The Politics of Poop

| 3/3/2008 1:33:21 PM

ToiletMy leg shook slightly as I stepped up to the microphone in front of the Senate District 60 Democratic convention in Minneapolis on Saturday. The mayor of Minneapolis was in the room, and congressman Keith Ellison and Senate candidate Al Franken had recently finished speaking. Now it was the hoi polloi’s chance to make their voices heard by starting small constituencies of support for candidates and issues. One person said confidently, “Supporting Al Franken, clean energy.” I stood up nervously and said, “Bennett Gordon, uncommitted on candidates. No-Flush Toilets.”

The crowd burst into laughter.

The issue of no-flush toilets is meant to be funny: It’s a little toilet humor in politics to bring up a serious issue. The U.N. Development Programme reports that more than “1 billion people lack access to water and over 2.4-billion lack access to basic sanitation.” Some Americans, however, continue to flush up to seven gallons of potable water away with use of the toilet. That’s no joke.

When I floated the idea of supporting no-flush toilets at my local caucus a few weeks ago, a spirited discussion ensued. Initially, one man spoke up and yelled, “Not in my house!” Another person tried to fight the resolution by saying that water usage in Minnesota had nothing to do with the rest of the world. I disagreed, and others came to my defense. In the end the resolution passed nearly unanimously, with one abstention.

No Flush Toilet resolutionFrom that discussion, the resolution was put up for a vote at the Senate District convention. You can see the ballot at right.

I believe that change toward no-flush toilets can take place gradually. Retrofitting every house in America with waterless toilets would be costly and politically unfeasible. When building new government facilities, however, water-conserving toilets are entirely possible. In the long run, investing in environmentally responsible toilets would save the government money on water bills, increase funding for sustainable technologies, and pave the way toward a no-flush future.

Karen B
3/6/2008 7:14:11 AM

I think this is a very important issue. It has never made much sense to me that we use a precious, vital resource (water) to flush away our waste. There are many options for composting toilets and systems, including the Living Machine (which uses a system of plants and ponds for filtration of waster water on a community scale), electric models which take all the moisture out of the waste and leave a sawdust-like bi-product and others. I recently read of a composting toilet in Australia that uses earthworms in the process of digesting the waste and producing a usuable fertilizer as a bi-product (mentioned in an earlier post). That sounds like a much more sustainable approach than polluting our drinking water! My next remodel or new home will have a composting toilet. Thanks, Bennett, for having the courage to raise the issue and get it into the political forum (and take the jokes that inevitably come with that task!).

Justine Wilcox
3/6/2008 3:47:25 AM

composting toilets don't smell at all, the waste products never sit in a bowl, they drop far below and in addition there is a current of air circulating the whole time. Worms take care of it and the result is compost. No one loses, and you simply don't smell poop.

Erik H._2
3/5/2008 10:21:36 PM

Bennett Gordon: Revolutionary.

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