What have Waterless WC’s got to do with these Organic Fruits & Vegetables?

Samples of the Organic produce grown by Scott Chen [Chen Xiangyang]

Apart from the fact they taste amazing! The examples in the above photo go a long way to answering the above question. They also include (to name but a few); tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas, eggplant, maize [sweetcorn] or leafy crops like cabbage, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, asparagus and beetroot. Fruit; apples, cherry, strawberries, peaches, dates, pears and plums. The reassuring fact about these and other fruits and veg is they’re grown with 100% natural nutrients, not soil that has been sprayed with chemicals, widely proven to negatively impact ourselves and our environment. They also do not erode the quality and lifespan of the soil in which they’re grown. You may be thinking that in terms of organic produce this is nothing new.

However, let’s reluctantly step away from those amazing looking fruit and veg for a moment and take a toilet break. Not literally, but to briefly touch on the environmental benefits, particularly for saving precious water, of waterless WC’s. A subject that’s been close to the heart of the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation for some years now. The tie in? I’m guessing you’ve all been to a public WC either in a store, workplace, school, shopping centre, stadium, petrol station, park, hotels or restaurant. If you’ve ‘gotta pee’ then fortunately for men, there are urinals where they can stand and pee. Less fortunately for women, the only option is toilets (cubicles) where invariably there’s a queue to go – something that still needs addressing and we discussed in a previous article.

Potential. To continue our story, let’s introduce you to a successful family-owned company called Urimat a leading manufacturer of waterless urinals and other environmentally friendly products in the sanitary industry, providing odour free, self-cleaning urinals that most importantly save literally 1000s of litres of water. If you’re a man you’ve probably already used one without even noticing the difference, although the ‘hidden benefits’ are exceptional. Things get a bit more tricky and less easy to resolve when installing ‘waterless’ toilets (sit & go). Without going into too much detail it’s because of no.2s, aesthetics and the ability to separate no.’s 1 and 2 so to speak. But what’s all this potty talk got to do with that delicious fruit & veg you may ask?

The answer’s coming shortly and it may surprise you. Although many of you may have read about this before let’s hope we can shine a new light on the subject. On this particular topic, our minds are programmed to react to certain information by association rather than by the information itself. Let’s do our best to overcome that with the ‘good news’ followed by the quite honestly, ‘not so bad news’.

Perception. Nowadays, we are all aware that water and organic nutrients are both valuable and becoming (relatively) scarce. For agriculture and horticulture water is essential, and tbe spraying or use of chemicals isn’t ideal as they damage the environment, as well as wildlife, bees etc. i.e. they mess up the ecosystem. The earth’s soil is also being stripped of its vital nutrients. Plant-based diets (e.g. vegan and vegetarian) are on the increase, while for people in many parts of the world they are key to survival. It’s already widely known that manure and compost help the organic growth of fruit and vegetable crops. Given a choice, would you prefer to buy your groceries knowing they were a) organically grown, or b) grown using chemicals? All of the fruit, veg and crops mentioned above were grown using a natural resource following good agricultural practices. Just like those familiar bags of manure and compost you may pick up at the garden centre. The above fruit and veg aren’t going to cost you more at the shops either and, in fact, often may be less expensive, grow better and taste better than their chemically assisted equivalents. Thinking on a more global scale… natural fertilisers can also far better enable less fortunate communities a) to grow crops, b) save water, and c) improve their lives and land. Sound like good news to you so far?

Fresh Lemon & Water

Possibilities. Imagine that wonderful detox for cleansing the liver by mixing (diluting) a few drops of lemon with a glass of water. The lemon retains all of the healthy benefits but diluting it makes a greater quantity that’s easier to drink and absorb. With that in mind, you may be aware that our urine is 95% water, packed full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus which similarly, when diluted, can provide the nutrients plants need to thrive and are the main ingredients in most common mineral fertilisers. Add the fact that there’s understandably a steady supply of this ‘human’ plant food. Then, last but not least, that when diluted by approx. 10:1 [10 parts water] or the nutrients extracted, or if mixed with ash (e.g. wood/bamboo) it has proven to work remarkably well as mineral fertiliser. Albeit we’d need to collect a lot of pee to meet the supply and demand to reach the volume of  natural mineral fertiliser farming requires. As an example, an adult on a typical Western diet pees out about 500 litres a year (three baths full). With all of this in mind, the idea of using filtered and diluted urine itself shouldn’t sound too gross, when at the moment the fact is, ‘we’re just p’ing it away’. Therefore using urine rather than it going to waste and vs chemicals surely isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Organic Garden and Picking Red Tomatoes from the Plants. The Concept of Health.

