Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mellow Yellow

Jeannie is a super girlfriend. Last year for my birthday she arranged for us to take tour of a zero-energy house in Bucks County, sponsored by the White Dog Cafe. It was great! I told her that this was one of the four facilities that I would like to take a tour of before I die, the other three being a recycling plant, a postal center, and a water-treatment plant.

Ever since I was young I wondered where my numbers one & two went when I flushed the toilet. It went down dirty...and came back clean! I was even more intrigued when I heard about the microbes, the UV light, and the filtration systems they used in the process. At St. Vincent's monastery in Latrobe, the monks had a problem with polluted water from the years of mining in the area. They worked with a local environmental group and devised a four-step natural filtration system using cattails. The water came out 98% pure. At Penn State, the Office of the Physical Plant's "waste dispersal" method, which sprayed filtered (but not potable) wastewater on local farmland as a fertilizer. And in the Middle East, desalination plants created potable water where there was none before. Spectacular!

I've always wanted a composting toilet--they seemed like a practical solution to water waste. But I've found a better way to conserve water!

I've tried to do the old "If it's yellow let it mellow" technique and it works fine. But it tends to leave rings around the bowl requiring more frequent cleaning. Not so bad. A haiku I wrote once:

Hakuin told me:
Enlightenment comes to those

with a clean toilet.

But I wouldn't mind less time cleaning the bathroom either. So I turned the water valve off and flushed. The tank emptied, but didn't fill back up again, leaving only a small pool of water in the bottom (If you don't know how toilets work, check it out, it's all about equalizing and the vacuum effect). Now when I pee and leave it be, it is not as unsightly and does not make rings, making flushing only for number twos that much easier. Brilliant!

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