Dual flush toilets are an easy start to changing behaviors

Taylor Sheldon, Contributing Writer

I was using the first-floor bathroom in Bertrand Library the other day when I stood up and reached for the full flush option, quickly realizing that there was none. Having just spent six months in the “land down under,” I reflected on the stark difference between American and Australian toilets. During my time abroad, I became accustomed to a dual button toilet with a two-flow flush option. The different buttons provide different levels of water flow; one button only uses half the amount that the other uses. Australians seem to be more aware of the need to preserve our natural resources. After my experience at the library, my interest was piqued regarding different ways to create a stronger culture of conservation at the University.

Water is a vital and limited resource. The United States consumes the highest rate of water per capita, 82 liters more per day than Australia. The repercussions of this excessive water use are apparent on the West Coast. California and Australia have many parallels including climate, population, and culture, so one would naturally assume that they use roughly the same amount of water per capita. Interestingly, California uses approximately 200 more liters of water per capita per day than its counterpart. In recent years, Australia has reduced water consumption by 35 percent through the use of low flush toilets, coupled with outdoor water restrictions and more stringent water pricing.

Implementing the dual flush toilet system is an easy way to halve our water consumption at the University. This system has been installed in Academic West and in the Commons, which is a great first step. However, it is crucial to retrofit the older buildings in order to see large monetary and sustainability gains. Not only will this installation reinforce a culture of conservation, it can also be used as a marketing and selling point for the University. Harvard is leading by example and making large strides in terms of sustainability. It recently installed new dual flush toilets in four of its libraries, where each flush uses only one gallon of water as opposed to 1.6 or 3.5 gallons of water. The University should do the same.

The University’s mission is education, which needs to occur both inside and outside of the classroom. If we want to create a living, learning laboratory, we need to ensure that all resources contribute to the learning experience. Installing the dual flush toilet system will promote a culture of conservation and develop sustainable behaviors and practices while providing students with a broader environmental awareness.

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