John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
All the bathroom news that's fit to print.
Faahlooosh! That's the sound of another Toilet Tuesday going down:
EARTH-FRIENDLY TOILETS ARE NOT PEOPLE-FRIENDLY, IN INNER MONGOLIA
Daxing Ecological Community, a spiffy apartment complex in Inner Mongolia built around environmental ideas, has quietly pulled out all of its waterless eco-toilets due to rampant, and frequently disgusting, user complaints. The commodes in Ordos City, designed by the Stockholm Environment Institute, comprised the most ambitious eco-toilet experiment in the world, according to this fascinating account in China Dialogue. The loos separate pee from poop (which is collected to make fertilizer) and use sawdust instead of H20 to cover up smells.
However, the odor-blocking tech did not work as planned, and the stench got so bad that residents began eating their dinners on the balcony or at the homes of relatives. One man carped that when winter came, he could feel all the warm air in his apartment being sucked down his toilet. Then there was this dear-god-really? issue for women:
The sawdust used in the toilets created other concerns for Wang Cuilan and the other women living at Daxing: the sawdust that drifted upwards caused them vaginal discomfort, they said. And they exchanged tips on how to relieve the irritation, such as boiling up willow leaves.
After the maggots and roaches made their appearance, a mob of angry homeowners blockaded a local bureaucrat inside an apartment so he could fully experience the awfulness. Today, the residents of Daxing use regular flushing toilets.
A VICTORY FOR THE IRRITABLY BOWELED? IN MASSACHUSETTS
The definition of a "public toilet" is set to get a little broader in Massachusetts cities – if you have an "eligible medical condition," that is. A bill moving through the bowels of the state government would require businesses that wall off their bathrooms to customers to open them up to people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. If the governor signs it, snooty cashiers who don't like plebes using their private thrones will be rendered defenseless against anyone bearing a doctor's note, or face a $100 fine. I guess it's finally time to expand the "Wicked Good Guide to Boston Restrooms"?
The bill was sponsored by the legislative dream team of Creem, Timilty & Joyce, who note that about 30,000 Massachusetts residents suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases. "This bill will mean a great deal to people living with these diseases,” said Sen. Brian Joyce. “It will mean they will not need to fear going out in public without having to factor in the locations of public restrooms." Despite a dozen other states having similar laws on the books, however, businesses have fought this bill hard partly due to liability issues from slips and falls. Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst claimed to the Boston Herald that his members were being unfairly singled out: "Why not banks, why not office buildings, why not government buildings? I walk into the State House and see a lot of locked bathrooms."
BATHROOM BRAINSTORM OF THE WEEK
From a fact sheet for Star Toilet Paper, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company that prints advertisements on toilet paper:
The major reason that companies are hesitant to advertise with us is because of the stigma attached to advertising on toilet paper; but advertising is defined as a way to draw attention to your product and obtain new customers. Does this not seem like the perfect way to do so? Did you know that over 75% of people said they would read advertisements and coupons placed on toilet paper?
We use soybean based ink and a 30 year old printing process to ensure that all toilet paper is septic safe, recycled, and comfortable to use....
Consumers want two things: the cheapest and the easiest product. We ensure you excel in both of these ways!
Advertise where everyone will see!
Top image of "The Privy at Goat Peak," in Washington State, by Curt Smith.