Defecation postures #SquattyPotty

With the release of this “behind-the-scenes”-video of the #SquattyPotty-commercial, it’s probably safe to call this the BEST COMMERCIAL EVER. On WASH products, at least.

And here’s the result:

What I really like about the SquattyPotty and similar products is that it helps to combine both squatting vs. sitting worlds which we’ve covered here on the forum of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance a few years ago. Toilet cultures may differ around the world, but if a cute unicorn muppet and poop = ice cream help in conveying the message of healthier defecation, then I am instantly sold for such a product.

Now, where do I get this SquattyPotty here in Germany? Edit: found a similar solution.

(When this video hit the interwebz a month ago, some of my friends instantly asked me via FB where they could buy this product. Unicorns, man. Works.)

How to use a toilet, Wilbur Sargunaraj style

Yeah, we all love travelling, but how about the sanitary facilities at your destination? Will there be enough toilets? And will I be able to use them?

Famous YouTube star* Wilbur Sargunaraj from India, probably best known for his “Love Marriage” parody or the recent collaboration with NPR for “Dunk-A-Chicken“, offers a bit of help by explaining the use of some different toilet systems for a first class toilet experience:

Squatting toilet and manual anal cleansing with water, in “the” India:


Squatting toilet and manual anal cleansing with leaves or old paper (“What if there is no water?” – “Well, you uhmm….”), Uganda:


Pedestal (sitting) toilet and automatic anal cleansing with water, in Japan

(so desu ne!)


Pedestal (sitting) toilet and manual anal cleansing with water, in the EU:


And, as a bonus, a pedestal (sitting) toilet with manual anal cleansing using paper towels – on an Airbus A380-800:

(btw: did you know that most bowls for these vacuum toilet seats come from the same manufacturer?

Not enough? Here’s from from Wilbur – enjoy!

(* i.e. “Performing Artist and global ambassador for Cultural Intelligence“)

No toilet, no wedding

Kenya-based video journalist Ruud Elmendorp recently produced this short trailer (on behalf of Waste.NL) on a young woman that refuses to marry her boyfriend – until his family builds a proper toilet:

The story is about a boy who is in love with the daughter of a school teacher. Much to the dismay of his father, she refuses because she finds their toilet unusable and refused to have to go to the bush for defecation.

The women’s group has filed a number of complaints due to poor sanitation and present this to the village chief, incidentally the uncle of the boy. He is quite amazed by this and decides to call the government sanitation adviser.

After an animated session with the villagers and the chief, many decide to go for suitable toilets. The film ends happily with the girl accepting the marriage proposal as the sanitation issues have been solved.

Ruud regularly produces interesting video material from East Africa that we have also featured on AfriGadget, btw.

Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox

The Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox (SSWM) is an online resource that helps in finding an answer to the following core question: What kind of processes, measures or tools can I use to optimize my local sanitation and water management system and make it more sustainable?

sswm toolbox website screenshot

This very fine and recently launched website is said to be “the most comprehensive collection of tools and approaches to improve water resources management sanitation at a local level”, because:

  • It follows a holistic and cross-sectoral approach
  • It addresses and integrates different stakeholders
  • It contains understandable and manageable contents
  • It is user and problem specific
  • It has a high standard and pedagogic approach
  • It links planning, software and technology
  • It provides ready-to-use and adjustable material

In addition to this toolbox, there are regular training courses that build on the SSWM Toolbox and aim at linking up sustainable sanitation, water management and agriculture at the local level and in practice. Upcoming training courses will take place in Nagarkot (Kathmandu), Nepal and Pune, India.

Also, I am particularly pleased that material published in the SSWM Toolbox for the first time is attributed with a CC-BY-3.0 licence which shows that online knowledge management is indeed possible with such a (modern) copyleft licence.

Who Gives A Crap

The good part about running a blog instead of being a journalist is that you can write about stuff you really like and also insert your own opinion as well as asking your readers for their comments. This obviously happens outside the conventional (dev aid) world with its often streamlined, corporate communication policies which sometimes avoid mentioning open issues like the following initiative which I read about today in the recommendable EcoSanRes mailing list.