Never say Never. Hopefully, this illustrates how the benefits are unquestionably positive. The challenges though are different for different parts of the world, cultures and conditions.  Closer to home considerations are the logistics and practicality of collecting/storing the pee and then turning it into usable fertiliser. This could be more easily achieved in larger public toilets as we mentioned at the beginning, and further illustrated below at the Heineken Music Hall. Presently, in terms of bringing about change for families at home the toilets would require different plumbing, but also adoption may be slowed because many people don’t want a toilet that might look strange. That said, the taboo of using bidets to ‘wash your bits’ outside of countries like Japan (Toto & Lixil) and China is a toilet taboo that’s now constantly being broken by inspirational companies such as Tushy making them so easily accessible and user friendly – so never say never.

Proof Positive. As Urimat, who we introduced earlier, clearly illustrated recently with a project at the Heineken Music Hall. Waterless urinals were installed at AFAS Live to collect all urine from male concert-goers and transport it to a treatment plant in Amsterdam. The phosphate was extracted from the urine and converted into struvite, a nutrient-rich agricultural fertiliser. An initiative that provided a relatively simple and incredibly efficient method for reclaiming phosphate. As global phosphate deposits are gradually being depleted, recycling efforts such as these will prove increasingly important in the years to come. What should be borne in mind is not only the potential for use as a natural fertiliser, the cost savings and how much energy could be saved in most countries sewage treatment works is equally substantial, but also relieving pressure on our overworked environment.

Waterless Urinals & Separating Toilets. The far greater challenge, or opportunity at this time by nature of its potential positive impact, is for the 2billion+ people without access to water or basic sanitation in the rural areas of developing countries, parts of South America, China, India and Africa for example. There’s a huge effort being made on ways to provide clean water, improve hygiene, bolster food production and save lives with better sanitation. This involves education, funding, people on the ground, innovators and suppliers. Check out Unicef as a leading source of information on the topic of sanitation,  or The World Toilet Organisation. However, among the list of top innovators/suppliers both at home and overseas are those like Urimat (urinals) and a ‘separating toilet‘ manufacturer called Separett. Whilst Urimat deals with no.1s Separett, founded in 1976, produce toilets that enable the separation of no.1s and no.2s albeit everyone needs to ‘take a seat’ to make this work. In terms of peripheral benefits, specifically for the developing countries are that the urine can be separated and used, it’s saving water and enabling the opportunity to improve the land and therefore better feed these communities. The other thing about Urimat is that there’s a media panel on top of the urinal that is used commercially. I believe this could equally be used to promote safety messages, good hygiene or information to educate and aid local communities. When caring about improving quality of life and/or ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ those most impacted have quite different perspectives if they live in poorer communities.

Scott Chen [left] and colleague taking a quick break from work [photo credit Chen Xiangyang]

Chen Xiangyang. Take the remarkable work, dedication and determination of individuals such as Chen Xiangyang and his team where, within his local community in China, he’s helping to prove that the use of pee for producing food potentially has a great future and can be scaled up (btw, those are his fruit & veg in the photo under title). This is also happening in varying degrees in other countries incl., Finland, Denmark, France and The Netherland. Extensive research in the US in January 2020 by The University of Michigan established that recycled and aged human urine can be used as a fertiliser with low risks of transferring antibiotic-resistant DNA to the environment. The healthier you are, the healthier the urine. But what’s important about the above research is the reassurance from them looking at the different scenarios and giving pee the (pea) green light.

