Before some of you get your panties all in a twist over the thought of avoiding the airplane lavatory, listen to Captain Liu Zhiyuan: "The energy used in one flush is enough for an economical car to run at least 10 kilometers." The motivation behind the airline's restroom request is economic--not unlike the airline industry everywhere else, China's airlines flushed 3 billion yuan away in the first half of the year due to rising fuel costs. But the environmental cost of mile-high poop is also more than just a drop in the toilet. Consider that a transatlantic flight for a family of four already creates more CO2 than that family would generate at home in an entire year, and that burning airplane fuel has a global warming effect 2.7 times your typical ground-based release of CO2. While the vacuum toilets used on airplanes are already pretty water-efficient, based on China Southern's figures (1 liter of fuel/flush) and the altitude effect, the CO2 released by these toilets per flush is about 14.27 pounds. We knew in-flight bathrooms were kinda dirty, but not this dirty.
We know that flying is quite a dirty business, but what about doing your own business at 30,000 feet? China Southern airline recently raised the question when it gently requested that passengers use the restroom prior to boarding, as Xinhua news agency reported last week.