Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Save Water - Recycle a Brick

Last weekend we all went to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. It's a great place. The kids love it there and treat it as a big adventure playground. It is full of things to explore, climb on, touch, taste, smell and do. At the same time it teaches you how to live more sustainably, always in an entertaining and positive way. We never seem to have enough time to do and see everything we want to when we go there, and have to be turfed out by the staff at closing time.

We were looking out for things we can do to live more sustainably. One thing we'd love to do is get a composting toilet. Honestly, they've come a long way from the old "thunderbox" loos. They go in your normal indoors bathroom and look just like normal toilets until you try to flush them and find there isn't a flush. They cost a lot of money, though, and need professional installation. But when you bear in mind that a typical household toilet uses around 50,000 litres of water a year (that's about a third of total water usage) the environmental savings are immense.

If (like us) you don't want to install a composting toilet for whatever reason, you can still save water by using a displacement device in your cistern. This sounds complicated and expensive , but it can be as simple as putting an old brick in your cistern. It stops as much water entering the cistern when it fills up, and saves around 1-2 litres per flush, or 5 - 10,000 litres a year in a typical household. Anything that takes up space in the cistern (and doesn't float) will do. We have plastic bottles filled with water in ours. The bigger the cistern, the more bricks you should put in it. Old Victorian cisterns for example are huge, massively over-specified, and you should mostly fill them with bricks or bottles of water. If you find there is not enough water to get rid of the evidence, just take one of the bricks out.

So that's April's challenge - will you install a water displacement device in your toilet cisterns and reduce your household water usage by about 10%?

15 comments:

RUTH said...

I have heard this idea before...its a good one. Plastic bottles filled with water sound better than bricks...shall give it a try. BTW was very intrigued by one of your comments on my blog...how do you tattoo with ribes leaves???

Hedgewizard said...

We've just partially renovated our place but it suffers from one of the big drawbacks of single-floor living; no gravity feed. Our bathroom is pretty much the lowest point in the house and a long way away from the garden, so we can't gravity-drain anything without fetching all the floors up.

We've fitted low-capacity cisterns and dual flush, which is a start, but ultimately we're going to have to look at a grey water tank going under the lawn - not a task we have the spondoolies (or the stomach)for right now!

Melanie Rimmer said...

Ruth - the backs of ribes leaves are slightly sticky. If you press one into your skin (e.g. your upper arm) quite firmly, then rub dust or earth onto it, the dirt sticks to the sticky outline of the leaf, veins etc. As kids we called them "leaf tattoos".

Moonwaves said...

Well, you've done it again and come up with a challenge for this month which is another of those things I've been meaning to do for ages! I'm off to find a brick.

Eco Burro said...

I'm with HW - we had the extension built this time last year and went from 1 high-usage toilet to two dual-flush, low-usage toilets and are managing to save around 40%-50% of our previous usage.

I feel righteous.

lilymarlene said...

We did ours a long time ago.....with little bags full of water. But you have reminded me to check them and ensure that they're still doing their job. Thanks!

Vashti said...

We've just had (operative word; the council did it) a dual-flush system installed, which uses next to no water on the low flush. Does anyone know what's likely to happen if I put a brick in the cistern?

Melanie Rimmer said...

Vashti - I've never looked inside a low-flush cistern, but have a look and see if you can figure out how it works. I'd guess if you put a brick in it, it will use even less water, but that may not be enough water to do the business, so to speak.

amy said...

y? whats the point its only a toilet! lol

RUTH said...

Thanks for the tattoo info...shall have the grandchildren trying that.

Yellow said...

We have a plastic bottle filled with water in ours. And we also have a very long & shallow run, so sometimes it's not quite enough, but a second flush finishes the job. And as the majority of flushes are for just for wees, it's fab. As my daughter is potty training & my son is very sociable, we all tend to go together, which saves water too.

amy said...

yellow, stef your kinda wasting your time if your flushing a second time, cos isnt that the same as flushing once?

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