Innovation & Implementation. At the top end of the financial spectrum The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided a grant of $3million back in 2010 to a project concerning using urine as commercial fertiliser and have subsequently committed $200m to reinvent the toilet for a better world. Highlighted at the recent Reinvent the Toilet Expo in Beijing 2018 where they showcased HTClean Helbling, a toilet separator system without water connection for in-home applications. To further show how the potential to progress this work is getting greater traction and attention, early last year a start-up company called Toopi Organics raised €1m funding for their urine-based bio-fertilisers business dedicated to boosting plant development and growth.

All of these projects and more put the ‘P’ back into Progress!

Food for Thought. Looking back  at articles from 10 years ago discussing the use of urine in agriculture, the probability of it being used as natural fertiliser seemed, to say the least and excusing the pun, difficult for anyone to swallow. I suspect that 10 years from now people probably won’t even think twice and may even insist that the organic fruit and veg we buy comes from a source we know particularly well. In doing so we’ll also be helping the world to become a better place and saving natural resources, which we now know are needed more than ever. We’d love to hear your comments or for more information click on the links in the above article.

E&OE 

If you’re a convert to ‘squat vs sit’ or ‘wash vs wipe’ what’s the plan for educating your children?

Guts, Butts and Better Health. If you were ‘Born to Run’ then you might think of Bruce Springsteen or Mo Farah. But if you’re ‘Born to Squat + Wash your butt’… you’ll be one of billions of people around the world who have that process built into their psyche from birth. Even, if you were ‘Born to Sit + Wipe‘ then either way the likelihood is that that’s going to be your pooping plan mapped out for the rest of your life. But, as the Korgis sang, ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime’ irrespective of whether you learn or are taught to ‘wash or wipe, sit or squat or decide to swap the way you go and clean up at some point along the way.’ Ninety nine percent of the time, the first option is going to be habitual and relate to your childhood experience – and it’s rare (or unusual) for people to change. This effectively means the ‘influencers’ on your toilet time are your parents, with their habits usually having been passed onto them by their parents. ‘Sitters‘ can’t head far back through their family trees to trace the origins of why they are ‘sitters’ and who taught them, because stand-alone sit and flush toilets are a relatively new thing, having been introduced as recently as the 1890s. To find any mass take up of the seated option you’d have to leap frog 1000s of years to your Mesopotamian, Greek or Roman relatives for examples of the original bums on seats.

Wipe or Douche and Dab, Sit or Squat. Appreciably, nowadays many people are opening their minds, and behinds, to new possibilities, as has been illustrated by the increased popularity of bidets, attachable or built-in, and switching from only wiping to wash and wipe. The differences are often not the subject of much discussion – but wash and wipe is more ‘douche & dab‘ – the wiping part (and use of toilet paper) is greatly reduced. Meanwhile going from sit back to squat is taking a little longer but gaining an increasingly loyal following. To make or persuade someone to change the habits of a lifetime is some achievement. TUSHY have led the way by converting thousands of people who wipe to using an attachable bidet. The manufacturers of toilets where bidets are ‘built-in’ are already well established so this achievement by TUSHY is quite a coup. If you wipe? Well, to be more precise you are going to wipe if you’re a sitter, squatter or washer no matter what, but you’ll ‘be more dabber’ if you wash.

Where squatting’s concerned toilet manufacturers are not addressing the issue themselves by making it an option for their sit on loos, in spite of growing evidence that sitting isn’t good for your health and wellbeing. The changes are happening through companies like ‘SquattyPotty‘ who are cleverly marketing and selling freestanding ‘foot-stools’ to raise your legs and mimic a squat. One final point to add before heading onto the original question about our kids is about the environment – not your personal environment for toilet time, but options to help planet earth. Options about what you use for the way you choose to wipe or dab. The new choices of bamboo tp [toilet paper] vs traditional and what’s out there these days – that’s the best for you, your children and their future in regard to less plastics, biodegradable products and other eco-factors that lead to a safer more sustainable world.

