Green Tip of the Week #14 – If it’s yellow, let it mellow

More and more, droughts and the resulting water restrictions are becoming a part of everyday life. Check out this drought map showing the current drought conditions in the United States. It’s rather startling.

This week’s green tip may gross some people out, but it’s something we practice in our house at least part of the time and is a great (and easy) way to conserve water. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow – if it’s brown, flush it down.” In other words, if you go #1, don’t flush. If you go #2, flush.toilet

Waste Not, Want Less has done some calculations to determine how much water could be saved by employing this simple technique.

“…let’s assume that most toilets in the U.S. are newer, and that the “average toilet” uses roughly 2 gallons per flush.

From personal experience, I’d be willing to bet that the average person goes to the bathroom about six times per day; five times to go number one, and another time to go number two. Obviously, this is going to vary from person to person, but let’s just stick with this guesstimate.

So, if we followed the ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow – if it’s brown, flush it down’ mantra, the ‘average’ person could save about 10 gallons of water per day. Multiply that by 300 million people in the United States, and that’s over 3 billion gallons of water saved each day. Over a year, that’s over 1 trillion gallons of water.”

Not too shabby for something so simple to do. I’m not advocating people do this at work or out in public because of health and cleanliness concerns, but it is something one could easily adopt at home whether it be all day, just in the evenings or just on the weekends. Every little bit helps.

So what about you? Do you let it mellow or would you consider it?

Have any green tips you’ve recently learned? Please email them to me and I may include your tip with a link to your site or blog in a future post. :)

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28 thoughts on “Green Tip of the Week #14 – If it’s yellow, let it mellow

  1. We follow this philosophy (hmmm.. philiosophy?) when DD is sleeping. Her crib is on the same wall as the toilet so sometimes the flush wakes her. Who knew we were being green at the same time?! I’ll definitely consider following that rule more often now.

  2. This has been used in our house for a long time but we have run into a few issues. 1) It can kinda stink. Some people have stinkier pee than others (i.e.my husband) so he doesn’t like it to linger even though he fully believes in this idea. And 2) we did this for so long that our toilet had this strange build up that was really hard to get off. I mean we flushed, hehe, but I guess we weren’t vigilant enough with the deep cleaning. Who knows. So, we are on and off again. I think getting rid of toilet paper might be our next step though. :)

  3. Ok, I just want to add, well my husband wants me to add that here in France the toilet system is a bit different. We have much less water in the bowl so their is less dilution of the urine. He thinks this explains our two problems above. Who knows…there is definitely water in our bowl but very little. In the states there is perhaps more?

  4. That’s so funny, I was just thinking about that this morning. Sadly we have an older toilet, and I know it takes a lot of water to flush. Letting the yellow mellow would help so much until we can get a new toilet (after too!)

  5. Well then my son has this down pat! LOL! We do this in my house but I agree with the comment on it getting a little stinky. It’s worse in our small bathroom because it gets warm in there. Oh, well it helps the environment!

  6. Apparently our toilets are different to yours too according to DH’s observations when he was there. We have less water in ours. We have a dual flush on ours so we can do a half flush. We could also get a stopper thingy that means you have to hold the button down to clear the pan and no longer.

    I’m not sure I could stand having asparagus wee sitting around too long. ;)

  7. amy, i have to agree that we have started doing this. partially to help the water bill, and i know that we are in a ‘drought’ area. :[
    hope that this helps, and you reach people with it!

  8. Growing up it was just my mom and I so I grew up not flushing every time but when I got older, went to college I got out of the habit since it isn’t exactly socially acceptable at this point and I was embarrassed to bring it up in a discussion with any of my roommates. In learning to become more green my fiance and I both read about the merits of not flushing as often and have without actually discussing the matter implemented. It saves both of us the embarrassment of having the discussion but still benefits the environment.

    You can see what else we are doing on our blog http://badhuman.wordpress.com

  9. First I want to say very good tip :)

    This made me laugh because a week or so ago I put a piece of toilet paper in the toilet and didn’t flush, Jacob went after to use the bathroom and threw up because he thought I forgot to flush. Crazy kid!!!

  10. We let it mellow as much as possible although my 3yo son doesn’t like to pee “on someone else’s pee.” And I agree with whoever said men have stinky pee–I wonder if it’s something biological or something, but man!!!

    BTW, 2 gallons a flush–at least here in the US–is very conservative, which makes your point on letting it mellow even more important. We have brand-new low water toilets and they use 1.6 gallons per flush. The ones at our old house were closer to 6 gallons–yikes!

    Getting rid of the toilet paper is an interesting idea. We already wash cloth dipes, so why not wash clothes used to wipe. Hmmm…

    Great post!

    :) Julie

  11. I think my sons do this more often than not, even though I am always after them to flush the toilet. It is an interesting idea, but I would like to know how people handle the smell. My boys are almost 7 and 3.5 and I have a 1-year-old boy who obviously does not use the potty yet. Man does their pee STINK!!! They also do not have the best – ahem – aim :) Anyway, I used your baking soda/vinegar suggestion and that helped a lot with the bathroom smell, but how about on a day to day (hour to hour) basis? Any suggestions for freshening the bowl if you use this mantra?

  12. Day old pee can get a little, crusty, shall we say. It’s seems to be worse the more dehydrated you are, so if you want to keep the stink down, drink more. But, then again, you’ll pee more.

    I hope someone out there has a solution for this urinary conundrum…

  13. I do this quite a bit – especially at night, because of the noise. I try it during the day, but Lauren will not pee in a dirty toilet. I’m working on her.

  14. I’ve done this for a while now…my husband on the other had isn’t a big fan, and still scolds me for not flushing! I’m work on him though…I’m working on him.

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  16. My husband and I had housemates for a while and we had this crunchier than thou thing going where it seemed to be a source of pride at who could go the longest without flushing. As the person who got stuck cleaning all the toilets I can say 4 people not flushing leads to a permanent funk on your toilet, even with an old fashioned US water-hog toilet to dilute things. And with 3 women the toilet paper builds up. I got to use the plunger a lot.

  17. LOL we started doing this out of necessity … fear that our twin toddlers would wake up from the flush since their room is right next to it! So glad to know we’ve been doing this green technique all along … found you through blog party, which I’m just now learning about. I’m a bit behind the times in all things life.

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  20. Found this post in search of help! So, please… if u can, Help! As Saltgirl says “…I can say 4 people not flushing leads to a permanent funk on your toilet…”

    This is true—no one ever tells u about that! Does ANYONE have ANY remedies 2 this? I don’t even know what type of deposit it is that builds up… mineral(s) of sorts? I want it gone, but not sure how 2 take care of it…

    In desperate need of help,
    CC

  21. So if you have an older toilet that uses a lot of water, you can reduce the volume of water used per flush by putting a brick or too (or some other object that will displace tank volume) in the reservoir tank.

  22. Regarding “If it’s yellow, let it mellow”, another approach would be to put an old plastic tub (e.g. 1kg margarine tub) in the bowl. Pee into that until its full (or too smelly), then flush.
    If you need to go for a #2, then turn out contents of tub first and flush after you have been. This approach means that you don’t have a nasty looking toilet. In addition, removal of the tub by taking it outside or throwing it away means that the toilet smells clean quickly and looks fine (e.g. if you have guests).

  23. Pingback: Just flush it | MotherCrone

  24. If you have a garden, then keep a compost heap (and keep it out if sight of neighbours). Peeing into a compost heap helps to decompose the plant matter and kitchen waste. Rats can be attracted to kitchen waste, but peeing into a compost heap keeps the rats away.

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