Let’s face it: it’s hard to write anything truly exciting about the flush capabilities of a toilet. On the other hand, we’ve all used low-flow toilets that don’t get the job done. Usually the pressure isn’t good enough and you need to flush two or three times completely defeating the whole low-flush feature. There are a few companies that are making progress in this area, and Sustainable Solutions International is one of them. This company has just launched its 0.8 gallon (that’s 3 litres in Canada) toilet that has a MaP score of 800 (in other words, it can flush 800 grams in one go). (If you want to know more about MaP scores, see this post from a few years ago). Note that most water efficient toilets are either 6 liter/1.6 gallons or dual flush, making this toilet twice as water-friendly.
Some of its key features are the following:
This toilet is at a low-cost point making them the affordable choice for large hotels and commercial building specifications.
This is one of the lowest gpf toilets on the market today at a mere .8pf. Built to last, the NO CLOG POINT 8 toilet doesn’t skimp on performance.
The SSi NO CLOG POINT 8 toilet uses a brilliantly engineered simple technology that isn’t dependent upon complicated pressure or vacuum assisted mechanisms as seen in their competitors’ toilets – ultimately saving expensive maintenance costs. It installs like any other toilet.
As its name implies, “NO CLOG” hotel owners will have little need for service calls due to clogged toilets as the NO CLOG trapway is double industry standard size.
The toilets are made for everyone in mind and the Easy Height toilet is ADA-Compliant. A bonus is the ADA-compliant lever handle.
Cities are grappling with storm water run-off more than ever as storms become more violent and development increases leaving less permeable land. In heavy rains, sewers sometimes aren’t able to handle the downpour that might happen (think Toronto in July, 2013, or Montreal, May, 2012). Encouraging more permeable areas allows the ground to absorb water helping to alleviate some of the pressure on sewer systems. Sometimes, however, finding the right solution to increasing permeability can be a challenge. Laying down loose gravel over ground makes it difficult to plow in winter, while small stones get caught in pedestrians boot treads get dragged indoors and ruining floors. Another challenge is that sometimes permeable paving needs a strong, impermeable base so that the blocks don’t crack under the weight of vehicles or develop ruts in the most heavily traveled areas. It kind of defeats the purpose of permeable pavers.
A great product originating in Germany, is Ecoraster, a grid system that is used to keep surfaces permeable. It can replace paved parking lots, driveways, pathways and can be used in various agricultural applications as well. The Ecoraster is available in different levels of durability depending on intended use.
It is an extremely versatile product and can be used in a variety of urban situations.
Usually once a home is built, the builder hands the keys over to the new owner and unless there’s a problem, the builder moves on to the next project. However, in the case of a straw-bale built home in Peterborough, the home has been lived in for the past year and all water and energy consumed has been recorded. The goal was to see if, in fact, the home is Canada’s greenest home. You can read all about its features in the article I wrote last year. Chris Magwood, director of the Endeavour Centre, whose students built the home emphasizes that it’s not supposed to be a competition, it’s meant to demonstrate that building a green home is achievable using currently available technology that is locally available.
March 22nd marked World Water Day, a day used to highlight how important fresh water is to the planet and how much of the world’s population struggles to get reliable clean freshwater every day. Canadians are the second largest users of water in the world with an astounding 343 litres per day per capita. Only the Americans use more than we do, coming in at 382 litres per capita. Our large use of water is mostly due to a lack of awareness as well as underpricing for its use by municipalities.
If you live in or near the Greater Toronto Area you will know that the conservation efforts by municipalities have resulted in a 10% decrease in water use by citizens and businesses. While this is a good thing, the municipalities are complaining that their water treatment facilities are going broke due to a lack of revenue from water use. Hmm, clearly there’s a problem – but it’s not conservation. A water scarcity threat map of Canada shows that southwestern Ontario and the prairies are the two places in Canada where water scarcity threats exist.
