Could advertising save the world?




I listened to a programme called ‘Costing the Earth: A Toilet for the 21st Century’ the other day, and it really got me thinking about the importance of advertising and marketing in the modern age.


The programme, presented by Dr. Kat Arney, was deeply harrowing – it exposed the information that there are 2.5 billion people in the world today that do not have any access to sanitation, and over 1 billion of these people are children. Everyday 1,400 children die due to a lack of sanitation. At the moment, in Kabira in Kenya, communal toilets are literally large holes in the ground, and not only stink, since they are used by over 300 people per day, but are infested with rats and snakes. When children refuse to use these loos, due to fears that they might fall in, and excrete behind a bush instead, they are often raped or assaulted by gangsters.


This is obviously a horrendous situation that cannot be allowed to continue, and there have been various toilets designed by scientists that could potentially be installed in developing countries, like Loowatt, the Tiger Toilet, and the eco-toilet. The central problem with putting toilets in these countries is that there is not a sewage system, and the average Western toilet uses 6 literes of water just to flush. Although the toilets are all slightly different, in general these toilets separate the solid and liquid waste, and allow the liquid to evaporate and the solid to decompose. The loos designed by Peepoople can even charge phones and provide people with hot water due to the aptly named ‘poo power’.


However, the problem is that the porcelain, white toilet is a symbol of the modern world. It is seen as a mark of success and wealth: it means that there is a water system in place, and signifies a link between the developing and Western world. This is a serious problem with installing non-water based toilets in these countries: Obama doesn’t use them, he uses white shiny toilets. In fact, no one in Britain, Europe or America uses these strange compost-y eco toilets.


The only way to fix this problem is through advertising and marketing. Companies need to make it desirable to have an eco-toilet. In our new environmentally aware society, water based toilets should be classed as outdated; they shouldn’t be a status symbol. The only way to change the mindset of the population is to change how we think of loos.


If advertising companies could do this, they really would have changed the world!


Here is a link to the programme if you would like to find out more:



Camilla Rees