Easy ways to make sure your porcelain throne has a leaner, greener impact on the planet.
It’s World Toilet Day on 19th November, and while you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a day dedicated to crude jokes and potty humour (pardon the pun), it’s actually designed to focus on a very serious issue: sustainable sanitation and climate change.
According to the United Nations, more than 4.2 billion people around the world are living without access to safely managed sanitation, and the situation is set to get worse with the consequences of the climate crisis. Floods, drought and rising sea levels are putting existing sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants – at risk.
This is not only dangerous to human health, but in turn has a further impact on climate change. Wastewater and sludge from toilets contain valuable water, nutrients and energy. Sustainable sanitation systems make productive use of waste to safely boost agriculture and also reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.
We’re fortunate in the UK that our sanitation systems are generally up to task, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still make a wider difference to the planet in the way we use our toilets (which can even be found inside wind turbines now!). So this World Toilet Day, consider the below actions when you pop to the loo, and what you could do to help relieve the impacts of climate change – while you’re relieving yourself!
- Change your toilet paper
Toilet paper is a pretty integral part of a trip to the loo, but all rolls are not created equal. The average Brit gets through 127 rolls of toilet paper every year, and all that paper has to come from somewhere. Plus, every roll requires resources to make: energy, water, fuel for transportations, and so on. Switching to a more sustainable brand can help mitigate some of this impact. Read our guide to switching to a more environmentally-friendly toilet paper here.
- Install a water hippo
Flushing the toilet is one of the biggest water wasting activities in the world – after all, you’re literally flushing water down the loo. But if you don’t have a dual-flush loo (if your toilet is an older model), an easy-to-install water hippo can reduce the amount of water used in every flush. This little device sits neatly in your toilet cistern and saves up to three litres of water per flush by keeping hold of water that would otherwise simply be flushed away. Don’t worry, it features a small relief valve so the water doesn’t become stagnant! According to its makers, installing a water hippo in your toilet can save enough water to make 35,000 cups of tea a year. Learn more about clever water-saving gadgets here.
- Stop using your toilet as a bin
We’re all guilty of flushing away the odd tissue or makeup wipe, but all of these unnecessary flushes add up when you consider that every flush uses around four to eight litres of water. Plus, these sorts of items aren’t designed for sewers and sanitation systems and can cause dangerous blockages, not to mention pollute local waterways. Get a small recycling bin for your bathroom instead.
- Give your toilet a greener clean
There’s no end of toilet cleaning products on the market, all professing to do away with germs and grime with minimal effort. The problem is, a lot of them are packed full of chemical nasties which have a big impact on the planet and climate change, not to mention come with dubious health implications. Instead, whip up your own homemade cleaning materials using everyday products you’ll already have at home – they’re just as effective and much better for the planet. Learn more about making your own green cleaning products here.
- If it’s yellow…
Yep, you’ve probably heard this one before! If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down. Pretty self-explanatory, really. Give flushing a break between wees – it’s not harmful and could add up to a significant water saving over the course of a day! And if you have a dual flush system, make sure you always use the smaller button to flush liquid waste – this uses a lot less water than a ‘big flush’.
The bottom line
Here in the UK we’re lucky to have access to safe, sanitary toilet facilities, but we shouldn’t take them for granted. These five tips ensure you’re using your toilet in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, helping to mitigate climate change and its serious consequences that will affect us all.
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