Thursday, April 16, 2009

Indoor Plumbing

Now, I'm not going to claim that indoor plumbing can't be USEFUL. In dense cities, modern sewer systems and sanitary drinking water systems have saved countless lives. Prior to indoor plumbing and the advent of the Crapper™, human waste was dumped in the street, where it spread infectious diseases and often contaminated nearby water supplies. I'm not saying that new homes shouldn't be equipped with plumbing systems or that plumbing should be ripped out of existing homes. Indoor plumbing, however, has created a whole new set of social and environmental dilemmas, and its value in your own life may be overrated. If you have to, you can probably get by without it.

Indoor plumbing does two things: It brings fresh, safe water into the home and it carries liquified waste out. The unfortunate effect, however, is that it encourages the abuse of both systems. People with plumbing tend to use way more water than they need, and they produce far too much liquid waste. Given the availability of nearly free, effortlessly-obtained water, consumers will use hundreds of gallons a day rather than the couple of gallons that could get by with. At the other end, they are producing huge amounts of waste water, which has to be run through a resource-intensive treatment process. They are also flushing just about anything into the sewer, not just toilet paper but garbage, gum, cigarette butts and anything else that will fit, accompanied by countless wasted gallons of flush water.

While human waste dumped in the public gutter is a bad thing for both the environment and society, the same waste dumped on biologically active land—in reasonable amounts—is generally good. Urine is moderately poisonous to most life forms, but when animals pee, even big ones like cattle, the land manages to deal with it. On the other hand, the land loves shit! It's great fertilizer, and there's a whole host of flora and fauna prepared to deal with it.

Modesty aside, is it better to relieve yourself in bushes or in the Crapper? From an environmental standpoint, probably the bushes! You're not wasting any water, and your shit is being put to good use! Of course, if a hundred people used the same bush, there might be disease and overload issue, but if it's just you, no problem!

Where should you dispose of your toilet paper? You could bury it and let nature do its work, or you could put it in the trash. Most domestic trash now goes to landfills where it is essentially entombed for eternity. As distasteful as this may sound, landfills are the most environmentally benign disposal system we currently have (apart from the recycling of high-value materials). If you flush your t.p. down the john, there has to be a process at the other end to filter it out—at which point it is probably going into a landfill anyway.

On the input side, does an individual human really need to run through 100s of gallons of clean water a day? It's amazing how much you can do with just a gallon or two with a little thought and ingenuity. The most important thing we need water for is drinking, but that usage rarely reaches even a gallon a day unless you're sweating like a pig. (Do pigs actually sweat?) Of course, a gallon won't run a modern dishwasher or washing machine or give you a decent shower, but your need for those things may not be as pressing as you think.

Even if you have indoor plumbing right now, you may someday encounter circumstances when you won't have it. In that case, you get along better than you think! Below are various tips and observations that might be helpful. (Some of them are drawn from my other blog, Homeless by Choice.)
  1. You don't need water to brush your teeth, only toothpaste and a toothbrush. Your own saliva provides all the wetting you need. You don't need to rinse your mouth afterwards; just spit. (Toothpaste is non-toxic and harmless, should a little residue remain in your mouth.) Water is USEFUL only to rinse off your brush when you are done, but you don't need much. If you are unable to rinse your toothbrush for several days, it may get a little crusty, but you can still use it.

  2. The need for a dishwasher is generally the result of having TOO MANY dishes. (See dishwashers - automatic.) If you have only one set of dishes per person, you might end up not washing as much and eliminating the need for the mass washing.

  3. In the developed world, the pendulum has swung from "unsanitary" conditions to "hypersanitary" conditions. That is, when we have the resources we now insist that things be much cleaner than they have to be for any genuine health need. For example, you use a glass once, then put it in the dishwasher. Why can't you use the same glass all day? There's no real sanitary reason why not, just a cultural "ewwww" factor. Our epidemic of hypersanitation is encouraged in part by commercial marketing, which always has a product to sell you to address it. (To sell you the product, marketers first have to create the need.)

  4. "Germs" are a marketing invention and don't really exist. Instead you have two potential disease causing agents: viruses and bacteria. You can never eliminate them entirely, and your body has defenses against both. In fact, your body needs regular exposure to viruses and bacteria to keep its defense systems in tune. If something you touch is covered with "germs," it doesn't necessarily increase your risk of disease, and your health is not necessarily improved by continuously washing everything you come in contact with.

  5. In general, you're not going to catch any diseases from viruses and bacteria emitted by your own body, only those from other people's bodies that happen to be infected with diseases you haven't been exposed to. If there are millions of bacteria on every square inch of your bathroom, that's not necessarily a health risk if they're all your bacteria. Likewise with the viruses and bacteria of your immediate family. Within a household, there are so many vectors for disease, like kissing, that you're going to be sharing "germs" anyway, so keeping your home surfaces sanitized is irrelevant.

