If you don’t need to flush it, you shouldn’t.

Photo by Britt Selvitelle | flickr.com

Most people have flushed something down the toilet that they weren’t supposed to. When I was younger, I commonly flushed unwanted creepy crawlies down the toilet after removing them from my house with a kleenex or tissue. It seemed justifiable at the time since as an 8 year old, I, like many others, was worried that if I didn’t flush the bugs down the toilet they might come back alive and seek their revenge. Well, maybe you didn’t worry about that last part and I just watched a lot of sci-fi movies as a kid, but the more important issue here is flushing pests down the toilet is actually not justifiable, along with many other things that we flush down toilets.  In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Ipsos Reid, we Canadians have a lot of bad behaviours when it comes to water consumption and toilet use.

Commissioned by RBC, Unilever and the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the United Nations Water for Life Decade, the 2011 Canadian Water Attitudes Study has some intriguing and concerning facts about Canadian water usage. The study found that on average each Canadian uses 329 litres of fresh water a day (twice the amount of the average European), but only 4% of Canadians were actually conscious of this fact. Additionally, only 16% of Canadians knew that we currently do not have the world’s largest fresh water supply (Brazil actually lays claim to that title). As a whole, most Canadians appear comfortable with our fresh water supply with 77% of us saying that we are at least somewhat confident that there is enough water to meet the country’s long term needs.

The statistics start to get more alarming when they look into the bad behaviours of Canadians. 70% of Canadians said that they do flush materials down the toilet that could have been disposed of elsewhere. Hair, leftover food and dead pests were the leading items that Canadians flushed down the toilet with over one third of us admitting to doing so. Other leading problem categories were cigarette butts, dead pets (i.e. goldfish), women’s hygiene products, condoms, dental floss, bathroom products and baby wipes. Equally as concerning is that 16% of Canadians stated that they flush harmful materials down the toilet such as drugs & medications, toxic chemicals and nail polish remover.

Canadian toilets range from 3 to 20 litres used per flush, with the average being 7 litres. No matter what the number is, it seems like a lot of water just to ensure that ant who was eating crumbs in your kitchen gets sent to a watery grave if you ask me. Surprisingly, 87% of Canadians claim that they are personally making efforts to help water conservation. With the information published in the Canadian Water Attitudes study, I would say it appears that we need to step up our game. Whether people make small changes or big changes, every little bit helps. Don’t flush waste materials down the toilet that can be disposed of elsewhere, even things like food and facial tissues. Just because something is biodegradable in the long run doesn’t mean that it isn’t causing damage to plumbing systems, causing pollution in water systems or increasing the amount of energy needed to treat our water. Make the conscious choice and just release the bug outside or put the tissue in your green bin!

You can view a copy of the 2011 Canadian Water Attitudes Study with the link below. It has a lot of great information and statistics about Canada’s current uses of water!