Elimination Communication vs Toilet Training. When researching the topic of washers vs wipers, from the bottom up so to speak, I came across the phrase that best distinguishes what happens in the countries where for children squatting is the norm [Asian countries; India, Indonesia and more] vs as a generalisation the ‘western world’ where sitting has become the norm. ‘Elimination Communication vs Toilet Training.’ Both train your children when, where and how to go, but while the nappy – potty training – sit down on the loo is one method. The other is no nappy, with a cloth under the bottom while being carried for example. It involves no potty, is all squatty and also relies on parents’ ‘sixth sense.’ In simple terms, those parents learn to read their babies’ cues such as; squirming, turning pink, shuddering, making faces or certain noises and (eventually) the babies learn to hold back until their parents give them the signal by whatever means works best for them but usually vocal. Whatever the method each success may have a reward element for the child too. Having said all that, the ‘free bum’ is thought to be the better choice for a child, its health and environment with fewer non-biodegradable disposable nappies, plus no rashes or potentially related infections, nor having to cajole kids out of their nappies as they grow older.

More of a Question than an Answer. What all this boils down to is a few questions that we’ve been bouncing around, and after reading this maybe they’ll be your questions too? These relate more to sitters and wipers than squatters and washers, in spite of the increasing crossover between both. Let’s use millennials as an example. Assuming I’m a sit and wipe kinda guy, grew up that way and have three children, two are in, or about to exit the world of potty training, and the other one is 5yrs old – so now a fully-fledged sit down wiper. My partner and I decide, after looking at the options after the ‘paper shortage‘ during coronavirus, that it’s time to go the washing way. We buy a bidet and start doing the ‘douche and dab.’ What do we tell the kids about this new accessory? Do we re-train them? What might they tell our parents when we go visit next, or vice-versa, or do we go for the ’embrace all methods’ and cover all circumstances. What are their friends going to think and say? What if it comes up at school where there’s unlikely to be a range of bidet options available? How about public toilets and restrooms which would not have bidets or ‘bum guns’ either? Just some of the sudden burst of thoughts that may either boggle your mind or possibly change your mind in making the switch. No kids? Then no problem. But, if you’ve had, or are thinking of having them they need to be part of the plan in your toilet making decision process… somehow.

Wipe Butt Squat. The same applies to a lesser extent with the squat adoption to a foot-stool, i.e. you are sticking with wiping but have bought the ‘squat’ accessory. That should be easier to explain as the new ‘leg-raiser’ that’s just appeared in the bathroom won’t necessarily be used by children until their bodies are fully developed. A thought for adults is, if it’s spotted by visiting friends and relatives, which it will be unless you hide it, it is certainly bound to be a talking point, or if not mentioned at all, by default it becomes the ‘elephant [foot-stool] in the room’… your bathroom to be precise.

Hardware, Software, Compatibility, Great Instructions and Aftercare. In conclusion, may we therefore, initially ask for answers to our questions, from manufacturers and the many brilliant disruptors who have brought eco-friendly, healthier, sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to our attention and are converting more and more people each day. How do you see the short, medium and long term plan and/or marketing and educating the children and other newbies needed to turn this ‘Tushy Tots Train’ into a locomotive? We love bamboo products, biodegradable materials, saving trees, saving water, the squat, helping people stay healthy and for longer. There’s a target audience that can help achieve that given your help but its this transition period and a wave to ride to keep that momentum. Maybe it’s about inclusive, educational, engaging and entertaining books for kids that show the new normal is normal, and taboo less taboo by opening up about how the whole world poops rather than ignoring other cultures? Do please reply to the article and to those many people who may be having the same thoughts – we’ll come back with the responses in another post. Also, any consumers who may have had a few thoughts or experiences sparked by all this, do throw over any questions to be answered and we’ll endeavour to get those Q’s answered.

The children’s charity ERIC has an excellent Guide to Children’s Bowel Problems it’s a must for new parents! You can download the guide here (and do please support their charity and good work). Have a great week! Want to ask any questions or add comments: contact us here.

‘Finishing Touches.’ The touch-free future of our Public Toilets & Restrooms.

‘We want to make an impact on human wellbeing, by changing the definition of a toilet break. ‘ OneHundredRestrooms

How easy is it to lose touch? As demand for touchless products increases, could bathrooms be entirely touchfree and perhaps, more importantly since coronavirus could we see more TouchFree Public Toilets, office buildings and common public areas. This week we’ll take a brief look at everything from the more familiar touchfree moments, such as ‘automatic doors, taps, soap dispensers and hand dryers’ to the less imaginable ‘totally touchfree toilets’ featuring lids that open and close automatically, automated washing and drying functions, self-flushing and cleaning.

