If you were asked to make a list of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of humans, what would you include? The wheel, of course. The printing press, most definitely. Engines and cars and antibiotics, absolutely. But today, we’re talking about one invention that’s kept hidden behind closed doors, but equally important nonetheless. Today, we celebrate World Toilet Day.
But this day of celebration is about more than schoolboy humor. November 19 was designated as World Toilet Day by the United Nations General Assembly, and is coordinated every year by a partnership between UN-Water and governments around the world. So, why has such a respected group taken to talking about toilets? In short, because toilets matter. UN figures show that in today’s world, 2.4 billion people live without a toilet. This has led to enormous sanitation issues that are directly connected with the spread of disease, loss of productivity and low standards of living.
Imagine a world without convenient toilets: You’re 30 floors up and have been drinking coffee all morning at your desk. You’re throwing a party at your home for 70 guests. The entire family went out for seafood at the cheaper place, and things aren’t sitting too well. Toilets and plumbing are among the most revolutionary inventions in history, and today we celebrate this human accomplishment.
How to Observe World Toilet Day
1. Read up
As strange as it is to say, the history of the toilet, and plumbing in general, is a fascinating read. From the ancient Romans to the Middle East to John Crapper and today’s futuristic thrones, there’s plenty to learn about that which we rarely speak. You’ll quickly learn how impactful these innovations have been on humankind’s development.
2. Post it
With all the tact you can muster (and perhaps a quick clean before), post a picture of your own toilet to social media to raise awareness of World Toilet Day, with the appropriate hashtag. Or, use your internet search skills to track down some of the best toilets in the world, and share with your friends. Great view? Cool design? The perfect toilet is out there for you to find.
3. Take action
With the help and guidance of UN-Water and its partners, you can host an event to raise funds for the cause or simply to increase awareness. The official World Toilet Day website even offers a tool to help you connect with others hosting a similar event all around the world.
Why World Toilet Day is Important
A. It raises awareness
World Toilet Day is all about shedding light on a subject that is often deemed inappropriate. And while we don’t suggest documenting the when, why, and how of your bathroom habits on social media, it can definitely be a day to open the conversation about sanitation issues in the world. As the UN puts it, there’s a taboo around talking toilets, and it’s time to break it.
B. It celebrates a modern marvel
From the first flush toilet to innovations being made to this day, toilets and plumbing have changed the way we live. Now, thanks to recent advancements, consumers aren’t wasting hundreds of billions (yes, with a b) of gallons of water and billions (another b) of dollars each year. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that if everyone in the country used an eco-friendly plumbing system, we could save 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $17 billion, every year. Now that’s something to celebrate.
C. It’s urgent
Just like you after a whole Big Gulp, this can’t wait. UN statistics show that diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water kills 315,000 children every year. What’s more, productivity is falling due to lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices in workplaces in several countries, costing them as much as 5 percent of their gross domestic product. All this from a missing toilet.