  6. It is absolutely insane to produce a half cup of urine and flush it down with four gallons of clean water! There has to be a better way! If public norms were not an issue, you could keep a pee bottle and dump it only once a day. I'm not saying this is right for you, but if you have an opportunity to not waste so much water, maybe you should try it. (Pee in the bushes!)

  7. You don't produce so much urine—and thus don't have to flush so often—if you simply don't drink so much. People in the modern world tend to drink far more than they actually need: quarts of drink per day rather than the few ounces of water they can usually get buy with (except when sweating). This is due largely to their caffeine addiction, which is epidemic throughout the world. People also insist on drinks with every meal, which is also unnecessary. If your pee is more clear than yellow, you're probably drinking more than you need. When you limit your fluid intake, it is amazing how long you can go without a bathroom break.

  8. Everyone needs to bathe, but probably not as often as most people do. If you feel you must shower twice a day, then indoor plumbing is necessary, but if 2-3 times a week is enough for you, you might be able to "rent" a shower—say, by using a health club. How often should you bathe? Since the main issue is usually odor and its social effect, not health per se, you need to smell yourself to find out. Admittedly, this isn't easy, but there has to be a certain time frame where offensive body odors kick in (two days? two weeks?). If you bathe more often than that, you aren't getting much benefit from it.

  9. Health clubs are great places for personal hygiene without the need for plumbing of your own. You can use all the hot and cold water you care to, while someone else pays for it and maintains the infrastructure.

  10. In situations where you have little water for dishwashing, disposable plates, cups and utensils might do the trick. You might also be able to use non-disposable plates and cups and simply wipe them off with a paper towel instead of washing. Again, there's no reason to fear "germs" on your plate if you will be the next one using it.

  11. Food residue that has dried onto your plate may be unsightly, but it isn't a health risk. Bacteria doesn't grow in a dry medium!

  12. When bacteria does grow on spoiled food, it may produce toxins. For example, you may get sick from drinking a cup of spoiled milk. You won't get sick, however, if there's just a thin layer of milk residue on your glass, even if it looks unsightly. This type of bacterial growth is different (and a lot more benign) than the bacteria passed between people as disease agents.

  13. If you have no plumbing of your own, you can wash your clothes just as well at a facility called a "Laundromat". This is a commercial establishment available in most cities and towns where you "rent" washing machines and dryers by placing coins in them. The price may seem high, but it probably beats the monthly cost of owning a washing machine. Commercial washers usually use water much more efficiently than home washers do, and they may work better.

  14. You can stretch out your visits to the Laundromat by not changing your clothes and bedding so often. Do you need a new set of clothes every day, or can you stretch them out for several days? Maybe you should test for actual dirtiness (by appearance or smell) rather than just assuming.

  15. Shit stinks! That's one reason you can't just through it away in the trash. Surprisingly, shit in a plastic bag stinks even worse! That's because plastic prevents the dung from drying out, while it continues to pass odors. What doesn't stink? Shit wrapped in both plastic and aluminum foil! That's because foil passes no odors. Believe It... Or Not!™

  16. If you think throwing shit away in the trash is offensive, consider this: Baby diapers are routinely thrown in the trash. There's no other way!

  17. Urine stinks, but only under certain circumstances. It smells bad in humid corners where there is no opportunity for it to wash away (like in New York City subways). Urine doesn't smell in the desert or in the bushes, at least not enough to be detectable.

  18. Bottled water may be relatively expensive, but if you are very frugal with it, it could be less costly than plumbing over all. You can do even better if you bottle your own water from someone else's tap. That's usually free!
Some of these ideas can be applied even if you possess indoor plumbing, or you might use nearly all of them if you are camping or traveling.

Whatever happened to the good old outhouse? Modern building codes and environmental regulations have run it out of business. Same with the septic tank. Biologically, these seemed like pretty good ideas: The waste had a chance to decay naturally, then was returned to the environment in relatively small doses.

Industrialized civilization can't tolerate these ad-hoc solutions. The trouble with modern law and environmental regulation is they demand the same solutions for everyone, regardless of the circumstances. We can't let you pee in the bushes, the reasoning goes, because if EVERYONE peed in the bushes, there would be chaos. We can't tolerate people living without plumbing, because if everyone did it there would be disease epidemics.

Building codes and environmental regulation have certainly improved public health compared to medieval times, but they have also resulted in absurdities, like the U.S. Park Service spending huge sums on high-tech, supposedly environmentally-friendly toilets in their parks, replacing the traditional outhouse. Heaven forbid some human should shit in the woods! While masses of people living together have to have plumbing codes and a thousand other regulations, it doesn't mean these rules are best for you or that you are damaging anything by evading them.

