The Good Toilet: when your impact is bigger than saving trees!
Article Moonatic Agency
In this article is written for The Good Roll: A sustainable toilet paper brand.
We all have those precious moments: where you finally have some quiet time for yourself, behind a locked bathroom door. You have taken a comfortable seat on the – now, a bit warmed up – toilet seat.
While you perform the act, you take some time to browse through an old newspaper, read the horoscope in a cheesy magazine, or you might even be reading this blog. After fifteen minutes of relaxation and relief, you grab a piece of recycled Good Roll-toilet paper to wipe everything clean. Good job! No trees have been chopped for this wipe. But did you know that the money you paid to buy that sustainable roll of toilet paper ends up in places far beyond what you have imagined? Did you know that the Euros you spent have traveled all the way to West Africa and ended up in new toilet buildings, biogas and fertilizer, clean drinking water and even sanitary pads for schoolgirls? No? Let’s travel along with those money notes and see for yourself!
That comfortable and clean toilet you’re sitting on, is something not everyone in the world has access to. Did you know that close to one in five people living in towns, cities and megacities across the world do not have access to a safe, basic toilet? Around 600 million urban dwellers only have access to crowded communal toilets – or in most cases, pits anor bucket latrines – that mostly lack hygiene, safety and privacy altogether.
Another 100 million people don’t even have access to these basic pits at all and are forced to perform their deeds out in the open, in the midst of bustling neighbourhoods. Some use the so-called ‘flying toilet’, nothing more than a plastic bag to collect human waste. No relaxation and three-day-old newspapers like you’re used to! So, instead of just providing you with recycled toilet paper, we try to amplify our impact on different levels! 50% of our profit travels straight to West Africa, to create a closed sustainable – and economical – sanitation loop, called: The Good Toilet Foundation. In this blog we want to take you to Accra, Ghana. Curious? Let’s go!
Welcome to Ghana
When you step out of the plane and onto the African soil, the warm air touches your face and you smell the mix of spices and smoking fire tickling your nostrils. Welcome to Accra, the vibrant capital of Ghana! Accra is nestled along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. With 2,5 million inhabitants, it is the biggest city in the country. When you drive through the urban jungle, you cannot stop watching the life unfolding itself from behind those car windows. The hustle, bustle and activity on the street: steaming street food, women wrapped in colorful fabrics, pregnant goats hopping around and children that joyfully scream while chasing each other.
You’ll also see the well maintained roads with waving palm trees on the side, sky high buildings and fancy, shining cars. Ghana is one of the leading countries in economic growth in Africa, primarily because of their natural wealth, rich soils, and the fact that they were the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence after Western colonisation. But, Ghana’s economy is not the only thing growing; the gap between rich and poor is painfully expanding. While some city dwellers sit on the most fancy, royal toilet seats, many don’t have access to much more than an unhygienic latrine pit and unsafe drinking water. This is where the Good Toilet Foundation – and your money – come in!
From toilet paper to toilet buildings
If we have to start somewhere, it would be the toilet itself. A safe and clean place where community members can do what’s got to be done. As The Good Toilet Foundation, we don’t simply put a toilet building somewhere and fly back home while patting ourselves on the back. Rather, our toilet building is the beginning of a chain, of a sustainable loop. Together with local parties like WASHKing, we look at what is needed and where it is needed – such as primary schools or deprived neighbourhoods. WASHKing manufactures, supplies and installs environmental-friendly biodigester toilets. These toilets are built by Ghanaian artisans by using regionally available materials. And this is just the beginning!
From poo to power!
Have you ever thought about what happens to your stool once you flush it down your toilet? We have! Did you know one human being produces around fifty liters of faeces (fancy word for poo) and five hundred liters of urine annually? And did you know that your stool can function as much more than just a way to get rid of that club sandwich and double cappuccino you had for lunch? Actually, there are many exceptional ways you can reuse your body waste. You can turn your smelly goo into electricity, fertilizer, fuel and even bricks! Do you get where we’re going with this?
So when community members or students in Accra use the newly built toilets, we cannot let the waste go to waste. Our partner, Safi Sana, has mastered the skill of converting human waste into biogas and fertilizer that can sustain community members and farmers. The biogas is transformed to electricity, which enables people to cook their food or charge their phone. And remember the biodigester toilets that WASHKing built? These toilets separate, store and digest the human waste, releasing waste water that functions as fertilizer for the surrounding farms. Sounds good? We’re not even there yet!
From toilets to job opportunities
As a Dutch organisation we should never pretend to know what communities in Ghana need without proper research and an open mind. In most neighbourhoods with communal toilets, community members pay for every visit. Provide free access to sanitation, and you might just mess up existing economic dynamics. Once the toilets are built, a franchiser takes responsibility to sustain the toilet building. This toilet director will manage the building and make sure the revenue provides himself and a cleaner with a paycheck. The toilets will not only create a safe potty place, but job opportunities along the way!
Aside from the toilet manager and cleaner, every toilet building has space for a small kiosk selling all sanitation essentials – against buying price. An example is sanitary pads. In Ghana, many girls suffer from taboos and stigmas surrounding that time of the month. This means that when the time comes, they lack the right props and have to miss out on school because of it. Partnering up with AfriPads, we use The Good Toilet Foundation and kiosks to give girls access to sanitary pads
100% safe drinking water
Urine doesn’t just come out of the blue – luckily! You actually need to eat or drink before a toilet visit is necessary. In Ghana, it is not a very smart idea to drink water from the tap. Where the middle and upper class in Accra drink filtered or bottled water, the people living in deprived areas fetch their water from boreholes. Safe and healthy? Not so much! The first step is to place filters in the boreholes that will ensure 100% safe drinking water.
The next challenge is the jerry cans that are used to carry the water back home and store it. They are difficult to keep clean from the inside, especially with Accra’s sunny temperature of give or take 28 degrees. So apart from the toilet buildings, we create a jerry can station, where community members can obtain a clean jerry can by depositing money, and exchange them for a clean one on a regular basis. This brings us back to the beginning of our loop: clean water, clean tinkle, clean toilet.
The real heroes
So: back to your wipe with a recycled piece of toilet paper. The money you spent on that roll traveled all the way to Ghana and helped create toilets, biogas, fertilizer, jobs, access to sanitary pads and clean drinking water. Good job! But let’s not forget who the real medal goes to. And nope: we don’t mean ourselves! Many charity organisations have the habit of dropping toilet buildings here and there, taking the credits and moving on. The result? Neglected, depraved and filthy latrines. We strongly believe that the communities on the ground know best what is needed. By listening, understanding and collaborating, we join forces and create something sustainable. So that not only you can take your toilet time as a precious moment of self care, but everyone can. Now, and in the future. Happy wiping!
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