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

What About Bob?

Darling poopers, It is with great sadness that I announce Bob's delay (Bob is a communal, composting toilet soon to be in the midst of Manhattan). I received this from Bob late yesterday:

Yes, rush over to the pavilion on the Columbia University campus to see what's happening, but know that Bob has not yet arrived.  Know, also, that I will alert you as soon as Bob does.

In the meantime, peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

Bob is Coming...

Happy Friday everyone! First off, a big thank you to our friends over at Superhero Clubhouse, and congratulations on last night's work-in-progress reading of URANUS (a play about waste).  Be sure to check out the full production this June 10-12 at the Figment Festival on Governor's Island.

But what are you going to do until then?  Why not spend some time with Bob?

So, wait...what?

It turns out, Bob is part of an end-of-year project by students of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and School of the Arts (SoA). Starting tomorrow, May 14, the pubic is welcome to check out a whole pavilion's worth of interesting projects.  But the real star, I'm sure, will be Bob.

Bob's press release states:

The pavilion will be open from May 14th until July 25th, and features a centralized public restroom with a composting toilet, a projection wall, twelve student-designed double seats and a bar flanked by an inflatable canopy. The inclusion of a composting restroom facility is integral to the concept of the installation, and emerged from the studio mantra concept that “a society that does not provide public restrooms does not deserve public art.” The single-occupancy bathroom intentionally forces a correlation between public space and a societal responsibility to provide and ensure basic necessities. The canopy will serve as temporary rain cover and shading throughout the summer months. The projection wall, a shared wall between the bathroom and open public space, will regularly feature evening film series.

There's an opening party tomorrow from 5-7pm, and you know the Puru will be in attendance.  I hope you'll join me!

Wishing you peaceful (and possibly public) pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

Check out The Puru's Guest Blog for TOILET TWINNING

Ever thought of twinning your toilet? Well, for £60, you can twin your toilet at home, work or school with a latrine in the remote Giharo Commune of Rutana Province, Burundi at Toilet Twinning.

Toilet Twinning was created by international charities Cord and Tearfund to provide complete water, sanitation and hygiene education.  I love the way they use technology to connect people to their purchase:

When you twin your toilet, your loo is linked with a latrine Africa. You'll receive a framed certificate of your toilet's twin, containing a photo, the latrine's location and its GPS coordinates so you can look it up on Google Maps.

The Puru is honored and humbled to have recorded a guest podcast for the Toilet Twinning blog.  To hear these 3 minutes of craptastistic-ness yourself, CLICK HERE!

Peaceful pooping,

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

The Poop of the Pious

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

In the last post, we hypothesized how Oprah’s poop could save the world by toppling the tower of celebrity and reminding us that—prince or pauper—we’re all cut from the same fleshy cloth. This time, we share a few examples of how what drops from our bottoms can raise us to the top.

In the classic Australian film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, three urban drag queens hit the road in a big, pink bus (the eponymous Priscilla) to traverse the Outback and find true love. In one scene, Adam/Felicia (played by Guy Pearce) relays to Bernadette (Terence Stamp) how he came upon the contents of a certain locket, described as, “my most treasured possession in the whole wide world.”

ADAM: Well, a few years ago, I went on a pilgrimage backstage after an ABBA concert hoping to grab an audience with Her Royal Highness Agnetha. Well, when I saw her dashing into the ladies loo, naturally I followed her in. And after she'd finished her business I ducked into the cubicle only to find she'd left me a little gift, sitting in the toilet bowl.

BERNADETTE: What are you telling me? This is an ABBA turd?

Exactly. What could be better? If Agnetha truly is a Goddess, then she’s a Goddess through and through, down to the last drop.

J.D. Salinger's Toilet seat up for auction

J.D. Salinger's Toilet seat up for auction

There’s nothing new to the idea that an object’s value can change just from coming into contact with somebody important. Many religious pilgrimages revolved around this idea. The faithful still travel across the world to touch something that was once touched by someone else, thus making themselves holier by touching it, too. (For more information, check out this great article on religious relics.) As celebrities have come to rival religious figures, they also now possess this power. This explains why J.D. Salinger’s toilet might actually be worth a million dollars—your butt can absorb his talent right through the seat.

St. Christopher's Cranium

St. Christopher's Cranium

But why settle for Salinger's toilet seat when you could have, say, a piece of the very butt cheek that made it holy? Why, merely brushing up against it could cure writer’s block forever! After the 7th century, the practice of collecting bodily relics grew to be extremely popular, as Saints were put on the chopping block and exported piece by piece to churches across Europe. Even before they’ve passed on, however, the pious provide for us in their poo.

