Thursday, 27 April 2017

Consider the Toilet

No Buy April is drawing to a close, and one thing I can be certain I will have saved on is laundry expenses. I can't think of any way round having to wear clean clothes at least some of the time, and so a big box of washing powder was one of my 'essential purchases' at the start of the month. Five days left, and there's still plenty of washes to be had out of the 2.6kg box of Daz I helped myself to for a respectable £5.00. One trip to the launderette every 10-14 days was previously costing me £4.00 a pop (more if I used the dryers) so there's an obvious saving of at least £3.00 for the month. Little things, my friends. Little things.

One lesson that stuck in my mind after my trip to Brighton Earthship last summer was how much water is wasted in modern housing, to the benefit of nobody.  While water is of course an essential element of life, the use of totally clean water is essential only for certain purposes, and yet in modern architecture, all incoming water comes from a single source, whether it's used for drinking, washing, cooking or sewage.  Earthships incorporate the recycling of water into their design, so that rainwater is collected, used for drinking and cooking when it's fresh, recycled and filtered to be used as 'grey water' for plants and in plumbing, and finally recycled again as 'black water' for sewage.  It then returns to the earth, and re-enters the water cycle naturally, causing little if any pollution or waste.  Obvious when you think about it, but hardly anyone ever does.

Take a look at your toilet.  Fresh water is pumped straight into it, which you then piss and shit in, and flush away.  This accounts for 31% of overall household water consumption, apparently.  This is normal.  That is the kind of world we live in.

You beauty.
What if our sinks were plumbed in to our bathrooms, so that water drained away from washing dishes, showering, etc, were stored in the cistern (or probably also a 'backup' tank) and then used to flush?  Clearly this would save water, which benefits everyone.  Are houses designed that way?  I'm no architect, but I see no reason why they shouldn't be.  So anyway, I've come up with my own contribution to the situation, that requires no plumbing or architecture or design skills at all.  I hand wash my clothes, and use the left over water to flush my toilet.  Radical.

Of course this means transporting the water from the kitchen sink to the toilet manually, and for this I use a jerry can (pictured).  Full, it has the capacity of approximately one flush.  So each time I flush, I just empty the jerry can into the cistern, and it refills from there.  Incredibly simple, and since I'm on a water meter in this flat, it's going to reduce my water bill too.

Some comments on hand washing clothes: this is a little labour intensive, but very satisfying.  I find that in a kitchen sink's worth of water and a handful of washing powder, I can get 3 or 4 shirts and/2 pairs of trousers/5 or 6 pairs of underwear and shirts clean, given the requisite elbow grease.  This means washing clothes every 3 days or so, rather than in bulk as I was previously at the laundrette.  It might be worth calculating if this is actually using less water overall, but when you factor in the fact that all water I'm using is being used twice, I'm not exactly sure how to do that.

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