Solar-Powered Porta Potty Treats Its Own Waste

Solar-Powered Porta Potty Treats Its Own Waste

Sustainable toilets inspired by local Indian truck art.

Ross Brooks
  • 6 may 2014

Caltech engineers originally won the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” back in 2012, but more recently they took their solar-powered design to India where it would go on display alongside other sustainable toilet ideas. To put the finishing touches on the design, Caltech worked alongside the plumbing manufacturer, Kohler, while Open Door Design Studio (ODDS) helped to design some beautiful patterns for the exterior which were inspired by Indian truck art.

Kohler were chosen for the project because of the extensive collaboration they have done with Indian marketing experts and designers in the past. The company’s Indian team were instrumental in choosing region-specific plumbing products, and offering guidance on the overall décor to ensure that local communities were more accepting of the new technology.

“Global sanitation is an issue that needs to be addressed, and we are proud to be a part of what the Gates Foundation is doing to increase awareness and inspire solutions,” says Rob Zimmerman, sustainability manager for Kohler Co. “Regardless of the technology developed, cultural acceptance of the solution is the key to its success. We put a lot of time and thought into how to best achieve that.”


Inspired by the truck art of India, ODDS ensured that the containers in which the toilets were placed maintained a cultural connection to the local environment.

“The research process required us to select motifs and messages that would propagate the significance of water conservation and environment sustainability — concepts that formed the essence of the project, while capturing the stylistic quality of the truck art.”

The result is a collection of brightly colored flowers, birds, animals and scenery—all of which were chosen for their cultural significance. Illustrations of the Sun, girls worshipping the Sun, oils lamps and the introduction of solar panels in the village scene were some of the many design decisions which helped to highlight the importance of solar energy not only as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, but also everyday life around the world.

Kohler also made sure to hire local artists for the application of the final design, which you can see in more detail below.


Kohler / Caltech

[h/t] DesignBoom

Images by Open Door Design Studio


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