Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Hint for Eco-Tourists: Look in the Loo....

Here's another eco-tale from my recent trip to Israel, in the realm of plumbing.
Our home's spanking new American-issue low flush toilet works poorly and frequently clogs. I complained to the plumber who installed it, and he shrugged, replying that his gets stopped up all the time, too. If I had wanted a high-quality one, I would have needed to spend an extra $500 or so, and as far as my query about a dual-flush toilet? He'd never heard of them.... Talk about a way to make Americans resentful and cynical about conservation!
Israel is way ahead of us on this front, perhaps not surprising since Israel very conscientiously conserves its precious water. (I heard Alon Tal say that Israel reuses 74% of its gray water, the highest % in the world. Maybe someone can document that?)
As a designer, I was delighted by the Israeli system's simplicity, two of which I've uploaded. In Don Norman's influential book, The Design of Every Day Things, he emphasizes how crucial it is that the process for using a widget be contained in the design itself, so it guides the user. His bad examples are water faucets. When you look at these designs, you know exactly what to do.

In the second design, the controls are wall-mounted. Again, the image makes it perfectly clear what it wants you to do. A third style had a conventional lever, but it is doubled, with a larger black lever nesting a smaller chrome lever. (One doesn't always have a camera along, so I don't have a picture of that one!) They work just fine, not like their American counterparts.
Our American attitude that we are the most technologically advanced culture around is plain wrong. We are way behind the Kyoto-signing countries on a host of measures, and while we are making a little progress, we have a huge way to go. Decent dual-flush toilets should not be beyond our ability!


Amy May said...

Our synagogue in Burlington VT just installed dual flush toilets as part of an upgrade of the building. They come with a little sign that explains how the lever works.

Anonymous said...

Last week I shopped at the new (since September) L.L. Bean store in Burlington MA. The ladies' room there has a dual flush toilet, the first I've seen. Thought you'd like to know that at least one enterprise in the States is using the technology. The design was slightly different from what you described: a single lever that you lift up or press down, as appropriate.