Every time I walk into a restroom, I realize that I am surrounded by items that are automatic. The soap is automatically dispensed, just as the hand dryer automatically starts, when hands are placed underneath. The same is true of the faucet; if there are no hands underneath it, it will not give any water. And finally, the toilet flushes—sometimes even before it should—without having pressed a single button.
Don’t get me wrong, the censors are admirable technology. But how far has this automatic technology gone? Does it stem from mere laziness? Or is it attributed to safety and hygiene and maybe even environmentally green precautions?
Automatic dispensers serve two essential purposes: (1) to protect individuals from bacteria and potential diseases that lurk on restroom surfaces and (2) to monitor the amount of resources that are used (particularly water).
In the case of automatic toilets, one more purpose can be added: to make sure all toilets are flushed when people forget to flush it themselves. This is important because when surveyed, 77 percent of people said that the overall appearance of cleanliness supports positive sanitation practices.
The question is, how much of these resources are we actually saving? For example, the toilet flushes once when the individual stands up. Then, when we open the door it flushes again. An individual could have flushed it himself once and saved the water that was wasted in the second flush. Also, automatic dispensers for soap and hand towels are ridiculous. One can place his or her hands underneath the dispenser a million times and the machine isn’t going to monitor if it’s the same person or not.
Now, in the quest for a safe and environmentally friendly restroom, the next step is obvious: automatic toilet paper dispensers. The product from Kimberly-Clark is promoted as being able to decrease toilet paper use by up to 20 percent. A similar product is demonstrated below.
The reasons behind these innovations lie in studies and statistics. In fact, only about two-thirds of people that claim they wash their hands when using a public restroom actually do it. Even more frightening are the big numbers. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 40 million Americans get sick from hand-borne bacteria each year and 80,000 people die.”
These numbers obviously get your attention. Fear of disease is powerful. However, this is making us absolute freaks. Use some common sense. That’s the best way to stay healthy. Automatic dispensers have nothing to do with it. As for conserving our resources, well, machines shouldn’t have to tell us how to do that. We should be conscious enough to take this into consideration, in and out of the restroom.