So, the reason I have not posted anything for a while is that I have been on vacation, visiting friends in France and Switzerland. And the one eco-thing that has made the greatest impression upon me so far is the ubiquity of the dual flush toilet: in homes, in restaurants, in motorway rest stops and in mountain chalets. In fact, I have yet to encounter a “single flush” toilet in my 10 days here.
Most water-efficient toilets in north america use 6 litres (1.6 gallons) which is a lot better than the 13 litres (3.4 gallons) used by older toilets. High efficiency toilets use 4.8 litres (1.28 gallons). Dual flush toilets – which you seldom see back home - use only 3.4 litres (0.9 gallons) for the quick flush and 6 litres for a full flush.
Switching to low-flush toilets is probably the easiest and most painless way to reduce household water use. If you flush 5 times per day (and you will be lucky to find a small kid that flushes this seldom), you can save 35 litres per person per day. Every month you will save a cubic metre of water (which costs about $3 where I live, once you factor in the sewer charge which is calculated as a % of water use). That adds up to savings of $36 per person every year. (And if you choose a dual-flush model you will save an additional 10 litres or so a day or an additional $10 per year).
From the perspective of the planet, using less water is obviouly a good thing. And what many people fail to factor in is the energy costs associated with water use.
In the US the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 3-4% of national energy consumption is used in providing drinking water and wastewater services.
At a municipal level, water and sewerage usually account for about 30-40% of energy use. It is therefore astonishing to me that municipalities have not been more aggressive at promoting the use of high-efficiency or dual-flush toilets in high-flush environments such as restaurants and public washrooms.
Anyway, back to toilets. Some people are nervous about installing low-flush toilets. I have never had a moment of trouble with mine. All the toilets in my house are made by Toto and all work equally well. If you are interested in comparing different Toto models, see http://www.toiletsthatwork.com/ (not my sister site, but it could be!).
Sadly I do not have any dual-flush toilets at this point, but I cannot imagne that Toto’s models do not work. All the dual-flush toilets I have used over the past 10 days (not Toto but various European manufacturers) work like a treat.
Another brand of dual-flush toilet that gets great reviews is Caroma. Caroma is the dominant Australian toilet manufacturer (that also sells in the US), and if anyone knows about the importance of conserving water it is the Australians.
I would be interested if anyone has any experience with Caroma. You never know when I might need a new toilet.
In the meantime, I will continue to flush my way across Europe and look for other interesting eco products to share with you.