Going to the restroom multiple times each day doesn’t often inspire curiosity about the technology of the apparatus you use to dispose of your waste. Furthermore, toilets are not usually the object of critical scrutiny when it comes to water waste. Basically, we take the facility of the facilities for granted.
There are, however, many ‘green’ toilets that are designed to maximize efficiency and conserve, or altogether do away with, water. The amount of drinking water that is simply flushed away is quite astonishing. Some figures say that the world flushes some 20 percent of its drinking water. This raises the question: are flushing toilets really that valuable?
Why Alter Your Toilet?
In water starved regions and areas where utility costs are high, conserving water that is used in toilets is something everyone can agree upon. Dispelling the images of a horribly rank outhouse, modern waterless toilets are actually quite clean and much more efficient in approach to reducing the environmental impacts of waste disposal. Changing your toilet is a great way to save on water costs, help in water conservation, and more efficiently dispose of waste in a manner that can be reused in fertilization.
Today there are quite a few variations of green toilets, and you can be sure there is a toilet to fit your needs and eco-goals. Toilets with automated flushing, remote control operations, sensors, lights, music, heated vents, and air fresheners are all available. Dual flushing toilets that allow you to control the water levels with each flush are also popular among the more environmentally conscious. There are even toilet/sink combinations that repurpose the water through a small, onsite treatment tank.
Of course, the ‘greenest’ of options for waste disposal is the compost toilet. This is the most natural and environmental method of disposing of waste–bathroom and otherwise. Since toilets are the main source of water consumption in the home, gradually reducing water consumption in toilets or altogether doing away with water are popular ways to take control over your individual environmental impact. These efficient toilets will also save a lot of money in water bills over time.
Composting toilets are the most eco-friendly since they facilitate the natural aerobic decomposition of human waste through the use of sawdust, peat moss, and coconut coir. This process is both faster and more responsible than the anaerobic decomposition used in septic tanks and many sewage treatment systems.
The waste is broken down through different means depending on the system. Essentially the waste is aerated either through a ventilation system or manual rake system and an absorbent material like sawdust. Some systems employ high heat to oxidize and accelerate the breaking down of waste into nutrient components and eliminate pathogens.Some of these toilets use power to fan and heat in order to evaporate urine and aerate waste to accelerate composting. Many waterless toilets allow for separation of urine and feces to divert the two into different places for composting.
Hazards and Concerns
These green toilets are not without downsides, though. Approving the system through the health department is necessary to ensure the system is compliant with sanitation standards for waste disposal and treatment in your area. Always make sure that the system is properly constructed as a poorly built system can expose you to harmful bacteria and viruses.
Composting toilets require more maintenance and consistent care than toilets that use water. Applying a carbon cover like sawdust after each use and watching the composting process from time to time is necessary for sanitation and responsible use of the system. Ensuring proper aeration and carbon to nitrogen ratio will keep the system efficient and the horrible odors down. A well maintained, natural compost system will smell like soil. This method of waste disposal is the most organic and eco-friendly, but it takes some time and attention to carry out properly. Once you do, however, you’ll have the greenest toilet in town.
When not dissecting the technology behind green toilets for shamrockplumbing.net, Ben Vaughn writes frequently on natural disaster cleanup and the art of building earthquake preparedness kits.