “and to guarantee the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.