Is It True What They Say About Eco Toilets?

By: Ezra Plank

What is an eco toilet? It's an abbreviation of "ecologically friendly toilet". But what makes a toilet ecologically friendly? The most commonly-held answer to this question is that it saves water.

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In this introductory page, I will show you that this answer is a commonly-held misconception. As is often the case, this misconception has been used to further the agenda of the people promulgating it. But that's only one of it's effects, and it's not at all what this website is about.

To put things in perspective, how much water can you save by using an eco toilet? That depends on what method the toilet uses to conserve water usage.

For now, let's assume the most optimistic savings: 100%. This is definitely possible with the waterless toilets now on the market. Let's also assume that we are replacing an old-style flush toilet, from before the first President Bush signed the law mandating the 1.6 gallon flush. Those vintage toilets used to use up to 6 gallons per flush!

Therefore, if you were to replace the worst-possible toilet with the best-possible toilet, you would save 6 gallons per flush. Using a common estimate, the average person in an affluent society flushes the toilet 5 times a day. So replacing the old-style toilet would save 30 gallons / day / person.

That sounds impressive, especially when you multiply it by the number of people in your family, and by the number of days in a year, and by the lifetime of the toilet. But wait! That's not comparing your water savings with anything -- it's just calculating a big number which has often been used to create a false impression of water-savings.

Let's compare that 30 gallons per day per person to the total amount of water used per day per person. If you're just counting the amount personally used, that's between 50 and 75 gallons. So saving 30 gallons is a sizable percentage. This kind of analysis has led a lot of people to mistakenly conclude that using eco toilets will help solve the world's water shortage problems.

Hand Basin and Urinals - 100 Mile Cafe by avlxyz, on Flickr
Hand basin flushes urinal

But again, that's faulty thinking. If you take into consideration the total amount of water used on behalf of each person each day -- I'm talking about the water used to generate the electricity, the food, and everything else that person uses - the number exceeds 1000 gallons.

So saving 30 gallons by using an eco toilet is really only saving about 3% of the amount of water actually consumed. That's hardly worth all the hoo-hah!

Now, with that having being said, you really do save by using eco toilets -- not ecologically, but monetarily! That is, if you're paying by the gallon for the water out of your tap. And there are even more ways to save, to help the environment, and to improve the public health, which will be discussed in the following pages. So come along, and let's take a look at some of the new kinds of eco toilets, and how they can help.

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