You are not "everyone". You are one person, and as long as you are not inviting a hundred people to pee in the same bush you are, you should feel free to find solutions that work for you. If no one sees you and the actual impact on the environment is nil, then go ahead and drench that bush! If it's civil disobedience, then so be it.

Someone has to stand up to The Man!

36 comments:

  1. In addition to your blogs and in response to this particular topic -- take note of "the humanure handbook" by Joseph Jenkins of PA. Anyone who gets as far as understanding the truth behind these blogs should understand the correct handling of human waste (and the sacred nature of water) --
    The pdf is available free on the internet and it is a life changing book, essential for the future -- like these blogs.

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  2. I not only drink out of the same cup all day, oftentimes I drink out of the same cup for multiple days. I mainly just drink tea anyways. To take it one step further, when I get a paper cup or plastic cup from a restaurant, I will drink out of that for a few days too. I hardly ever do dishes!

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  3. I didn't read the whole thing, but I stopped when I saw you write that toothpaste is non-toxic. Clearly you are uninformed and therefore I will not waste time reading the entire article.

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    Replies
    1. Brush with baking soda then. I've been doing that every day since I was a small child and my dentist has told me my teeth are more healthy than many.

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  4. I agree with much of what you say - it's definitely stupid that we humans make tapwater safe enough to drink, and then we sit on it and flush it away.

    But your points 5 & 6 are dangerously incorrect. There is no need for "antibacterial" everything of course. A household can be adequately clean with a bucket, hot water, and ordinary soap or dishwashing detergent, and we do not need to live in a sterile environment. But you still need to clean a home, to remove the MAJORITY of bacteria.

    e-coli is the bacteria found naturally in a normal, healthy person's lower gut. It causes no problem whatsoever in your poop. But get that stuff onto your hands and whoever eats the next meal prepared will risk an amazing case of gastroenteritis - "stomach flu" - it simply causes havoc in the stomach. Depending on their health to begin with, it can be DEADLY.

    e-coli in the urinary area is also a big big problem which brings me to your point 6. Limiting the amount of liquid you drink can cause three problems. Firstly kidney stones. More painful than childbirth, you'll only have to have one attack in your life and you will NEVER willingly limit your liquids ever again.

    Second is urinary tract infections (UTI) caused by bacteria making their way inside. Without flushing the "pipeline" properly at least 4-5 times a day, this is a real risk. And it feels like pissing razor blades. As soon as you've pissed razor blades, you feel like you're bursting to go again - repeat, scream, etc. Not fun. Not to mention the risk of the UTI turning into a kidney infection. You don't want that kind of thing leading to damage because you'll end up on lifetime dialysis (not really compatible with camping and living frugally).

    Third - people with limited liquids depress their "thirst" awareness so don't feel thirsty even if they're dehydrated. You know the issues with that, but it also fools the brain into hunger. This can lead people to overeat when they really should be having a glass of water.

    Urine should be on the clear side of yellow. If it's yellow any time other than when you've just woken up, then drink more water. It might not be convenient to drag up to a campsite, but it is generally free, and it's the single simplest thing a home-free person can use to maintain their health.

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  5. Wow, I have never before thought of packing human shit in plastic and aluminum foil. You Have Truly Opened My Eyes to the wonder that is the Universe!

    You could go one step further and glue all the seams together to make it totally hermetic, like a shit burrito!

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  6. We now live in a modernized world where we have convenience at our fingertips and the help of plumbing experts when we need them, such as http://247plumbingco.com.

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  7. pigs don't sweat.[1]

    source:
    1.^ Bracke, M. (2011). Review of wallowing in pigs: Description of the behaviour and its motivational basis. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 132: 1-13 doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2011.01.002

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    Replies
    1. You might not need indoor plumbing but as we all know it makes life a lot more comfortable and easy! Imagine life without an indoor toilet, having to go outside like your grandparents probably did to visit the loo in the dead of the freezing cold winter! No more hot baths with music, candles and a glass of wine to soothe the stress of a working day away. Shall I go on?

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  8. One topic you did not address was the safety of women and children that are forced into open defecation situations. Worldwide many women and children are raped and/or kidnapped. I am thankful for indoor plumbing and my safety. I don't take it for granted.

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  9. After reading this article I would strongly urge you to seek professional psychiatric help. And have your kidneys checked, they are [probably begging for mercy at this point. But seriously, I think you may have some mental imbalances, you should get that checked out.

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  10. Thanks for the tips on how to live like a barbarian from the dark ages, but I'm going to embrace modern life and the civilized notion of bathing everyday and not saving my urine in jars to save water that's recycled anyway.

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  11. Who the hell wrote this piece of shit? Are you telling me to don't drink water to feel better with myself? You are lost, man, you should accept your emptiness and fill your soul with more than the crumbs of the rich people you would like to be like. And excuse my english, but I think you got the message. God night, and sorry for my honesty, but I'm sure you will keep going. P.D.: I read your article about marriage and its even wors than this one. But, as you do all the time, I'm just giving my opinion... Keep being happy, don't let me make you cry; I'm only a homeless who never took a risk in his whole life! None but freedom...