The next three examples all come from John G. Bourke’s thick compendium, Scatologic Rites of All Nations.

There’s power held deep within Jesus of Nazareth's nappies (pieces of which can still be viewed at the Dubrovnik Cathedral in Croatia): “When the Lady Saint Mary had washed the swaddling clothes of the Lord Christ and hanged them out to dry upon a post…a certain boy…possessed with the devil, took down one of them and put it upon his head. And presently the devils began to come out of his mouth and fly away in the shape of crows and serpents. And from this time the boy was healed by the power of the Lord Christ.”

He’s all man, and all medicine: “…the author wishes to say that in his personal notes and memoranda can be found references to one of the medicine-men of the Sioux who assured his admirers that everything about him was ‘medicine’, even his excremement, whichcould be transmuted into copper cartridges.”

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama can stave off trauma: “Rosinus Lentilius, in the Ephemeridum Physico-Medicorum, Leipsig, 1694, speaks of he Grand Lama of Thibet as held in such high veneration by the devotees of his faith that his excrements, carefully collected, dried, powdered, and sold at high prices by the priests, were used as a sternutatory powder, to induce sneezing, and as a condiment for their food, and as a remedy for all the graver forms of disease.”

Does this mean we should be petitioning our local religious figures for sacred stool samples? Probably not. According to Cacas: The Encyclopedia of Poo

A hundred years ago, rumors that the feces of the Dalai Lama—the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists—had beneficial properties prompted the UK’s Surgeon General to analyze them in the interests of science. They contained nothing remarkable, he concluded. Just as well: According to a spokesperson at the UK-based Tibet Foundation, “These days you can’t even buy the Dalai Lama’s used clothes, never mind his excrement.”

But perhaps one day you'll be lucky enough to follow His Holiness into the House of Ease, and grab yourself a relic to rival ABBA.  Until then, here’s to your health! And as always, peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

World Toilet Day in NYC

Like a march on Washington, only different...

Celebrate sanitation at World Toilet Day on Friday, November 19th in New York City!

The POOP Project invites you to join us in one of the many World Toilet Day events happening around the world, featuring an interactive evening honoring the miracle of modern sanitation while remembering that 40% of the world still lives without it.

Why toilets?

While not everybody needs the standard porcelain fixture we're familiar with in the West, everyone needs a safe, sanitary place to put their poo.  The 2.6 billion people around the world without toilets wind up doing their business in fields, alleys and local waterways--which means poop winds its way back onto people, leading to a host of illnesses including cholera, giardia, typhoid and plain ol' diarrhea--which kills one child in the developing world every 15 seconds.

Even though sanitation kills more people than tuberculosis, malaria and HIV combined, it gets far less press because the toilet is taboo.  Which is why we're asking people to come out of the water closet and come on down to celebrate the plumbing that makes our lives possible.

World Toilet Day New York

Come Home Sweet Home to drink dirty martinis, give a "commode confessional", and check out authentic "flying toilets."  Write your thoughts on a stall wall, submit a secret to our privy chamber pot, and take a picture of your poo face in prep for The Big Squat--a minute of thigh-straining solidarity with the toiletless.

Shawn "The Poop Guru" Shafner and Josh Sitron will be your hosts for the evening, with sounds, stories, and unmentionables provided by Moth storyteller and comedian Sara Barron along with word mavens Amy Carrigan, Adam Laupus and Lisa Lewis, singer-songwriters Avi Fox-Rosen, Megan Gerlach, Ben Lerman, Brian Carter, and Hilary Schwartz PLUS buxom burlesque beauty Minnie Tonka and much more!

WHERE: Home Sweet Home, 131 Chrystie Street, New York, NY DATE/TIME: Friday, Nov. 19, 2010.  7:30 pm Doors, 8:30 pm Performances, 9:45 pm Big Squat, 10:00 pm Closing TICKETS: $15.00 tickets online, $18.00 at the door.  Limited supply $3 drink tickets good for draft beer and well drinks.



All proceeds benefit The People's Own Organic Power Project (The POOP Project) in their mission to creative poop-positive spaces that spur creative thinking towards sustainable sanitation solutions for all.

(Porta-potty photo by AnyaLogic, licensed under Creative Commons. Big Squat banner property of the World Toilet Organization.)

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...

