Waste in the Washroom

Written by Theo Carr, ESLLC 2017-2018

Becoming involved with the Environmental Sustainability LLC has brought many issues of unsustainable practices to my notice. These issues have origins in the consumerist mentality that is accepted as normalcy in our society, and leads to disdain for environmentally conscious practices. One of the places that I see the most obvious waste here at DU is in the bathrooms of the dormitories.

The one way we are currently encouraged to conserve energy in our bathrooms is by pitiful signs suggesting we turn off the lights before leaving. However, I propose that an environmentally aware person will ensure that the lights are turned off before they enter, and then perform their actions in the dark. Doing this will guarantee that consumption and waste are limited to the water necessary for the various lavatory enterprises. The men’s bathroom is illuminated by five T-12 fluorescent tubes in the main area, and one fluorescent bulb for each of the two showering atria (data pending on the women’s bathrooms). The energy required by each tube is about 32 watts, and the energy required by the bulbs is about 23 watts. Combine this, and there is a total usage of 206 joules every hour, and a potential for 206 joules of conserved energy. Perhaps this quantity is unattainable at one time, but the combined effort of many people can save large quantities of energy over a span of time. Environmental Sustainability is as simple as showering in the dark.

Water is easily the most wasted resource in any bathroom because there are copious opportunities to overuse it. Showers can go too long, faucets can be left running, and toilets can be flushed too often. This final issue can be remedied quite easily because our toilets are unnecessarily flushed dozens of times every day. The solution to this problem comes from a straightforward adage: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” (The second half of the saying is not addressed in this post). The aphorism calls for a urination compilation with the hope that we can limit the amount of excess we produce. Each toilet uses about 3 gallons per flush, and, estimating conservatively, is logically flushed about 3 times an hour and 45 times every day. That means that 135 gallons are used by a bathroom in a day; many of them are the result of unneeded flushes. Ideally, one toilet could be designated for urination, and would save 45 gallons a day, 315 gallons a week, and 12,285 gallons a year. That is an enormous amount of resource conservation resulting from one bathroom. As transparent as this solution may be, letting it mellow is deceivingly effective, and the path to sustainability is achievable simply by refusing to flush.

Having laid out two highly efficient and feasible plans of action for environmental sustainability practices in bathroom etiquette, I strongly urge readers to implement one of these practices at least once in their daily routine. Whether it is the introspection that comes from aphotic sanitization or knowing that you have done your part by not pressing down that ceramic lever, I hope that you are able to derive satisfaction from undertaking these eco-aware habits.


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