Never underestimate a Tulane public health student.
Although students carry a full load of classes coupled with practica and research opportunities, many can’t wait until graduation to make a difference in the world.
Such is the case with the students involved in the Humanure Power Project.
The project was launched by Anoop Jain during his first year at SPHTM and aims to provide sanitation and electricity to rural India by building community toilets and harnessing methane gas from human waste to produce electricity that will be distributed to the community via 12-volt batteries.
The project was a big winner in last year’s Dell Social Innovation Challenge, one of the largest international business plan contests for social entrepreneurs. “This is a big win for us,” Jain said at the time. “It legitimizes so much of what we have been working for. It’s going to help us establish the critical infrastructure to start testing our system in a pilot program.” The project placed second in the Dell Challenge out of more than 1,780 entrants from around the world.
Since then, the project has also attraction $10,000 from the Jewish Family Foundation of California and an $80,000 fellowship from Echoing Green, which will help cover Jain’s salary now that he has graduated with an MPH in global community health and behavioral sciences.
A number of undergraduate and graduate students in public health and other disciplines have worked with Jain on the project. The current team includes School of Architecture
student Emma Jasinski and School of Science and Engineering alumna Kaitlin Tasker.
Roughly 650 million people in India live without toilets and 400 million lack electricity. HPP plans to build 10 public toilets in a small village in Bihar to determine how much energy can be produced daily. In early 2013, the group completed the land purchase and plans to begin putting up the first toilets this summer.
The pilot project could produce 200 pounds of waste, providing up to 1,200 cubic feet of methane gas per day. A cubic foot can store enough battery power to light a 60-watt bulb for six hours, Jain said.
The company will rent reusable 12-volt batteries to earn money to buy more toilets. The goal is to create a sustainable model that spreads across India and throughout the world.
Jain isn’t afraid to dream big. “We are trying to be the best. We believe in our project and how big an impact it will have on the lives of millions of people.” — Keith Brannon
Portions of this article originally appeared in Tulane New Wave