Flushing green down …

November 11, 2009

Although, we tend to be very discreet about them, there are so many of them — and we use them all the time.  In average household, about 27% of water used is for toilet, or over 100 gallons a day.   Imagine, if that is how much water is flushed down in a regular house, just how much water is used at a college campus.  In fact, at one large residential/research university campus in the West Coast, each unit in a male lavatory alone is estimated to use 150 gallons each day — or for a building with 20 urinals, it consumes 3000 gallons a day, 15,000 gallons for 5 instructional days, and 150,000 gallons for a 10-week academic quarter.  Now, that is a lot of water to consume — especially, when Southern California’s water reserve is very low.  This is also true for any other public and community places with restrooms.

The question to ask is — are those restroom facilities environmentally friendly ones?  We must have ones, so we cannot simply eliminate them.  But, do capital improvement committees or building committees talk about energy/water efficient alternatives?  Say, when your college is building a new building, are they placing low-flush bathroom facilities? — when, your masjid is having renovation, are they looking into less-water consuming facilities?  Those, probably, are good questions to start a conversation about sustainable community building.  After all, trying to talk seriously about how much water will be flushed to urinal can be a quite funny debate in a board meeting.

Often time, sustainability is also about keep using what we already have and not waste any resources, including money and existing facilities.  And, one thing you might find is that — those lavatory equipments never be broken.  But, the good news is you do not wait forever to replace old-water-consuming toilet bowl — it turns out those low-flow bathroom facilities are very economical — as in, capital investment to replace those facilities can be recovered within short amount of time, and they will continue to yield cost savings.  For instance, ultra-low flow urinal only uses 0.125 gallon per flush — that is 1/24 of a regular urinal.  You can perhaps imagine, how much water utility cost will be saved by switching to the resource effecient model.  Like people sometime says, being green also save some green ($), too — and, this is definetely true in this case.

So there are two good reasons that you can argue for low-flow lavatory facilities — one is to reduce water use, and the other is to reduce utility expenses.  Are you or any of your friends a part of a student union governing board at your college? or a part of masjid’s capital improvement committee?  Ask them, if they are already working on reducing water uses — if, not, let them know that you know good reasons they should act now.  Because, if you are still using old-high-water-use facilities, it’s like you are flushing green and green($) down every single time.

Hironao Okahana is a graduate student in higher education policy and finance.  He also serves as a staff adviser for student advocacy programs at a college student government association.

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