Skip to comments.Friendly flushing: Water-efficient toilets help make sustainable homes
Posted on 12/06/2012 7:20:37 PM PST by ExxonPatrolUs
Commode, can, the Oval Office, and the Super Bowl. Throne, pot, loo, John. The royal flush.
The toilet, in its illustrious career, has earned a variety of affectionate nicknames. But variety extends well beyond just puns when talking about those porcelain perches: Eco- friendly options, from low-flow to entirely waterless toilets, are an important part of bringing water sustainability into homes. Toilet flushes account for about 30 percent of in-home water usage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Toilets consume more water in American homes than any other individual type of appliance, such as showers, dishwashers, and washing machines.
And with climate change, drought and demand straining fresh water resources, methods of decreasing water consumption are increasingly important to environmentalists and policy-makers. Its easy to think that we have this enormous indispensable water supply, that we do have about 20 percent of the world's supply of surface fresh water right here at the Great Lakes, said Nancy Tuchman, an aquatic ecology researcher and director of the Institute of Urban Environmental Sustainability at Loyal University.
"We have the biggest supply on the continent, but it doesnt mean that its going to be there forever and especially with global climate change and all this evaporation and little precipitation that could build the water back up. So we need to conserve. Studies show that Great Lakes water levels are dropping toward record lows.
One radical toilet-based solution takes water out of the equation altogether. A so-called dry toilet can begin as little more than a bucket filled with a layer of a carbon-rich material such as dry leaves, sawdust or newspaper. For five bucks, or if I find a bucket and have some carbon material, I can actually build out a solution really fast, said Nancy Klehm, who founded a Chicago-based eco-solutions company, Social Ecologies, in 2010. It takes hardly any capital; it just takes some ingenuity and knowing what to do with it.
After a visit to the dry toilet, users cover their wastes with a new layer of carbon- rich material. Once the bucket is full, the contents can be dumped out and composted.
Klehm organized a dry toilet trial-run for a group of 22 Chicagoans from 2008 to 2010, and she continues to work with dry toilets and composting today. For the aptly dubbed "Humble Pile" program, she collected waste from participants for a three- month period, and then composted it with more carbon-rich material for two years. People were really surprised by how much they liked dry toilets, she said. Participants in the aptly dubbed Humble Pile program liked the fact that the toilets were quiet and mobile, and that the toilets could be designed ergonomically. Most of all, they were pleasantly surprised that the toilets didnt smell.
It's important that anyone considering a dry toilet understand how to handle the waste. "People can generally compost anywhere at anytime," Klehm said. "They just need to do it well so not to present a nuisance or attract animals."
When dealing with the dry toilet waste rather than food or landscape waste, it is important to kill pathogens from the human body by composting at high temperature created by heat-generating microbes. "Composting human waste should not be taken on unless someone is a very skilled composter," Klehm said. When done correctly, though, microbial digestion should naturally turn waste to soil and the process should be odor-free.
After the two year "Humble Pile" composting period that Klehm took on for the participants, she returned the compost to its original owners, which she said grew participants appreciation for dry toilets even more. They were really excited that they were building soil," she said. Its a larger issue than just how much water were using, explained sustainable water expert Wendy Pabich, who holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When you buy a dry compost toilet, thats all about recycling the nutrients and carbon in our waste, rather than sending them to rivers where the organic and nutrient load drive putrefaction algal groves, fish kills and ecosystem changes.
Dry toilets probably arent for everybody. The yuk factor is definitely there, but that reaction is largely a cultural bias, Pabich said. She added that commercially produced dry toilets have eliminated many of the un- pleasantries consumers might expect. But there are many other, more conventional toilet options for people looking to lessen their lavatorys environmental impact.
If every American home were to swap out old toilets for new, water efficiency- certified toilets, the EPA estimates that it would collectively save 640 billion gallons of water every year equivalent to two weeks flow over Niagara Falls.
