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Nearly 828 million people live in what the United Nations calls "slums." In some cases, these are temporary "tent" cities that crop up after natural disasters, like in Haiti. At other times they become part of the urban landscape, like in New Delhi, India.

And as difficult as these places are for humans, they are equally tough on the environment. Natural resources like wood are used for fuel and shelter and lack of proper waste disposal leads to a host of health problems and degraded ecosystems.

A Montana company looked at the situation and developed a social and environmental solutiona product it calls "Habihut." The structure can be assembled three ways. As a shelter, it sleeps 4 to 6 people. Or, it can be a restroom. It can also be a business-generating water kiosk, complete with a solar powered pump and cell phone charging unit.

In an hour, three people can assemble the lightweight aluminum frame and durable polypropylene panels. The result: 118 square feet of bright, high-ceilinged space, designed for people.

Groups of Habihuts together can create a healthier community and help decrease deforestation, erosion and pollution. It's a step forward for people, and the planet.

By Charlotte Dohrn

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