Public Inconvenience. A public inconvenience has recently been experienced, spotlighted and amplified by the closures of numerous public toilets following the outbreak of coronavirus. We touched on this in our article, ‘Beauty Spots’ where to go when there’s nowhere to go? ‘ on June 4th. Press and media reports on the subject caused much debate as closures headlined around the world. To distinguish, when we talk about ‘Public Toilets‘ we refer to old and new stand-alone ‘wash+WCs’ in parks or on street corners, which are by far the most challenging to manage and improve. The others, which we’ll refer to as ‘Toilets for the Public,’ are the ‘restrooms‘ that sit within shopping malls, airports (public transport hubs) and similar private/public spaces, petrol stations, restaurants, bars, hotels and offices. The majority of which are ordinarily far better managed by nature of their locations, constant checking, attendants, higher quality fixtures and fittings, hygiene and cleanliness, and the all-important key to their overall success… funding, or clever funding models.

Why do Public Toilets Matter? There’s reams of government information about the provision and accessibility of public toilets and the importance to us all as a society. Issues they addresses include; public health, older and/or disabled people, women, families with young children and tourists, hygiene, cleanliness, safety, privacy and of course funding. There’s equally as much written about the failures of public toilets in addressing those issues and about the lack of accessibility or sufficient number. In our modern day society public toilets should be a well-respected service for the community, providing a clean and hygienic, safe and welcoming environment. If they are not treated as such by the public, nor supported, funded, maintained and well managed by politicians, local governments, architects and planners alike, then it impacts our society and society suffers, particularly women, children and the disabled. Perhaps rather altruistically, better public toilets could be a catalyst for change in public opinion and perception about their worth and necessity. To give some perspective, for 2 billion people (25% of the world population) public toilets, access to water and/or any basic sanitation doesn’t even exist.

‘Back to the Future.’ As ever, the more cutting-edge technology, innovation and design that’s introduced and succeeds, the greater the chance of its increased use and integration on a grander scale. We’ll get back to the wider subject of the outside ‘Public Toilets‘ in another post. This week we wanted to showcase a Dutch company that we’ve been keeping an eye on and their vision for the future, ‘OneHundredRestrooms‘. One strapline is, ‘We Create Moments for Better Wellbeing‘ and since they started back in 2017 ‘health & hygiene’ has been part of their DNA. As health and hygiene is increasingly more relevant to us all, their concept to disrupt with a difference is succeeding by contributing to improved hygiene, sustainability and innovation whilst creating publicity, awareness and acceptance of a change for good. These days, where everything can be connected and smart, toilets and bathrooms remain a very undervalued and untapped area. However, they potentially offer the perfect environment and place to take care of yourself. As more and more people look for ways to monitor their complete well-being, and do so continuously, in privacy and without having to change their daily routines. Not forgetting in light of the global pandemic there’s now a general health-driven purpose to getting insights into personal and public health conditions. As recent epidemiology and science studies of waste have highlighted by acting as an early warning sign for coronavirus outbreaks.

The Motivational Mirror

OneHundredRestrooms. The OneHundredRestrooms concept can transform your trip to the bathroom into a visit to a wellbeing hub that offers and introduces new intelligent toilet technologies. These can provide insights into our personal health during a moment when we pause and refresh. It’s not all high-tech as the touchless products with sensors can partner those adaptations that can be operated by avoiding the need to touch surfaces with our hands i.e. foot-switches, or using our elbows or wrists. OneHundredRestrooms provides an environment in which you can take care of yourself and grab a little ‘me time.’ The experience includes; Roca In-Wash® Inspira Smart Toilets. There’s a self-check area offers solutions to monitor health indicators like weight, blood pressure, length and body mass index, or perform a skin analysis. The restrooms are kept super clean by their ‘comfort crew’ and are spacious, relaxing, soundproofed and ‘non-touch.’ You can buy all of your ‘on the go’ essentials such as baby diapers, tissues, tampons, plasters or first aid kit from their vending wall. There’s a disabled room, family and nursery rooms and even a shower room. Before you leave you can stop at the ‘motivational mirror’ while washing your hands, then give feedback at the rating pad and suggest improvements or ideas. These wellbeing hubs provide a ‘5-minute wellbeing boost,’ a far cry from our usual perceptions of public restrooms. In the near future OneHundredRestrooms plan to have; medical toilets, skin analyses, drowsiness detection, alcohol checks and a whole lot more.  To quote OneHundredRestrooms COO Andy Donaghy, “Feeling safe about the hygiene of public spaces is more important than ever. After all, hygiene and health go hand in hand.”

