Finally, my hard work and dedication have paid off, and I’ve landed my dream internship. Every time I walk to work in Center City, I cannot help but feel like a real professional, fitting in with the rest of the working world making its way to work on an early weekday morning. I exude professionalism with every keystroke, every step and every trip to the restroom.
Speaking of restrooms, this office has a very nice one. But I do have one small, and arguably trivial, gripe about it.These toilets mean business. They take about a nanosecond to flush. And once everything
is flushed down, they continue to flush two or even three more times. Never has the toilet only flushed once for me. And I’ve also noticed that it flushes multiple times for other people as well.
Now, let me interrupt myself to make a few things clear. First, I have never performed a number two in the office bathrooms, so this story has nothing to do with courtesy flushes and clogging toilets. Second, I do not think about toilets more than the average person, but I do consider myself more environmentally concerned than the average person.
So with that said, I got to thinking. How much water was being wasted because these toilets automatically flushed? Giving the benefit of the doubt, let’s say these toilets were installed after 1994 and the passage of the Federal Energy Act, which caused all new toilets to use only 1.6 gallons per flush rather than 3.5 gallons used by pre-1994 toilets.
Every day that I use the restroom twice and it flushes two extra times, I am using 6.4 gallons of water, 3.2 more gallons of water than actually needed. Now, multiply 3.2 by about 45 people, comprising just half of the floor where I work. Add another 45 to cover the other half of the floor and multiply that by 40 floors. This brings us to an approximate, grand total of 7,560 superfluous gallons of water used every day in that office building.
And that is only one day. The total amount of surplus water flushed in that office building for one year (not including Saturdays or Sundays) is 1,874,880 gallons. That’s just one building in Philadelphia.
Yes, I do know that flushed water gets recycled, but it is easy for people to be conscious of the water we consume on a daily basis.
I know what you’re thinking. And I’m not going to reprimand everyone for taking long showers. No, I’m not my crazy high school biology teacher, who forced his wife and children to take showers in less than two minutes. That is nothing short of ridiculous.
But I would suggest that people should become mindful of how to curb their daily water use. Here are a few suggestions. When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the tap run while scrubbing the dishes. I’ve seen countless roommates, family members and friends do this, and I cringe every time. When washing your hands, put the soap in your hand first. Then turn on the water, not the other way around. And if anything is leaking, fix it as soon as possible.
If you do have an older toilet that uses 3.5 gallons of water, you can place a brick or an empty milk gallon bottle or other drink into the back of your toilet. The toilet will fill up with less water every time you flush due to the space that the brick or bottle will fill.In the end, just think about these facts. Approximately 408 billion gallons per day are used in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. And according to “The Guardian,” due to increasing population, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s people will not have access to clean water.
Paying attention to how much unnecessary
water you use is the first step to a better
water-consciousness. Being resourceful shouldn’t force you to change your daily habits.
All it requires is a few simple steps that, if done by many, would make an extraordinary difference.
Morgan Ashenfelter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.