Pushing On at the World Toilet Summit

It's the second full day of the conference and I'm on my lunch break.  It's not technically a break because I could be showing myself around an ENORMOUS exposition of wires, pipes, pumps, tubes, boilers, grates, purifiers--anything and everything that touches water in your home or office--it's here.  I'm also getting a chance to meet representatives from all major toilet manufacturers, and a few I didn't know existed.  It is, in a word: shmoozetastic. It's also very strange, and wonderful.  Perhaps most exciting to me has been the opportunity to come into somewhat intimate contact with lots of "facilities."  Because they're all clean and have never been used, I've delighted in the subversive feeling one gets by sticking his hand into a urinal, or resting his head against a toilet seat. More pictures of that coming soon...

There's also a lot of serious stuff going on here, humorous though it may at times be.  I spent the morning learning about innovative, ecological toilet designs at home and abroad, and also sat in on a session aimed at explaining how those at the bottom of the economic pyramid nonetheless offer enormous opportunities for businesses interested in working in water and sanitation services.  Very excited for the follow-up session this afternoon.

I must leave you now; I'm chomping at the bit to get back into that expo.  What can I say?  I'm ready for my close-up...

Wade in the Washlet

The Puru and his Number Two (Rebecca Leibowitz) recently took a friend (also named Rebecca), and took a trip to Curry-Ya.  It’s a small Japanese restaurant on 10th Street in Manhattan that specializes in small, flavorful curry stew pots served with a molded mound of rice.  The food was exquisite and the sake half-off, but what brought us there was the opportunity to try a Toto Washlet.

Toto describes the Washlet, also known as The Chloe or The Jasmine, as, “a very luxurious toilet seat.” They’re not kidding.  On the newest models, plastic, anti-microbial toilet seats and lids go up and down automatically, or float their way back down with a “soft close,” so you’ll never hear a banging noise.  The sound of birds chirping or water bubbling may begin to play. When you sit down the seat’s already warm, but it doesn’t run full-time because you can program it on auto and it will learn and follow your schedule.  These features are also present in the Toto Warmlet, but clean-up time is when the Washlet really shines.

Press the button marked “Rear Cleansing,” and a wand, after being sterilized by a blast of hot water, will emerge from the bottom of the seat, and a small stream will shoot out to, well, cleanse your rear.  Try “Rear Cleansing Soft” for a more soothing experience, or press “Front Cleansing” and the wand will poke out further, providing a rinsing obviously designed for women but surely useful to the opposite sex when looking for a tickle.  Not sold yet?  Sample the pulsating and oscillating options, or change the angle of the wand so it really hits the spot.  Once your bath has bottomed out and the automatic deodorizer done its job, set the temperature on the dryer and take a few deep breaths.  Life is but a dream.

These toilets, ubiquitous in Toto’s home country of Japan, have been slowly trickling into the US, and may best be remembered for their short-lived 2007 ad campaign, “Clean is Happy.”  You remember, the one with the smiling butts and the public demonstrations.  But (ahem) Americans, satisfied with the status quo and put off by the idea, have been slow to try them.  Those who do are quickly converted, and most can’t wait to tell their friends.

YouTube videos with names like, “The Truth About Bidets is Self Evident” and “Hodding Carter & the Toto Washlet—A Love Story” extol the virtues of its design.  One online reviewer, Kwaichi, comments while showing the cleansing stream shoot out: “Wonderful. Beautiful.  Lovely pressure.”  He pans the camera to show the wooden door opposite the toilet, dripping from top to bottom.  A man with a wry grin faces the camera and raves, “I got something this week that’s gonna change my life.” With a price tag of $484 to over $1,500, just for the seat itself, it better change your life and make you coffee in the morning. At least you’ll be saving on toilet paper, if perhaps not on your water consumption.

Japanese TOTO commercial

Let's say you can't find the cash or a penguin to install it (see commercial link above). Those wishing to pamper their derrieres without mortgaging the children or raiding zoos can make a habit of dining at one of many fine restaurants, like Curry-Ya, that offer a Washlet in their water closet.  The Toto website lists options for those residing in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego, and having seen one at a Korean restaurant in New Jersey, I’m sure there are others out there.  (Incidentally, Yelp just released a guide for interesting New York bathrooms, including the Washlet.)  You can also find them for sale at housing goods stores, or get an idea by taking a virtual tour of the Neorest, the Washlet’s uber-bourgeoisie compact toilet cousin.

But back to 10th Street with two friends both named Rebecca.  After both of them had come and gone, and then come back refreshed and excited, I excused myself to use the toilet before the food came out.  I only had to pee, but of course I sat down.  Ohhh, the seat, so pleasantly warm—great now, but no doubt amazing in winter.  And the jets, pulsations, the warm, drying air?  My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer.