Rachel’s Water Challenge: Day 2 – Do you really need to flush??

Whenever I’ve told anyone that I’m doing this challenge, without fail they have asked me “What are you going to do about flushing the toilet?” Good question. It’s the one part of this challenge which I’m really going to struggle with, if not fail entirely.

   Yesterday, even after repeating ‘Don’t flush, don’t flush’ to myself whilst sitting on the toilet, out of a habit drilled into me since childhood I realised too late that I had. To try and avoid this happening again I have stuck a bright pink post-it note reading “Do you really need to flush??” on top of the cistern, which will hopefully stop my hand as it instinctively reaches to the flush buttons.

>> Rachel’s water challenge: The why and the how

Rachel's Water Challenge: Day 2

Rachel tries to prevent habitual flushing

   Old toilets may use up to 9 litres of water each flush. I understand the importance of hygienic disposal of waste for avoiding illness and the spread of disease, but do we really need such a water-expensive sanitation system? Obviously I can’t afford to use so much of my precious water in this way so I’m trying to find alternative solutions which are as hygienic as possible.

   If I lived alone then my answer would be to not flush at all until the end of the day, save my waste water – from washing up, washing myself, cooking etc – in a bucket, and then use that to flush everything away at the end of the day.

   However, I feel I have to be considerate to my housemates, work colleagues and other members of the public with whom I share toilets. In our culture it is not polite to leave our waste in the toilet bowl for another to find, is it? It seems impossible to avoid flushing entirely so the next best option I can come up with is to try to reduce the number of times I have to flush to an absolute minimum.

   My housemate, with whom I share my bathroom, and I have come to a compromise which without being too explicit more or less follows the water-saving rhyme ‘If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’. This, at least, will reduce the number of times I have to flush the toilet at home.

   At work, my manager has ‘given’ me the office toilet for the duration of my challenge. She herself will use a different toilet in another part of the building, meaning that I can avoid flushing during the day and flush only once at the end of the day. As I flushed before I left today, I realised that my working week ends on Wednesday and as no-one else will be using that toilet I am now considering waiting until Wednesday evening until I flush it again. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this I would be happy to hear them – leave a comment below.

   The question of flushing is really making me consider how often and where I use the toilet. Today I was interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield about my Water Challenge and as I sat waiting, I resisted the urge to use the toilet as I didn’t want to add yet another flush to my water total for the day. And I didn’t really need to go, it was just nerves, and I managed perfectly fine until I got back to the office. I wonder how many other times I’ve used the toilet out of habit rather than need?

Total amount of water used today: 7 litres (although I’ve not done the washing-up yet) plus 2 toilet flushes.

2.3 billion people on this planet do not have adequate sanitation. Call on David Cameron to change this: www.cafod.org.uk/thirst

About the author: From Sunday 22nd – Saturday 28th January Rachel Wood will be trying to live on 10 litres of water each day, which she will walk 1km to collect, in order to experience a little of what life is like for those who live in water poverty.  Are you thirsting for change? Go to http://www.cafod.org.uk/thirst to see how you can take the water challenge or get involved with the campaign.

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About cafodhallam

CAFOD is an aid and development agency dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest in our world. In the UK we work to educate people about the causes of poverty, inspire them to campaign to address issues of social justice and inequality, and support them in fundraising activities. Overseas we work with local partners in 40 countries in South America, Africa and Asia to deliver long-term development projects and emergency aid. CAFOD's headquarters are in London and CAFOD Hallam is the local office for Sheffield and the surrounding area.

4 thoughts on “Rachel’s Water Challenge: Day 2 – Do you really need to flush??

    • Many thanks Portsmouth! It’s great to know people are journeying with me and Thirsting for Change too!
      p.s. I know your blog has a pretty strong following – any chance you could reblog my blogs this week?

  1. Hi Rachel,
    Have you thought about “Natural” waste. The National Trust has installed straw urinals in many of their gardens. If your “yellow” is added to the compost it actually accellerates the composting process. A bit more difficult for you to take your waste out to the compost bin. In this country you would still need to use the toilet for solid waste since digging a sanitary pit would be a bit of a challenge.
    I remember one of the Teachers in Hallam visited CAFOD’s work overseas and wrote about the toilets where the water you washed your hands in was used to re-fill the cistern for the next time someone used the toilet.
    Finally, for a longer term solution take a look at http://www.biolet.com/ for their composting toilet – you’d never need to flush again!
    Thanks for taking on the challenge. Really makes me think.

    • Hi Frank,
      There are so many situations in which CAFOD works where water-expensive toilets are just not feasible, so thanks for highlighting these practical and viable alternatives to flushing toilets. The BioLet looks particularly interesting, although I do wonder how ‘power-hungry’ they are.
      I’m glad my challenge is provoking thought on these issues. Thanks for your support 🙂
      Rachel

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