If you’re interested in sustainable sanitation issues, make sure not to miss out this valuable exchange on first hand experiences with participants from all over the world. Yes, it’s just an old-fashioned mailing list that will sometimes clog up your inbox, but it’s the tool people use to communicate (hello 2010, hello RSS feeds, hello blogs, hello Facebook, hello Twitter, hello LinkedIn/Xing…).

You’ll notice that I took this wonderful headline as an opportunity to include my 2c in the beginning because it’s something I’ve been meaning to mention on this blog for a long time. Also, if YOU feel like there’s a story that needs to be published here, please feel free to contact me and I will have a look at it. Thank you!

Now back to the main topic: “Who Gives A Crap“.

Who Gives A Crap actually is a very interesting and thought-provoking initiative that aims to support water & sanitation projects in the developing world via the sale of sustainable toilet paper.

Yes, this may sound like a joke because a) what’s (environmentally) “sustainable toilet paper”?, b) why only focus on developing countries? (~ developing in which sense? within the watsan/sanwat sector? hmm..) and c) the guys behind this are otherwise busy running “a website that fundraises for development aid organisations using internet advertising”.

Nevertheless, as the distinguished Professor Ralf Otterpohl from the Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection @ Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg (Germany), pointed out in an e-mail reply today (on this said mailing list): [they are] “…touching an important issue. The cultural gap between washers and wipers shows that both sides are doing something strange.”

I couldn’t agree more. Both, using only dry paper OR only water with your bare hands aren’t sustainable solutions. Yes, people have been practising each method for ages, and probably everyone has perfected his/her own method of anal cleansing over the years and will teach/show his/her children accordingly – but are these methods really sustainable?

Wet toilet paper? Ralf goes on arguing that wet toilet paper is “not suitable for wastewater treatment plants of vacuum blackwater systems”. Ha! I am a huge fan of vacuum systems and wet toilet paper, but this revelation is something new to me. No wonder the toilet paper on planes (=> vacuum toilets)  is so thin and instantly dissolves. Also note that there are different types of wet toilet paper.

So with the situation being that we currently have many different sanitation systems all over the world (toilets, and the wastewater treatment, if any), and humans that are increasingly travelling all over the globe within hours, expecting similar standards all over the world, it begs the question if there is one unique and sustainable system that will fit everyone…(?).

One system for everyone. One toilet system – seat or squatting toilet & one cleaning procedure –  but obviously different treatment systems, adopted to the local climate/conditions (water, electricity, maintenance, etc.). Will this be possible? And is it a desired solution?

I don’t know if these are the right questions to ask when it comes to the complex matter of sanitation & treatment options, but then: how come we’re looking for sustainable treatment and reuse options if the cleansing process itself – the “interface” between users and a toilet – already is an unsolved issue by itself? And also part of the problem?

Ralf Otterpohl goes on telling us about the Terra Preta Sanitation (TPS) that partly consists of a disposable “food-quality” cleaning cloth, moistured with a lactid acid bacteria. Hey, doesn’t that sound like the desired sustainable toilet paper? And “food-quality” already sounds like a very smart Cradle2Cradle approach.

Terra Preta Sanitation (TPS) is a low-cost dry sanitation system based on urine diversion and the addition of charcoal to the system that produces lasting and highly fertile soils with properties similar to the recently [re]discovered manmade Terra Preta (black soil) in the Amazon region. Through natural processes of lacto-fermentation (silage) and vermicomposting, fecal material is converted into Terra Preta like soils that can be utilized in (urban) agriculture and also act as a carbon sink. (source)

Terra Preta Sanitation, a system designed for use in urban areas, with a separate collection of used toilet paper in a bucket. I already like the concept and that it has been re-discovered as a traditional method.

Wait….! You were first talking about sustainable toilet paper and now you’ve switched to a sustainable treatment system for urban areas that generates fertile soils? How’s that supposed to mix up? And why should I Give A Crap??!

Because you should. It starts with eating and doesn’t stop when you go to the toilet. There needs to a working closing-the-loops system in place that helps us grow food and also provides a secure and comfortable way for hygiene standards. Wet toilet paper that adds value to a system, if you will.

Coming back to the video above: would you buy (any) sustainable toilet paper and fork out an extra dime for it?

And: would you be willing to switch your existing cleaning method for any new – better – option? (similar to the already popular & separate collection of glass, paper and bio waste, which also required some behaviour change…)