Thursday, October 20, 2016

World Toilet Day: What is it? And how to celebrate!

November 19th!

Every year World Toilet Day sneaks up on us. While we're already hanging out Christmas decorations in September many people forget there are some very important observances that come first, and this is one of them.

It's understandable... World Toilet Day is a fairly young holiday, started in 2001 at the first meeting of the World Toilet Association and only recognized by the UN in 2013. So most people don't know about it until it's happening or has passed, and then they only get the hallmark version of it: The humour without the substance.

Here are the ways a few people describe World Toilet Day:
The aim of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation.“ (United Nations
World Toilet Day is THE day for action. It is the day to raise awareness about all the people who do not have access to a toilet, and the urgent need to end the sanitation crisis. And it is the day to stand up (or sit down or squat if you prefer) to do something about it. (World Toilet Organization) 
A campaign to motivate and mobilize millions around the world on issues of sanitation. (Wikipedia)
You don't have to dig far to learn that sanitation, and by extension toilets, is one of the major humanitarian crisis of our time, even if it doesn't always make the front pages. For the 2.4 billion people who lack access to good sanitation there is an increase of risk of malnutrition and disease. This problem exists not only in developing countries but refugee camps and many large cities (San Francisco for example is infamous for its 'poop problem' due to the high homeless population and the lack of access to basic facilities.') 

But I promised you I'd talk about celebrating and all of this is rather grim. Many consider the humour aspect of toilets to be an important part of the day because it gets people's attention in a way that facts and statistics don't. So here are some ideas for ways to make the most of the day at whatever level you wish to plunge to:

  1. Wish people a Happy World Toilet Day! When they ask why be prepared to tell them a little about the day and its history. It's a baby step, but you never know where simply getting a person thinking about a topic will lead!
  2. Throw a World Day Party! Whether you use it as an opportunity to raise money for a cause or just to reflect on the topic and talk to people about it it's a fun way to acknowledge the day. Topical (but not overly gross) foods include these super adorable Poo Emoji Meringues and lemonade... or rainbow ice cream in honor of the Squatty Potty unicorn. Create a toilet themed Quiz or play.
  3. Volunteer!  What sanitation initiatives are going on locally for you? In San Francisco I am a huge fan of Lava Mae which provides mobile shower units to the homeless population. Find out if your city has similar local programs!)
  4. Donate to a cause! There are many options both local in international, so find out what speaks to your interests. It might be one of the big global charities like WaterAid or something local to you. Get a group of friends together to Twin a Toilet!
  5. Do something fun and toilet related! I'm personally biased towards the London Loo Tour, but wherever you are there is likely to be something happening: visit the Paris Sewers or the Manchester Museum of Science (which has a great sewer exhibition).
  6. Share your celebrations! For the tweeters among you, previous years hashtags have included #wecantwait #worldtoiletday and #giveashit ... keep an eye out for others relating to your activities of choice!

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