The Selective Flush - "If It's Yellow..."

Close up of a flush lever on a toilet

richard johnson / Getty Images

A few weeks back we posted on the water-saving technique known as the Navy Shower. At the time, we briefly wondered whether the topic was right for TreeHugger, given many of our readers' interests in high-end, design-oriented sustainability solutions. The response, however, was huge - it seems many of you are also interested in those simple lifestyle changes that can shave so much off of your eco-footprint. It is in this spirit, then, that we now post on another simple action which can greatly reduce water shortage, and which will be familiar to many of you. Unlike the Navy Shower, this one doesn't appear to have a name, so, for now, we'll call it the Selective Flush (we'd be happy to hear some more imaginitive suggestions). The technique is probably best known by the phrase "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down." That's right - we are talking about the simple act of refraining from flushing the toilet each time you pee. In our experience, this habit tends to provoke strong oppinions, either for or against. Some see it as absolutely second nature, and argue that peeing in drinking water is a little obscene anyway, meanwhile others are inclined to find it revolting. A little while back Ken Livingstone, the always controversial Mayor of London, attracted strong criticism for advocating that Londoners should think before they flush. The Conservative Party's Spokesperson for the Environment argued at the time that the Mayor was going too far:

"Water use is clearly an important issue but the Mayor is being a tad alarmist with his request that Londoners do not flush the toilet unless it is absolutely necessary. If the issue of water usage is so great that we have to consider such unappealing solutions then why has the Mayor waited so long to act."

We recognise that this isn't going to catch on among everyone, but the more people open to trying it, the less social stigma will be attached. For those of you brave enough, we'd recommend a gentle start to ease the transition for any less-than-enthusiastic housemates/partners/visiting relatives. For example, you could start by flushing every other time, or only not flushing at night (thereby avoiding any conflict during surprise visits from the in-laws). It may also be worth keeping an eye on the weather - if it's hot, we say it may be worth allowing yourself that little extra flush (go crazy - you've earned it!).
Of course the Selective Flush can be used alongside low-flow toilets, increasing your water saving even further.

Is this kind of behavior just the norm at your house, or are you recoiling in absolute disgust right now? We'd love to know...