Toilets from before 1980 can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush, but federal regulations require that new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. Simply by replacing old toilets, people can dramatically reduce their water consumption. And new dual-flush toilets (with one setting for wet wastes and one for solids] or low-flow toilets), marked with an EPA WaterSense label, are certified to use at least 20 percent less water than that national baseline.
A water-efficient home
In her recent book, Taking on Water, Pabich shared her personal experience renovating her entire home to be more water-efficient. The process involved installing meters on every water-consuming element of the house, analyzing the results, and devising ways to minimize water consumption. She chose the low-flow toilets, for instance.
Improving water sustainability at home need not be so involved for everyone, though. I dont think people need to go through all the effort I went through, nor to the level of analysis and understanding, Pabich said. Instead, they can focus on a few core changes that Pablich shared in the form of a Water Cheat Sheet when she spoke at Chicago Ideas Week in October.
Some changes are a matter of updating home hardware. Pabich switched out her hold toilets and self-installed low-flow alternatives. Its not very hard, and its not very expensive, she said. Toilets, though, are only a piece of the puzzle. The cheat sheet prescribes other improvements such as water-efficient washing machines and dishwashers.
Other conservation measures
requires behavioral changes, though. From eating less meat (livestock consume an enormous amount of water) to turning off the shower while lathering, small adjustments in daily routines add up. Turn off the sink while you brush your teeth, and dont run your dishwasher until its full. One thing thats become really clear to me is the impact of our aggregate decision- making, Pabich said. If each one of us does something to reduce our direct water use or our larger water footprint, by eating less meat or replacing our toilets, the collective impact is significant.
The big picture: water pricing
Though individual choices have major impacts on water conservation, achieving long-term sustainability will require top-down policy changes too.
There are clearly some major structural problems, Pabich said. Water is entirely underpriced, and the second that price signal is corrected I think things will dramatically change.
Bill Christiansen, program planner for the Chicago-based Alliance for Water Efficiency, agreed. Here in Chicago, the water rates are very reasonable, so thats probably not going to be a motivator for lots of people.
The city of Chicago will charge $2.89 per 1,000 gallons of water beginning Jan. 1, 2013, up from $2.51 this year. The rate is scheduled to increase again for 2014 and 2015 in increments of 15 percent. Sewer rates will be at 92 percent of water bills for 2013, but will hit 100 percent in 2015. I think the public will be most interested in water efficiency when the need is more urgent, Christiansen said.
People such as Klehm and Pabich promote water-efficiency initiatives, but it will take a concerted effort of people to achieve all the necessary changes.
It requires another level of involvement in your home, Klehm said. So your home is not just this passive space that you retreat into at the end of the night with your carryout Chinese food and pop in a Netflix movie.
You have to watch the flows of all the different things that are coming into and out of your house. And there arent a lot of people who want to have that level of engagement in their homes.
Toto. Great band. Great dog. Amazing toilet.
Funny you should say that. Our town is in the process of installing septic tanks in every yard right now. All hooked into the system to take away liquid waste, yes, but nonetheless we will henceforth be treating our sewage in our back or front yards. All prompted by EPA regulations, and funded primarily with fedgov grants and loans, of course.
What's ironic is that when they were digging the hole to put in the new tank, they had to first dig up the perfectly good septic tank that was still in the ground, disconnected a couple of decades ago by government edict.
Ever watch married with children?
Remember when Al got the new toilet and when he flushed it the fountain stopped?
Now that’s what I am talking about!
Instead of Chinese solar panels we should be building desalinization plants. This will fix the problem of the coming floods due to global warming.
We could run these plants from the energy that would be produced by burning garbage at very high temperatures. Plus because it would be burned at a high temperature, it wouldn’t affect the environment.
However, in saying that, should global warming strike, we could lower the temps a bit, let the emissions go into the atmosphere creating smog which would lower the temperature.
Wow. I just fixed the worlds energy and water problems and in the process gave us back our 7 gallon behemoth toilets. Butt seriously, I miss the days when I would wake up, go to the bathroom and the first thing I would hear is, “Take your best shot.”
