The New Loo
By Simran Sethi for Mother Earth News
December 9, 2010
Ian understood my commitment to massive energy and water savings on a modest budget, and he was also committed to my definition of beauty. This part is important— your contractor often makes decisions on your behalf whether you plan for it or not, so this shared vision is integral.
Recognizing that most of the water we use within our homes is used in the bathroom, my first goal was to conserve water. According to authors Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert—who penned the nifty book Water, released by sustainable living publisher Chelsea Green — installing a water-efficient toilet, using a low-flow tap and showerhead can reduce your overall water consumption by about 25 percent, so I made sure my budget could accommodate these items.
Also according to Water, more than one-fourth of the clean, drinkable water we use in a home is used to flush a toilet. Contrast this with the fact that one in six people on the planet don't have access to enough clean drinking water, and you'll start to understand why we need to reconsider where our water goes.
Curled Up with a Good Book
Water: Use Less-Save More: 100 Water-Saving Tips for the Home is a paperback from a new series of environmental guides designed to help people save money and the planet by conserving resources.
Nearly all the water on Earth is present as salty ocean water not fit for consumption or frozen as ice in glaciers, leaving precious little freshwater for human use. Much of that freshwater is currently under threat due to overuse and pollution.
This slim volume - consisting of short chapters such as “the bathroom,” “the kitchen,” “the garden” and so on - lists simple steps for reducing our footprint in terms of water use. The cover image is of a single blue water drop against a blue background: a crisp, clean image that perfectly suits the straightforward feel of the text. The text is brief and to-the-point; blank pages and images of water between chapters give the book a calm and meditative feel.
Interesting facts are scattered throughout the book. For instance, it is startling to learn that only three percent of the water entering a home is actually consumed as drinking water, or to discover that per gallon, bottled water actually costs more than gasoline. The authors suggest storing tap water in the refrigerator to test if one can actually taste the difference between tap and bottled water.
The authors make the point that older washing machines and dishwashers are notoriously inefficient in terms of water consumption - 40 gallons per cycle for older washing machines as opposed to 27 gallons per cycle for newer models, and 13 gallons per cycle for older dishwashers instead of only 4 gallons per cycle for newer machines. Older toilets likewise are inefficient in their consumption of water, using as much as 3 gallons of water per single flush. Many people on Earth have to make do with less water in an entire day.
A few of the suggestions will bring out the squeamish side in any reader except for the most dedicated environmental enthusiast: the authors suggest, for instance, that people might consider peeing into a cup and pouring that “nitrogen-rich liquid” onto a compost heap to speed up the process. For the most part however, these are tips that anyone can implement fairly easily.
Some of the statistics could have been expressed more clearly. For instance, the authors state that Americans use 127% more water now than in 1950. It is not immediately apparent whether this figure refers to per capita consumption or to use by the entire nation (an obvious outcome of a larger population size). But that small quibble aside, this is a very nicely done book to introduce children and interested adults to some simple ways to become aware of, and reduce, one’s water use.