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Green Your Bathroom: Start With the Toilet

3/13/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: high-efficiency toilets, HETs, bathroom, toilet

Of our daily water use, 75 percent is consumed in the bathroom. Changing our habits can cut back on our use. (I’ve long been an advocate of not flushing every time, but some people—my own friends and relatives included—think that’s gross.) So if you have an older toilet in your home, you can greatly reduce your water use simply by replacing it. 

The good news? Many companies now offer high-efficiency toilets (HETs). At least 22 toilet manufacturers currently make about 200 toilets that use 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf) or less—and they’re easy to find. Just look for toilets with the WaterSense label. WaterSense, a two-year-old program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, offers certification for a range of water-efficient products and appliances. All WaterSense products have to pass a water-use test. Toilets must be able to dispose of 350 grams of solid waste in a single flush. 

Toilet
High-efficiency toilets use less water per flush than normal toilets. Photo By Soaleha/Courtesy Flickr 

Solid waste limits how low a toilet’s water-use can go, however. Some toilets, such as Kohler’s one-piece San Raphael Pressure Lite toilet, use only 1 gpf, but this may be the minimum amount of water a toilet can use. Once you flush the waste, it has to travel at least 60 feet through a drain line before it enters the sewer system, and it needs a little help to get there. If toilets use less than a gallon of water, waste may not make it to the sewer system. 

Although solid waste may need a little extra water to flush down, liquid waste certainly doesn’t. Thankfully, some toilet manufacturers realized this and created the dual-flush toilet. These toilets offer two flushing settings: 1.6 gpf for solid waste and 0.8 gpf for liquid waste. Now, that’s water sense. 

If you’re not in the market for an HET now, you may be soon. A 1992 law forced toilets to a 1.6 gpf standard and now it looks as if we’re on the verge of a new standard. California, a trend-setting state for green initiatives, has declared that all new toilets must be HET by 2014. HETs are mandated in other countries as well. In Australia, for example, all new buildings must use dual-flush toilets. 

HETs aren’t the only way to go green in your bathroom. Check out these other products that can save water and energy in your home. From using nontoxic cleaners to installing low-flow showerheads, we can all take steps to reduce our water use and make our bathrooms more environmentally friendly. 



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