Yes, because as everyone knows, once water is flushed down a toilet, it's gone! *sheesh*
We will move bravely forward to a stone age civilization.
Yeah..... Back when $50k per year USED to be GOOD money..... Now days that salary will have you living paycheck to paycheck with near zero savings, as much as it costs just to live, unless you have a spouse earning similar money(or sadly shacking up with a gal with 8 kids and getting government handouts). Sucks to be 'middle classed' in the year of 2012. All the while .gov(at ALL LEVELS) and its tyrannical policies/regulations make upward mobility increasingly difficult.
I've done ok working in IT for most of the past 10 years, and my wife working in healthcare. Lately, more than once, I've contemplated moving to the dark side and writing spyware/adware or something. I suppose that would beat running a Still, or growing a pot-field on the side.... lol
I picked up 2 big old 1970s 5 gallon flushers at the local old parts place & put some new guts in them & they flush anything. They are in excellent shape. I will never replace them.
My one toilet is over 60 years old, uses 3 gallons per flush and the only thing I’ve ever had to do is replace the rubber seals every 10 or 15 years or so when they harden up. I like it and it will handle anything that gets into the bowl from Mr. Stinky to the occasional diaper. I also have one of those water efficient ones in my other bathroom and I fail to see the economy of flushing 3 or 4 times to clear the bowl.
We have one that has a rather long pipe run with just enough drop to pass code.. in 1958...
The 1.6 GPF plugged all the time. If not the toilet it’s self it would clog in the pipe.
I acquired a new 5 gpf toilet (it pays to know people in the business. it was collecting dust in the back of the shop)
But now when you flush that thing, water pressure in the house (I have a private well) drops, lights dim as the pump tries to keep up and doors to the bathroom rattle. It’s been there a little over a month. Haven’t needed the plunger or the snake since.
“After a visit to the dry toilet, users cover their wastes with a new layer of carbon- rich material. Once the bucket is full, the contents can be dumped out and composted. “
Yeah, just throw it out a window like in the middle ages.
ever see a 5 gallon pail? you have seen a dry toilet.
The Romans had the clean water and sanitation thing right. Europe has played with the idea but... I'm not sure they really understand it.
My inlaws live in the mountains.. They have no utilities. They have a fresh water spring.
I won’t name the location or even the state because they still go out to a out house and s%^t in a hole.
probably illegal now.
I love these kinds of threads. They illustrate the absolute insanity of the libtard goobermint butt smoochers.
I have two 1.6 gallon toilets and one 3 gallon. You guessed it - after my morning “Hallelujah!” in one of the tiny water toilets it requires two flushes to send it on the way to the septic. The 3 gallon toilet requires one flush every time. Do the math.
I have a 525 ft. deep well that never runs dry. Why should I care about water conservation?
I held out getting a low flow toilet when we re-modeled one of our two bath rooms. I worried about frquent log jams (as usually happens with low flow crappers) But the spousal unit taked me into it for design reasons.
A compromised was reached. My plumber installed one that some how "collects" pressure from the incoming water line. When you flush, it sounds like firing a torepedo from a Los Angeles class nuclear attack sub.
I some times have visions of the workers at the local water treatment plant yelling "INCOMING!!!" when I launch my morning projectile.
You just flush 6 times, you’ll end up useing more water than a normal toilet.
You just flush 6 times, you’ll end up useing more water than a normal toilet.
I dont think privies are illegal. Had one over forty years ago at my first house. I liked it. The problem with privies is that most people forgot that privies-users had in house comodes and slopjugs in the old days. So no one ran out where it was night or when they were sick. Instead they used the comode and cleaned them out and walked it to the privie in the am.
A clean airy privy that is well limed and moved annually is a goood think. I think peple used to plant daylilies over the old privy site which gave them the vulgar name of Sh**house Roses in some parts of the country.
I am a wealth of useless information.
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