Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 84: The Pee Bee: A Look Inside the Lindner Hall Mens' Room

Tony: You should really look in Lindner Hall mens' room!
Megan: No, that's okay. Really.

After writing my last posting, I decided to take Organic123's suggestion and use an old milk jug to store urine. [Megan says,"Oh my god! You are not really going to tell people about that, are you?"] Rather than keeping a full gallon jug on the sink, I grabbed a half-gallon jug and set it behind the toilet. [Megan says,"Please tell me you're not going to write about this on the Internet. For everyone to see. Your pee jug?!? Please. No."] It fit perfectly and could not easily be seen. Megan went a full day without noticing it and, after I told her it was in there, still couldn't find it. [She now claims she still wishes she did not ever know about this.] I smiled proudly at the end of the day while carrying it triumphantly to fertilize our two new pear trees. [Megan was not smiling.]

While this is a good solution for the home [Megan disagrees], it isn't suitable for the workplace. I doubt that even my greenest colleagues in the Environmental Studies program would approve of me keeping a urine jug in the science building. Fortunately, toilet technology is advancing such that less and less water is required for each flush at work. In fact, the urinals in the brand new Lindner Hall building at Elon are waterless. With the Sloan WES-5000, there is no flushing at all.


Eric Henry, owner of the ultra-green T-shirt company, TS Designs, explained to me how these work during a recent field trip there. A small cartridge at the base of the urinal releases just a bit of a chemical solution that is lighter than human urine. This chemical floats above the urine and "seals" it off from the air, preventing any odor. (You can look at Eric's own waterless urinal and grey-water toilet on the TS Design's virtual tour.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these urinals is the image of a cartoon bee placed just above the cartridge. A short NPR story covered the resurgence of this pee bee which had been used on toilets in Britain a hundred years ago. While one could put instructions on the wall telling men where to aim to maximize the urinal's effectiveness, I think William Szilveszter's blog summed up the arguments in favor of the pee bee.
What do you think men do when they stand there and pee? What do you think they think about? Well, if you think world problems are solved at those wall-mounted, porcelain receptacles, think again. Most men seem to focus on aiming their streams. Yes ladies, it’s true. Whether we admit it or not, we aren’t doing much more than playing “First One to Erode the Urinal Cake” or pretending we are Chief Fireman Baker, a gruff loaner (sic) with a heart of gold who also happens to be Urinal Town’s only hope to quell a fire that threatens to decimate the local orphanage.
Equally interesting were the toilets in Lindner's restrooms. These featured the UPPERCUT® Manual Dual-Flush Flushometer: down for a regular 1.6-gallon flush, up for a 1.1-gallon flush.

UPPERCUT Manual Dual-Flush Flushometer

Comparing this to my home toilet's 3.0-gallon flush, both options are saving a lot of water. Still, I'm not sure why they opted to have a complex flushing handle with wall-mounted instructions when they could have just set it for 1.1-gallons and let people flush twice, if need be. I also wondered why they bothered to install dual-flush handles in the mens' room. How often would a man use the toilet to whiz when there are perfectly good urinals (with bees!) right there? Regardless, I am very proud of Elon University for being very conscious about it environmental impact and for installing such forward-thinking plumbing.

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