In the event that there is a water shortage in your area this summer and beyond, or if your rates go up, or you just want to be a better citizen, here are some tips from cheapest and easiest, to the most expensive and invasive to achieve. The most effective way to conserve water in your home is to change out your toilet if you have the old 12 gallon one to a 0.8 gallon/3 L toilet. You’ll be using 1/12 the water to flush that you used to. That’s a lot of water!
Gray water on the cheap: Gray water is reusing water that has already been used for one purpose so it’s not completely sanitary, but is good enough to use for a secondary, non-food oriented purpose, such as flushing toilets. Recently, I became aware of an awesome woman named Béa Johnson, a French woman married to an American, living in northern California. She has written a book on the subject of living without creating any waste. They are a family of four and they produce under one kilogram of garbage annually.
Now that Bea’s waste situation is under control, she’s tackling other areas of her family’s lives like water. There is a recent post on her blog about what she’s doing to conserve water with some great handy tips that don’t cost, well, anything. From collecting shower water to flush toilets (just pour the water from a bucket into the bowl and the toilet will flush), to collecting kitchen water that’s used for rinsing dishes or when you’re waiting for it to warm up, let it run into a portable container to use for outdoor plants and garberators, and flushing toilets.
Note that gray water can’t stand more than a few hours on its own without starting to develop bacteria, so if you haven’t used it all by the end of the day then flush it down the toilet at night. It could save you some precious gallons here and there and every drop counts.
Toilets: toilets are the largest consumers of water in the house, so if you need to change them out make sure to look for a low-flush toilet. There are great 3L toilets made by Proficiency. They’re relatively inexpensive and flush well. As I always say, if you’re worried about the low-flow toilets not performing up to par, check out the Wastewater guide MaP (maximum performance) ratings published jointly by the California Urban Water Conservation Council and the Canadian Waste Water Association. They will help you select a toilet that can flush as much as 1 kg of solids without a problem. Another great toilet is the the Sydney 0.8 by Caroma. It is virtually clogless and if you have teenage boys, you will understand why this is so important! See my earlier post “Beyond the Six Litre Toilet.”
Oxygenics Tri Spa
Showerheads and faucets: Teenagers spend an inordinate amount of time in the shower. There are tricks to use that will help get them out. For instance, I have a friend who lives in a quirky old house where the hot water shut off valve is accessible through a panel in the neighboring bedroom. So, if the kids have been in there too long wasting valuable hot water and adding dollar signs to both her gas and water bill, she turns off the hot water. It gets the kids out pretty quickly. Granted, not all of us have quirky houses where shut off valves are accessible outside the bathroom, so there are other ways of conserving water from adding shower timers — not all that effective for teens but good for motivated adults, and of course water-sense certified shower heads. Delta, Oxygenics and Bricor showerheads are three brands that come to mind, but there are plenty out there and they’re vastly improved from the days when the shampoo wouldn’t rinse out of your hair giving you “flat head” syndrome à la Kramer from Seinfeld.
The next time you are looking for a faucet find one that’s WaterSense certified. For the kitchen a dual-flow faucet is best: faucets can alternate between low-flow (the default setting) and full flow for filling pots and sinks without taking forever, such as the Delta Multiflow faucet.
Washing Machines: Most of us think of front-end loaders as the only water efficient washers on the market. A few people shy away from them because they don’t relish getting down on their knees to do the laundry, and if not properly balanced, they can make a lot of noise while spinning. Washers also consume a good amount of water, so make sure you do a full-load and not just that single pair of jeans, and if you’re in the market for a new washer look for an Energy Star certified brand. Here is a good website to help you find a new washer: Toptenusa.org and a great article from Apartment Therapy: The Best Energy Efficient Washers.
Graywater systems: If you’re building a new house, adding an addition or gutting an older home, it is the perfect time to incorporate some water and energy efficiency measures. Gray water systems collect shower water, treat it and store it for use in the home’s toilets and can help you reduce your household water consumption by up to 40%. They are best incorporated into an addition/gut job or new home construction.
