World Toilet Day, on November 19, intends to raise awareness about the 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have improved sanitation, as well as the one billion people who are forced to defecate in the open because of this.
“This day is a universal effort to address access to improved global sanitation,” Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus says. “Until you lack access to a toilet, and must squat in the street, you don’t understand the importance of what we take for granted.”
“Having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity,” the World Toilet Day organizers state. “Women and girls risk rape and abuse as they wait until night falls because they lack access to a toilet that offers privacy. Where toilets do exist [they] generally remain inadequate for populations with special needs, such as the disabled and elderly, and women and girls requiring facilities to manage menstrual hygiene. Without accessible toilets for these populations, they remain excluded from opportunities to attend school and gain employment.”
Water is central to the mission of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. Our building itself—the first LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certified building in the world—hosts a natural water reclamation system, called an Eco Machine™, built to purify the water used by the Omega Institute campus.
Extending modern sanitation facilities, done ideally in an eco-friendly manner as Omega has modeled here on campus, can be a powerful tool in improving human health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control say that improving water, sanitation, and hygiene could prevent roughly 9 percent of the global disease burden, as well as prevent 6.3 percent of all deaths worldwide.
There’s a deeper question we can be asking, though. Considering humanity’s need for clean, potable water, is disposing of bodily waste in water the best way forward as a general practice?
“We have an opportunity here,” Backus says, “to further the development and use of waterless toilet systems for waste disposal, which can reclaim important nutrients such as phosphorus from the waste stream, while at the same time reducing water pollution. In doing so, we will be helping to protect and conserve critically important natural resources, in addition to improving human health”
On November 19 several events have been organized around the world. If you cannot attend one of them, please consider doing your part in your community, your workplace, and your home to raise awareness about this critical issue of social justice and environmental sustainability: World Toilet Day Ideas.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies