It’s World Toilet Day on 19th November. Now, you’d be forgiven for assuming this global event is all about crude jokes and potty humour (sorry not sorry for the pun), but it’s actually intended to turn our attention to something quite a bit more serious: sustainable sanitation.
Sustainable Development Goal 6.2 promises safe toilets for everyone by 2030. But according to the United Nations (UN), some 3.6 billion people are still living with poor-quality toilets that ruin their health and pollute their environment, as inadequate sanitation systems spread human waste into rivers, lakes and soil, which contaminates water resources.
We’re fortunate that in the UK our toilet infrastructure is generally solid and dependable, however most of us probably don’t give much thought to the way we use our toilets (we got the main gist of things when we were toddlers, right?). We don’t mean things like leaving the seat up, though, but things that can actually have some pretty significant – and surprising – impacts on the wider environment.
So next time you’re relieving yourself, consider trying some of the below tips to give a little bit of relief to the planet, too.
1. Install a water hippo (a water-saving device)
Flushing the toilet is one of the biggest water-wasting activities in the world, especially in the UK where flush water is very high quality. Newer toilets use as much as five litres of water per flush, while older toilets can use up to nine litres.
You can make a major dent in the amount of water you waste – without compromising on hygiene – by installing a cistern saver or ‘water hippo’. This little device sits neatly in your toilet cistern and saves up to three litres of water per flush by keeping hold of water that would otherwise be wasted.
Some UK water companies even offer free water-saving devices since climate change has caused the UK to witness increasing draughts recently, such as:
- Replacement shower heads – use less water without lowering the pressure
- Shower and tap inserts – make it easy to manage the flow
- Shower timers – help you stick to a schedule
- Toilet cistern bags – save water with every flush
These free water-saving products will help you save as much water as possible – and they’re easy to install!
When applying for these free water-saving devices, you will only be eligible for them from your own region's water supplier.
Some ask you to download the Get Water Fit app which is available for iOS and Android.
- Affinity Water offers customers options such as a free Buffaloo Cistern Bag, water-saving shower heads and a shower timer.
- Bristol Water offers one free water-saving kit per household including tap inserts, shower regulator and shower timer as well as swell gel for gardeners and a toothy timer.
- Cambridge Water offers water-saving kits via the Get Water Fit app.
- Essex and Suffolk Water offer a water-saving kit which includes free a shower regulator, shower timer and tap inserts.
- Portsmouth Water offers customers a selection of water-saving devices via Get Water Fit app.
- Severn Trent Water offers a free kit via the Get Water Fit app to customers as well as offering subsidised water butts for gardeners to collect rainwater.
- Southern Water customers can get free kits through the Get Water Fit app.
- South Staffs Water offer water-saving gadgets via the Get Water Fit app.
- SES Water customers can request free devices through the Get Water Fit app.
- South West Water customers can apply for a toilet cistern insert, replacement shower head and shower and tap inserts as well as a shower timer.
- United Utilities customers can receive a free water-saver pack via the Get Water Fit app.
- Welsh Water/Dwr Cymru Cyf use the Get Water Fit app to provide water-saving kits to their customers.
- Wessex Water customers can request a selection of water-saving devices on their website.
- Yorkshire Water customers can order a free water-saving kit including items such as a Flushsaver and LeakyLoo Detection Strips.
2. Change your toilet roll
Making toilet paper uses a lot of resources: energy, water, fuel for transportation, and so on, not to mention the paper itself – and it all gets flushed away. Considering the average person gets through 85 rolls a year, that’s quite a waste. But while we’re all about saving paper, we know that loo roll is the one area no one wants to make big sacrifices. Making a simple swap to a more sustainable toilet roll brand, however, can have a really positive impact. Here are some of our favourites:
3. Say no to plastic-heavy hand soap
Going to the loo should be synonymous with washing your hands (we hope), so soap is an integral part of the whole toilet ‘experience’. Liquid hand soaps are popular and super convenient, with the market growing significantly since COVID-19 and its big focus on hygiene. But these soaps are often heavily packaged in difficult-to-recycle plastic, much of which will end up in a landfill. Bar soap is the ideal zero-waste option, but if you love a liquid, consider making the switch to a refillable option instead. We love what these brands are doing:
4. Use greener cleaning products
The home cleaning market is big business, with no end of products promising sparkling results with minimal effort. The problem is, a lot of them are packed full of chemical nasties such as phthalates, parabens and ammonia, and because they’re usually flushed down toilets and sinks these chemicals end up in streams, rivers and seas, posing problems for wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, choose eco-friendly products that are designed to be kind to the environment as well as tough on grime.
5. Stop using your toilet as a bin
We put our humble toilets through a lot. As well as the intended, er, ‘materials’ that end up being flushed away, many of us are also guilty of flushing make-up wipes, cotton pads, sanitary items, blobs of hair from the shower drain… the list goes on. Our wastewater infrastructure is not designed to deal with these items, and so we end up with massive sewer blockages and pollution in local waterways. Get a small bathroom bin instead.
Alternatively, you can go one step further, and significantly decrease the amount of waste from your bathroom ending in a landfill with this easy trick:
6. Use the smaller button to flush liquid waste
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”. Pretty self-explanatory! There’s no need to flush between wees – it’s not harmful and could add up to a big water saving over the course of a day. But when it is time for a flush, if you have a dual flush system make sure you always use the smaller button to flush liquid waste – this uses a lot less water than a ‘big flush’.
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