My Green City Life

Lessons in toilet-ology
July 24, 2007, 1:40 pm
Filed under: in the bathroom

Our toilet has been leaking for months. It was annoying and kind of gross, sure, but it didn’t seem like a huge problem. After all, it only leaked when you flushed it, and most of that water got collected in a bucket that the cats certainly enjoyed drinking out of. Yesterday afternoon Matt decided that enough is enough. He bought a really big wrench and started to do battle with the toilet. Unfortunately, early on, something happened that neither of us saw coming. A piece of the pipe that connects the tank to the bowl came off. It just fell off, and now there is a hole in the pipe. (The piece that fell off was worn extremely thin. No wonder it was leaking! How old is this toilet anyway??) Flushing was suddenly an inaccessible luxury.

Last night, as we were both starting to do a little bit of the squirming “I gotta go” dance, we decided to learn about the mechanics of the toilet. Thank goodness for the internet. A simple search landed us at a site with all we needed to know, complete with animations of toilet mechanics in action. We now know that you can flush the toilet with the water turned off. It works like a siphon. You just pour water in the bowl, and when the pressure builds up enough, everything in the bowl gets sucked down. It’s a very simple concept yet one that has drastically changed my understanding of a small part of the world around me. Plus it only takes about two gallons of water to flush the toilet this way. With our toilet, a traditionally performed flush takes three or more. As one who is always trying to find ways to conserve resources, I’m think that the flushing bucket may stay in the bathroom for a while yet!


5 Comments so far
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Hey DP!

A friend told me about a use for a plastic bucket. You know when you take a shower and you have to let the warm water get from the heater to the faucet? Put a plastic bucket under the faucet and use that cold water to water plants, water for cat drinking… or in your case flush toilets.

BTW – looking at your fabric bag tutorial (maybe a few weeks ago) made me really want to make one (and I started eying one of Kurt’s old sheet sets), but with the whole moving thing I knew I wouldn’t get to it for awhile. I still will probably make 2 more bags, cause I generally still need 2 more paper bags. Paper bags: I reuse them to put paper/cardboard (like cereal boxes) products in so I can just throw all of it into the “mixed paper” bin at the recycling place. Also in the move, I kept reusing them to move stuff like bathroom stuff to the new place. Also, I started taking them back to the store to reuse them there. Do you use plastic bags for trash? If not, how do you do it? Oh, and what kinda material would be good to make the produce bags (I’m sure very easy to make)? … just cotton sheets? How do the people at checkout counters look through them (I wonder this looking at what my sis-in-law bought)? Do they just open up each one and check out the label? … I’m just getting used to this stuff and I have all these questions in my head about it all. I don’t like the thought of awkwardness/glares at the checkout counter (it’s sad that that’s probably one of the reasons that a lot of people don’t do this… plus laziness).

Comment by Rachel

Oh, I saw your “Those #*@! Plastic Bags.” Probably just taking a few of the plastic bags I have at home would work for produce. But your thoughts would be appreciated.

Comment by Rachel

Rachel, that is a great way to save water that you mentioned. I do that most of the time when I take a shower (sometimes I forget). It’s very eye-opening if you use a bucket with volume measurements printed on it. It usually takes one or two gallons to get the water warm. What a waste of perfectly good water! There are more water conservation tips for the bathroom here.

As for the bags, I think, as you’ve experienced, it’s easier to reuse paper bags than plastic because they are sturdier, don’t break as soon as plastic, and you generally receive fewer of them to hold the same number of purchases at the store. I’ve used cut-up paper grocery bags for wrapping packages to send in the mail because they are so sturdy. Unfortunately, the grocery stores around here don’t seem to have them, or if they do, they are the kind without handles, which are pretty akward if you have to walk with them for any real distance, as I do.

For plastic produce bags, I think any plastic bag will do, transparent or not. I’ve used white ones before, and the cashier just peeked inside and didn’t give me any trouble about it. But you are right — the transparent ones are less of hassle for everyone involved.

If you want to make your own, the lighter the material the better, since you will be charged by weight for most produce, and your bag counts as weight! I’d say go with cheap muslin (harder to see through) or mesh (harder to sew). I bet your SIL got some of these, which look like a pretty good deal to me.

Oh, and the garbage bags: yeah, I use plastic. I hate that I have to buy plastic bags for the very purpose of throwing them away, but I haven’t found a good alternative yet. I do reuse plastic grocery bags for the trash can in the bathroom since it’s small enough.

Hope that all helps!

Comment by Danica

[…] may remember that our toilet broke. The pipe that connects the tank to the bowl rusted out, and since they don’t make toilets […]

Pingback by My Green City Life Blog » 1.6 gallons, baby!

[…] water usage. The water-saving measures we took were passive (old, water guzzling toilet broke so we got a new one) or for other reasons (got a portable washing machine that uses less water than […]

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