Ecodana Rural Project: Toilets and Clean Energy for the Cost of Coffee and a Donut


In southern Vietnam, the population depends on healthy farming for its livelihood, but several factors challenge that goal: discharged animal agricultural waste into open gutters and community waterways, as well as using traditional fuels  – such as wood and coal for cooking – which causes deforestation, hurting land productivity through drought, flooding and erosion.

The solution? Biodigestion, a method for treating animal waste to produce a  methane-based biogas that can be used for cooking or lighting. This source of clean and renewable energy aimed at helping some 50 families is being funded by people like you and I through Ecodana.

The San Francisco-based for profit social enterprise is seeking to better the lives of the poor in rural areas around the world by identifying and facilitating funding for sustainable projects in their communities. In terms of acquiring the biogas systems, the funds raised will cover the subsidy ($11) and training provided with each installation ($9) bringing the cost per family at $20.

Ecodana has a number of ongoing sustainable grassroots projects around the world, and depends largely on the internet to spread the word and get people involved.


Recycle Plastic to Fund Scholarships: In rural Vietnam, this program was set up to reward schools for raising the environmental awareness of theirs students by collecting plastic waste and recycling it. Over 100 million tons of trash accumulates in the country each year with only a small fraction being picked up.


Building Dry Composting Latrines in Guatemala and Cambodia: Coming to the rescue of families who mostly rely on Pit toilets – shallow holes in the ground that are breeding grounds for disease-carrying flies, parasites and other microorganisms that spread cholera, typhoid and infectious hepatitis. The latrines are ecologically-sound and in high demand in areas prone to flooding during the rain season.

Ecodana was founded by filmmaker and photographer Marc Henrich in 2008, who was raised in five countries and speaks several languages which helps his international awareness. The idea for these grassroots projects was sparked when he moved his family to Laos and became involved with Sunlabob, a renewable energy company.

In creating his global grassroots mission, he located various partners in the areas he is helping. They include Thien Chi (Goodwill), an independently operated Vietnamese non-profit organization helping with the agricultural projects; the Cambodian-based charity MaD; and the Asociacion Amigas del Sol, a multi-ethnic women’s organization promoting communities in the southwestern coastal region of Guatemala. The projects chosen are often overlooked by larger organizations as too insignificant, but they can make a big difference in lives, according to Ecodana.


“We believe these small grassroots projects can be hugely influential and deserve to be supported,” says Henrich. “By harnessing the power of technology, we can bypass the issues of large institutional giving and get people directly involved with grassroots projects anywhere in the world.”

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.