World Toilet Day is Here!

Dearest Poopers, If you've already had your morning movement, you may have noticed something different about your toilet today. You may have noticed it was slightly puffed up, proud of itself. It may have been wearing an extra big smile, showing off its porcelain whites. And after your product was whisked away down the drain , perhaps you could sense that your toilet was patting itself on the tank.

Yes indeed, this World Toilet Day, toilets everywhere are luxuriating in the acclaim that's so seldom afforded to them. Just think of all the wonderful things your toilet does for you! Six times a day (on average), the toilet takes away your pain. Your toilet doesn't judge you or call you names. It's there for you through pizza, hot dogs and taco night, lovingly accepting that which your own body has rejected.

But toilets are not just convenient, they're critical. World Toilet Day stands as a celebration of a technology that has prevented countless deadly diseases in the past 150 years, and as an act of solidarity with the over 40% of our world population still living--and dying--without access to safe toilets. Yet in a recent survey of things they could not live without, British museum-goers ranked toilets 9th, behind sunshine, internet connection, Facebook and email (clean water was 3rd). In India more people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet, and the amount GDP that is lost in Africa due to sanitation exceeds all foreign aid dollars. What a waste.

Across the spectrum, changing our relationship to the toilet requires us to reassess our understanding of value. Though poop may smell bad and be not the prettiest product to every emerge from our bodies (what is, really?), it is essentially a product. It is a nutrient-rich commodity that must be handled and processed like any other, from which there is money to be made. In the "developed" world, we are only beginning to compare the value of poop to that of the water we flush it in, or the energy and infrastructure required to maintain it (hear more from Science Friday on NPR). In the "developing" world, we are beginning to understand how making toilets "cool" can generate demand for them in ways simple health lectures never could. (Read more on the changing attitudes toward toilets from World Toilet Day founder, Jack Sim.)

The POOP Project is proud to be part of an awakening shaking abdomens around the world. As gross as it may be, poop is undeniably a part of us. It is our shadow, our shame. But it is also THE shit; it is our gold. It is the part of us that connects back to the earth and renews our relationship to the universe. We can turn our waste into a world of opportunity, and it all starts with four simple words:

"I love you, toilet."

A Joyous World Toilet Day to you all, and peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

The Final Flush

After four inspiring days at the World Toilet Summit (WTS) in Philadelphia, I am finally back to Brooklyn.  My head is still reeling from almost four straight days of non-stop potty talk.

I enjoyed experts presenting and debating topics with names like "Advocacy and Potty Parity" or "Innovations in Global Toilet Design and Application Part I."  I hobnobbed with sanitation luminaries like Virginia Gardiner, creator of an amazing waterless, odor-free, energy-generating toilet called the Loowatt, as well as Trevor Mulaudzi, a social entrepreneur and prestigious Ashoka Fellow.  More commonly known as "Dr. Shit," Trevor's work cleaning up school toilets in South Africa actually keeps kids in school while creating employment opportunities.  Tom Keating alluded to The POOP Project in his event review, "Notes on the Aisle," and I even got to point the finger at Jack Sim, the self-proclaimed "Toiletman" who started it all.

As the WTS was only one part of this year's ASPE conference and massive product exposition (ASPE means American Society of Plumbing Engineers), a large number of educational programs catered to that crowd.  Because I was busy at the World Toilet sessions, I did have to miss out on no-doubt fascinating sessions like: "Roof Drain Design Considerations," "Medical Gas Sizing," or "Practical Engineering: NSF 61 and Booster Systems."  All smugness aside, I wish I could have sat in on environmental topics like "Rainwater Harvesting: A Sustainable Approach" or "Greywater System Design," both vital issues to creating environmentally sound sanitation systems in this country. (More about greywater on Wikipedia.)

As I unpack my suitcase, I find myself trying to mentally unpack the last few days.  I anticipate it won't be until I've typed up all the notes I foolishly wrote by hand, sort through the dozens of business cards I picked up, and eaten the Doritos I picked up on the showroom that I'll truly be able to take in all I've learned.  For now, I'd like to leave you with a moment of Zen...