I don’t flush.
It’s now so habitual to let it mellow if it’s yellow, that I’m paranoid that I might do a poo in someone else’s toilet, and forget to flush. At my old house, before I moved in with my dear loving father, I used to fill up a bucket with rain water from my water-butt when I needed to flush. There is a technique – you can’t just chuck all the water down the toilet – you have to aim the water so that it flushes properly. I have mastered this technique.
Over the lifetime of an average person, their toilet will be flushed 140,000 times (according to some website I found). That means if you own an old 3.5 gallon per flush or 7 gallon per flush toilet, you use 6,400 or 12,800 gallons (48.5m^3) of clean water a year, just by flushing the toilet….. However, I have the bladder of an 80-year-old man, (That was a direct quote from my friend Laura) and my water usage would be much, much higher if I flushed every time.
Permaculture has taught me to “think like an ecosystem”. I have learned to recognise the systems that I live in. I try to adjust them so that I don’t just have inputs and outputs, but I try to minimise my inputs, and find uses for my outputs so that they are integrated back into the system. In a natural forest, there is no leaf blower to collect all the dead autumn leaves and take them “away”. The leaves fall on the ground, where they create a blanket for the soil, and habitat for the creatures that live in the soil. As they decompose, they provide nutrition for the tree, to create more leaves. So my goal became to try to harvest as much energy from the outputs of my home as possible.
I collected the rain that fell on my roof, and I used it to water my garden in the summer, and flush my toilet in the winter. I tried not to bring anything into the house that was in packaging that could not be recycled or composted, and I put a lot of effort into tearing my waste paper up into little pieces for my compost bin. I re-named my old nappy bucket, “my new, used toilet paper bucket,” which regularly got emptied into the compost heap (this had multiple functions of feeding my garden, and stopping my toilet from stinking. Toilet paper tends to act like those fancy sticks that you put into perfume, so that they can draw up the aroma, and spread it around a room). I also built a rat-proof wormery, which I invited my friends to utilise for all of their non-raw food waste. I dragged dead wood out of the park, which I sawed up by hand and burned in my wood stove, which heated my house and cooked my food. I then took the ashes, and spread them around my garden. I was by no means as in balance as an ecosystem, but I was trying.
So my dad had a talk with me the other night. He said “Rebecca. You have to flush the toilet. It stinks!” Dad doesn’t have a compost heap. For 10 years he has complained that there is no top soil in his garden, but he lets his gardener take away the grass clippings and the leaves, and he lets the council take away all of his food waste. I’ve pointed this out to him countless times, but at this point, I don’t expect to change him. So I’ve been putting toilet paper into his toilet, and it has been spreading the aroma…..He complained that Matilda (my 3-year-old) didn’t flush either. I’ve taught her well.
So the problem is the solution? There is of course the “wild wee”, which Matilda is very good at. I’m going to encourage it more, and not just when we are out and about. For me, however, getting my bum out in my dad’s garden is going to be slightly harder. He won’t be so impressed if I build a compost loo outside his kitchen window, and last time I used a shewee (a contraption that lets girls pee like boys) I had to go home and change my clothes. So I need to be tactful. I’m thinking of getting a luggable loo. It’s a bucket with a toilet seat on it. Matilda and I could both easily use it, and dad might never find out if I sneak out after dark to empty it into his garden. (If you read this dad, I only wrote that for comical value, promise!).
I would be doing good to his garden! I would be releasing nitrogen into his grass, which would help it to grow, which would mean that his grass would need to be cut more often, which would mean that his gardener would have to come more often, which will be good for the economy…..
That last bit was a joke.