7 Social Initiatives That Bust Bathroom Taboos

Making the world a better place isn’t always sunshine and lollipops. Sometimes it’s toilets and human waste.

Jan 23, 2015
Bathroom signs

Changing the world - one toilet at a time (Shutterstock)

There are some topics that everyone likes to speak about - our children, for example, food, or the weather. And then there are the topics that we’d rather avoid - like what goes on in the bathroom.
For the most part, that’s probably for the best, but there are some toilet-related issues that bear discussion. For example, did you know that 40 percent of the world’s population, some 2.5 billion in total, lack access to a clean toilet? Or that human waste can be used as rocket fuel? Unbelievable as it might sound, both of these statements are true.
The following seven empowering organizations are tackling taboos in creative, innovative ways - working to make the entire world a better place - not just the bathroom.

1. BILL GATES IS DRINKING WHAT?

In a recent viral blog post, Microsoft founder Bill Gates sung the praises of the Janicki Omniprocessor - a machine which burns human waste to produce water and electricity. Water good enough to drink. And why is that important? As Gates explains in the post, developing safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste will prevent hundreds of thousands of sanitation-related deaths, and help more children around the world grow up healthy and strong. Bottoms up!

Bill Gates drinking water made from human waste

Bill Gates drinking ... water (Screenshot)

2. REVOLUTIONIZING TOILET PAPER

The Australian nonprofit Who Gives a Crap has three missions - to fight poverty, help the environment and provide customers with funky, silky-smooth toilet paper. By donating 50% of their profits to WaterAid, the tongue-in-cheek social enterprise wants to “flush poverty down the loo.” And for Mother Earth, their beautifully-designed toilet paper products are all made from 100% recycled materials. More creative still, who gives a crap offers 24- and 48-roll “subscriptions,” to save patrons from ever running out again.

who gives a crap toilet paper

Toilet paper on a mission (Who Gives a Crap)

3. MEET MENSTRUAL MAN (YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT)

Indian innovator Arunachalam Muruganantham tackled another bathroom-related taboo - menstrual hygiene. The Indian social entrepreneur invented a machine which manufactures low-cost sanitary pads, and spearheaded an awareness campaign about women’s sanitation around rural India. In his words - he started a “low-cost sanitary pad movement.” Though the controversial campaign left him isolated by his community for a time, he battled onwards and was ultimately successful, with his machines now installed across most of the country. His inspiring story has now been made into a documentary film, titled Menstrual Man.

Arunachalam Muruganantham is menstrual man

Menstrual man distributes his low-cost sanitary pads (Screenshot)

4. TURNING THE TOILET ISSUE INTO GOOD, CLEAN FUN

To WASH United, access to clean water and sanitation are the most basic of human rights - not charity. The Berlin-based organization works directly with communities across the developing world to teach good hygiene habits - using games and media campaigns to get their messages across in a positive, engaging way. Some 280 million people have already benefited from their inspiring efforts.

WASH United's blue hand game

The 'blue hand game' teaches participants about how germs are spread (WASH United’s Facebook page)

5. THIS BUS RUNS ON…

Tackling the bathroom issue in a different way, waste treatment company GENeco has built a ground-breaking bus that runs on trash and sewage. The BioBus is currently active in the United Kingdom, shuttling passengers back and forth every day from Bristol Airport. A GENeco waste disposal plant treats both food waste and sewage, using a natural process which mimics the human digestive system. The result is biomethane - the purified gas which fuels the BioBus, along with 8,300 UK homes every day. On a full tank of gas, the bus can travel 200 miles.

The BioBus: Fueled by purified waste

The BioBus: Fueled by purified waste (Wessex Water)

6. FREE WIFI IN MEXICO CITY - ON ONE CONDITION

Bill Gates’ buddies aren’t the only ones doing creative things with droppings. In effort to encourage citizens to pick up after their dogs, Internet company Terra set up a device in Mexico City which transmits free Wifi when people properly discard their dog droppings. Called ‘Poo Wifi,’ the campaign was promoted with this hilarious video. While pet waste isn’t quite as taboo as its human counterpart, the drive certainly got people talking - and taking care of the environment.

 
Mexico City's 'Poo Wifi' device

Mexico City's 'Poo Wifi' device (Screenshot)

7. THE APP FOR WHEN NATURE CALLS

Location-based app Flushd is on a mission to increase the quality of the bathroom experience globally, with its list of public bathrooms. Flushd presents information such as whether a restroom has a changing table or the level of cleanliness - all crowd-sourced from other users, who can list their own private toilets for others to use when necessary. To add to the good factor, Flushd also raises awareness about bathroom-related health and hygiene issues, with an informative blog that discusses these important taboos.

Flushd: join the movement

Flushd: join the movement (Flushd)

As well as managing Goodnet.org, Elana writes happy headlines with a particular focus on yoga, meditation and family matters. She has a background in online journalism and web content.