I was in the bathroom of my hotel room in New York City and noticed some printing on the toilet seat. Because toilet seats aren’t the normal forum for announcements by hotel management, I was intrigued and just had to read it.
The announcement stated: “In an effort to increase sustainability, this auto flush has been deactivated. Please press the button to the left to flush.” And beneath that statement the notice read: “‘The environment is everything that isn’t me.’ – Albert Einstein.”
Did Einstein ever actually say that? It’s not easy to confirm whether he did or he didn’t. A Google search will send you to lots of different websites where you can buy t-shirts, posters, or refrigerator magnets with that quote attributed to the Father of Relativity and printed over some peaceful pastoral scene, and also a lot of general quote websites where you can go to find a quote that fits every occasion (including, apparently, a notice on a toilet seat). But those quote websites don’t seem to provide any attribution for the claimed Einstein quote. The closest I could find was a website that referred to the Boston Vegetarian Society as the source for the quote. But I’ve seen no citations to a book or published writing, or a speech given on a particular day, or one of Einstein’s letters.
Did one of the greatest minds in human history actually say: “The environment is everything that isn’t me”? As is true with so many facially plausible quotes that are attributed to historical figures and thrown around like footballs these days, it’s really difficult to say. But we can certainly be reasonably confident of one thing: if Albert Einstein did say it, he probably never dreamed that it would end up on the toilet seat of a Manhattan hotel room as part of an announcement justifying a reversion to manual flushing.