Rain water cisterns: There are many different kinds of cisterns available to catch rain water from simple rain barrels that hook up to your home’s downspout, to underground or between wall cisterns that store plenty of water. In times of water bans, you can still maintain your garden. The Aquascape RainXchange is an underground cistern, , the Rainwater HOG, or a rain barrel. Rain barrels are often available as a subsidized or free option through municipal programs. Check your municipalities website or rainbarrel.ca to see if there is a program near you.
Always check your area’s average annual rainfall to calculate the size of the container you might need.
Drought resistant landscaping (xeriscaping): To use less water outside, use local and drought resistant plants and drip irrigation for watering. Water at night to prevent evaporation. Most lawns use Kentucky Blue grass which will become dormant in times of drought. In most cases will turn green once the rains return. If possible, it’s best to try to shrink your lawn to minimal size to ease water and mowing demands.
Waterless Carwash: There are several waterless carwash products on the market that allow you to wash your car without water. Canadian Tire sells Goclean waterless carwash, but there are plenty of others.
Since 1993, March 22nd has been World Water Day as designated by the United Nations. The day is marked to help raise awareness about the basic human right we all share to access safe drinking water. Here in Canada it is also Canada Water Week, (March 14-22, 2013) developed to incorporate World Water Day. The point of these days is to highlight the right to every person’s access to safe drinking water.
This year’s focus is water cooperation. Around the world, there are 276 transboundary river basins. Actions taken by any country regarding water use can affect downstream water flow and quality. Cooperation is essential among nations to ensure peace and the best water management. The UN has a page of facts concerning water consumption and the effect of increasing populations and climate change. It’s pretty scary, but can be managed if approached in a coordinated, rational manner (Source).
World Water Day’s objective is to highlight water concerns around the world. While we Canadians count ourselves lucky to have an abundant supply of fresh water, we should probably stop short of patting ourselves on the back. Crumbling urban infrastructure means that many cities are having difficulty dealing with sewage and water treatment. Further, a report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated that it will cost about $80 billion to replace waste water treatment plants and pipes, drinking water delivery pipes and storm water pipes that are in “fair” to “very poor” condition across Canada (Source).
Canadians are the second biggest water users per capita of all OECD countries (Source). To make matters worse, many OECD countries have been decreasing their water consumption per capita (including the US), while, since 1980, Canadians have increased water consumption by 25%. Part of the reason that Canadians are water hogs is because a realistic price hasn’t been attached to the water we use. In many municipalities a flat rate is charged, which, of course, doesn’t lead to conservation behaviour. If you view something as a low-value resource, then you will treat it as such. Leaks will go unfixed, faucets will be left on to brush teeth and do dishes, there is no incentive to buy water efficient appliances. Moreover, if there isn’t an effort by city hall to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation through public policy, people won’t see it as an issue of concern.
As Canadian cities’ populations increase, the need for potable water will also increase. Demands on cities’ water infrastructure will be tested to their maximum, which is why implementing water conservation measures is more urgent than most people realize. Water conservation at business, institutional and residential levels will give municipalities some time to upgrade their water infrastructure and pricing water fairly is the easiest way to motivate people to think about conservation.
I’ve written many articles on products that will help you conserve water. I’ve written about low-flow fixtures, rain barrels, and gray water systems. Look in the Water Efficiency section of the Resource Guide for products and information on water efficiency. But there are other ways to cut water use that you might not even consider, and, in fact, you can make an even bigger dent in water conservation by altering a few of your weekly purchases. The infographic comes thanks to Loch Ness Water Gardens in South Carolina. Some of the stats are surprising. You might have already been aware that beef production uses the most water of any meat production (1850 gallons (US) to produce 1 pound of beef), but did you know that your morning coffee needs 2500 gallons of water? It only takes 8 gallons of water to produce a pound of tea. The infographic also gives you suggestions on how modifying your behaviour will help you save water, such as switching out your high flow shower head to a low flow fixture, or switching from drinking milk to beer (?) — great excuse for the legal-aged drinkers in the crowd, but maybe not so helpful for the kids (I can hear my teenagers now: “But Mom, it’s better for the environment”).
For the most part we rely on third party organizations to determine what is and isn't a "green building material." The only time we might not is when products are locally produced or no third party green designation is available for the product.