By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

It’s been a strange week. I’m blushing, because wherever I go, I am confronted by flushing.

First came news that actor and green activist Ed Begley is endorsing two composting toilets. Leave it to Ed to go where no man has gone before.

Ed Begley with a composting toilet made by Sancor Industries

I am glad that Begley continues to push the envelope. I assume he’ll be installing these at home, and he will find that composting toilets are at least as easy to incorporate as those stationary bikes he uses to power the TV.  I confess I don’t watch the Living with Ed show, but I am a fan of his green advocacy. Another product he’s endorsed, Bayes Waterless Car Wash, has become a favorite at our house. We save untold gallons of water, avoid sending contaminated runoff into the sewer system and still end up with sparkly cars.

Composting toilets save even more water, and reduce chemical pollution, compared with conventional toilets, which have their issues. In the sweep of history, it’s been a relatively short time that we’ve been using vast quantities of drinkable water to convey human waste to distant treatment plants. I won’t enumerate the problems with wastewater here; we all have heard about that. Pharmaceuticals are turning up in streams where treated wastewater is discharged; cities struggle with overflow issues when wastewater escapes prematurely during flooding and downpours.

Ultimately, the water we contaminate is returned to us, after being chemically treated and sifted through nature via the water cycle. Then we drink it.

Ed is endorsing the Envirolet and the Santerra Green, which use forced air, heat and microbes, or a small amount of water, to speed the breakdown of the waste. Treated using these methods, human waste soon becomes fertilizer. (Some sludge from traditional waste treatment plants also gets used as fertilizer, but the question remains: Could this be more efficiently done closer to home?).

So before you close the lid on composting toilets (or maybe after you close the lid), you should think about it, next time you’re in the john.

And something else to think about, is toilet cleaners. Stopping by one of the local Big Boxes this week, I did a quick status check of the green cleaning offerings. I was looking for Biokleen’s Soy Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Ecover’s  pine scented toilet cleaner (this one really packs a punch in the powder room), or something from Seventh Generation or Clorox GreenWorks.

I found a few bottles of the latter, lost in a sea of synthetic chemical cleaners.

A couple of these harsh products promised to get my toilet bowl “germ free.” This always makes me smile. Can someone please explain why I need my toilet bowl to be germ-free? I mean, I like it to be clean. But are we going to be rinsing the salad in there tonight? Are we aiming for sterilized water so Fido can drink it? Soaking it with bleach tablets will ensure his innards get cleaned!

This is germaphobia gone mad, and I mean that in all redundancy.

So I found a solution. Or rather a solution found me in an email the next day. Want a white, clean toilet bowl — that doesn’t have the ancillary effect of sending toxic chemicals out into the world to kill fish and create aquatic dead zones?

There’s a non-toxic, affordable and durable solution that stands in stark contrast to the chemicals and hyper-consumerism that would give us “germ free” toilet bowls.

It’s a magnet called the ChemFree Toilet Cleaner. This eco-friendly device attracts the metals in hard water to stop toilet rings.

Ingenious. I haven’t tried it yet. But I will. And that is all I have to say about toilets, for today.

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