Toilet's dirty secret
Sustainability

Toilet’s dirty secret

Toilet. A simple, straight-forward necessity or an evil system that undermines the global warning?

You’ll be surprised how much you didn’t know about toilets. For example, did you know that an average man spends 1 hour and 45 min a week on a toilet and an average woman – 85 minutes!? That comes up to about 92 days over a lifetime! No, you didn’t know that, so as I thought. No worries, stay tuned, and I’ll reveal more shocking facts about toilets soon!

So… When it comes to individual toilet behaviour, there are pretty much, 2 areas of concern: water and paper.

Water problem:

Did you know that the vast majority of the water that is being used indoors by the average North American household goes to toilet usage? Yes! 24% of all our water usage goes down the toilet, quite literally in this case. 24% is somewhat about 33 gallons, or 125 L. More than that, that is a DAILY water usage!

That is a huge amount of water being flushed down the tubes. Especially, taking into account the ongoing and pressing issue of the climate change. The climate change brings natural disasters all around the world: in some states hurricanes and floods cause clogging and pollution of the local sewage systems, making the water supply problematic. In other places, life South Africa, regular droughts question the possibility of the water supply in general and many are looking for alternative options to regular water toilets now.

Paper:

Paper side of the toilet problem on the other hand, does not concede to the water waste disaster.

Toilet paper was invented in America in 1857, but really took off in 1930. Now it is a more than $6 billion industry.

According to the market research firm Euromonitor International, the average American uses about 60 pounds of tissue per year, which comes to around 27 kg. In comparison, the average German uses only 33 pounds.

For another metric, that’s around 120 paper rolls a year. At that rate a household of people will go through a whole tree worth of toilet paper in 365 days.

The other not so obvious and rather crucial problem with toilet paper is that most of it is bleached. Yes! Toilet paper is not naturally white. Tones of water and chemicals is used for the production of white toilet paper. So next time you sit comfortably on your toilet, look at your toilet paper roll and think of: Deforestation, Water waste and Environmental pollution! That’s all that it really is.

Alternatives:

Toilet usage issue is critical nowadays for that whole world’s population: some of us overexploit it, others do not have any excess to toilets at all. 1 in 3 people around the world, or 2.3 billion people, don’t have access to a toilet. In fact, more people have a mobile phone than a toilet. Let’s just let that sink in.

Many groups have recognized the need for toilets that can withstand extreme weather conditions and natural disasters and mitigate the climate change. The Toilet Board Coalition’s Accelerator (business-led coalition co-founded by Unilever)  and Re-invent the Toilet Challenge, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are investing in innovation in toilets and sanitation systems that are sustainable, recover valuable resources and can be scaled up. The Indian government also conducts periodic “toilet hackathons” for inventors to generate resilient and sustainable solutions. Fear not, conscious citizen! More eco-friendly and sustainable toilets are coming! But do use your own initiative and research alternative solutions for your new toilet, whenever the time comes!

During World Water Week 2017, the Toilet Board Coalition and its partners explored the business case for turning human waste into valuable resources such as fertilizer, animal feed and high-value proteins. They concluded that “there is a clear business case for building toilets and keeping them secure and well-maintained … there is an economic incentive for creating a sanitation economy”. At the same time, The VUNA Project at Eawag in Switzerland has developed an affordable dry sanitation system that produces a valuable fertilizer, promotes entrepreneurship and reduces pollution of water resources. The fertilizer, which is made from human urine, is branded as Aurin and is authorized by the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture to be used as a fertilizer for every type of plant.

Toilet's dirty secret
Photo by Curology

Solution:

In case, if you are not ready yet to change your toilet to a new more eco-friendly one, there are a couple of easy solutions for you as well to reduce your eco-footprint.

First, things first, Using a bit of water to clean your backside will help to save trees and maybe water, too (since papermaking itself can be very water-intensive).

Second, look for paper with the highest post-consumer recycled content that your bum can take, and whenever possible buy larger rolls (fewer cardboard tubes) and bulk packages (less plastic overwrap).

Make sure you check regularly for leaks using a dye test. According to the EPA, a leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons or 780 L a day.

For the more daring among you, there’s always the time-honoured “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” strategy—endorsed by Cameron Diaz, and the “pee in the shower” strategy, endorsed by  a Brazilian environmental group. We highly recommend to check out their catchy commercial video.

Conclusion:

To conclude, yes, toilets do cause climate change, and yes, they are vital for the humanity to keep the hygiene levels up. It’s a kind of a love-hate relationship between us, toilets and the environment. So, what is left to be done is to improve our toilet behaviour through alternative toilet systems, less or more eco-friendly toilet paper usage and simply less flushing. Whatever you are doing to save the environment, keep on doing it and always look forward to step-up your sustainability game.

Yes, nowadays, we cannot afford even to take a crap without being conscious about the environment. That’s how far we led ourselves into with the global progress.

The above article was written and edited by myself for OLLIMONO.

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