Technology. Experience. Environment. Good technology creates a desirable experience and should encompass environmental impact as high priority. Toilet and bathroom technology need to be part of a good experience, and with the knowledge you’re helping the environment. Appreciably, for domestic bathrooms, not everyone can afford a high tech smart toilet. For example, if you look at an early game-changer like the Neorest® NX2 from Toto Japan, (approx. $17,000) it clearly illustrates the technological possibilities with, wait for it… a self-cleaning retractable pinpoint accurate ‘wand’ (washlet) to wash and dry your rear (bits and butts) and you are in control of the pressure and temperature. It actively fights bacteria, waste and limescale by spraying a ‘pre-mist’ into the toilet bowl using electrolysed water to prevent waste from accumulating. The toilet bowl itself is coated with a special zirconium coating, the hydrophilic properties of which ensures that waste and bacteria are effectively eliminated. To add to the self-cleaning process and the pre-mist, there’s and an integrated UV light that combines with the zirconium coating to trigger the decomposition process, making a toilet brush unnecessary. It also has a number of additional convenient features, such as a sensor-based toilet lid that opens and closes automatically, a heated seat and a deodoriser to absorb unpleasant smells. Plus, (in case you were wondering) a remote control – ‘with no place to hide it!’

Is the New Night Out a Night In? However, that’s not all that ‘Smart Toilets‘ can do for you. The Grohe Sensia Arena has a ventilator system in the toilet that shields and extracts odours, before processing them through a carbon filter. There’s a lot of innovation and ideas out there right now and Kohler’s Numi 2 adds to the previous list of accessories; high-quality built-in speakers and lighting features that can be paired with the speakers to create different ‘spa-like’ environments within a bathroom space. An Amazon Alexa is built into the product and provides voice control of Numi’s features as well as access to tens of thousands of skills. But, regarding add-ons that keep you glued to your seat? I thought you were meant to be on and off the toilet PDQ as it’s the healthiest option for your undercarriage. Unless, in view of future social distancing, those speakers and multi coloured lights are the closest you’re going to get to a wild night out in Berlin? The focus has to be on the real benefits to ourselves and our families. That includes being touch-free, aiding health, our wellbeing and use of environmentally friendly services to save water, recycle or offer sustainability. Touchless products with sensor technology are ideal for this scenario. They avoid us touching surfaces and can also reduce water consumption, bringing us back to the perfect marriage of technology, experience and environment.

Our Daily Routine, parts 1, 2 and 3. I guess we’ve all had that experience when we’ve found a restroom that had something, or some ‘gadget’ that we went on to tell our friends or family about (my Dutch wife loves the serenity of the restroom at Schiphol Airport where you hear the sound of the sea, I like the picture of a fly, strategically positioned in the urinals.) The main point here is that amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life OneHundredRestrooms‘ concept is a personal ‘experience’ and it’s got lots of genuinely useful ‘gadgets.’ It is incredibly convenient and provides a really easy way to get a health check, whilst going about your normal business (no.’s 1 and 2.) For just €1 you can get an entry ticket with multiple benefits, visitors get all of the aforementioned services and even free drinking water. As the retail ads say, ‘it’s value for money.’ If you can add all that together as a no.3 during your toilet break, and do so in an oasis of calm and relaxation, then… ‘what’s not to like?’ It’s definitely my next ‘go to’… when it’s time to go!

[Thank you to Marielle Romejin, co-founder and Chief Brand Officer OneHundredRestrooms for use of the photos and her kind help with providing us with information for the above article.] We’ll be back next week.