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  18. I enjoyed this as someone who moved I to a home and thought we could get the water running mucheck quicker than possible. We had an old well we could pump from to flush the toilet or bathe with. Potable water ca me from Neighbors down the road who were kind enough to let us fill our jugs from their well.
    It's not difficult to live without water. No one has told me I smell bad or need a shower. Washing your hair over a bowl of water you heated on a stove is actually fairly relaxing. I appreciate water so much more now. Waste alot less. Do dishes in a dish pan then use that water later for flushing in a bucket. Perfect

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  19. I enjoyed this as someone who moved I to a home and thought we could get the water running mucheck quicker than possible. We had an old well we could pump from to flush the toilet or bathe with. Potable water ca me from Neighbors down the road who were kind enough to let us fill our jugs from their well.
    It's not difficult to live without water. No one has told me I smell bad or need a shower. Washing your hair over a bowl of water you heated on a stove is actually fairly relaxing. I appreciate water so much more now. Waste alot less. Do dishes in a dish pan then use that water later for flushing in a bucket. Perfect

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  25. اعمال الفنين الذين يقومون باعمال التسريب تتم بدقة تامة حيث لدينا في
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام الاليات والاجهزة الحديثة التي تساعدهم في اكتشاف ذلك بدون اي تكسير او تدمير فاعمال كشف التسربات لدينا في
    شركة كشف تسربات بالدمام تتم عندما باحترافية كاملة دون اللجوء الي اعمال تقليدية كل هذه الخدمات لا تلقها الا مع شركة ركن البيت التي لديها كل اهتمام بالاعمال التي تقدمها لدينا نفس الخدمات في مدينة الرياض بواسطة البحث عن شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض التي نقوم بها بجدية تامة للوصول الي رضاء العملاء فنحن في شركة كشف تسربات بالرياض نعطيك كافة الضمانات التي تعطيك الصلاحية في الحصول علي عمل سليم


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  26. كما تقدم الشركة شركة القائد عميلى العزيز اتصل بنا على شركة القائد وسوف نصلك اينما كنت نحن نهتم بالعميل جدا افضل شركة تنظيف بيوت بالدمام تنظيف منازل كبير يتم العامل بتنظيف الشقق باحدث المنظفات ويقوم بتنظيف الحوائط والارضيات على اكمل وجة لان  الشقه الكبيرة تحتاج الى عمال ممتازون وعمال جيدون فى مجال التنظيف ولزم الشقه الكبيرة تحتاج عمال كتير جدا لان الشقة الكبيرة تحتاج الى شركة القائد لان شركة القائد لديها عمال كتير جدا وهم يعملون فى شركتنا منذ سنوات كثيره جدا ويقوم بتنظيف المطابخ على اكمل وجه وتنظيف الشقق الصغيره عن طريق التنظيف بالمطهرات ويوجد لدين فى الشركة كل عامل لهو جوند يتم التنظيف بهاذا الجوند لاداعى للقلق شركة تنظيف بالدمام ويقوم المنظف بتنظيف الحمامات على اكمل وجة حيث ان عمالنا لديهم الخبرة فى تنظيف الحمامات الكبيرة ام الصغيرة ونحن افضل شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام التنظيف هو عبارة عن تنظيف البيت كامل ويشمل جميع التنظيف شركتنا هى تعمل على تنظيف الفلل والشقق بالدمام عميلى العزيز اذا كنت تريد افضل شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام اتصل بنا على افضل شركة فى الدمام اتصل بنا على افضل شركة تنظيف بالرياض ونحن نعمل داخل وخارج بجازان شركتنا تعمل فى جميغ انحاء المملكة العربية السعودية كما نقدم لكم خدمة التنظيف بجازان على اكمل وجة وفى الفترة الاخيرة تعد شركة القائد من افضل وارخص الشركات الموجودة فى جازان وفى الخبر ونحن نعمل فى الخبر وفى جازان وفى جميع انحاء المنطقة الشرقية شركة تنظيف بجازانعمال شركة القائد فى بالدمام يعملون على المكافحة باحدث الاجهزة الحديثة الموجودة فى شركة القائد نحن فى شركتنا لدينا جميع العمال الذين يعملون فى المكافحة والرش بالدمام هذه الشركة هى الشركة الممتازه فى الدمام اتصل بنا الان على افضل شركة مكافحة النمل الابيض بالدمام نحن نعمل فى ينبع منذ اكثر من سنوات كثيرة شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام عمال شركة القائد يعملون فى المكافحة منذ اكثر من اعوام كثيرة جدا اتصل الان نصلك عبر الهاتف المحمول عميلى العزيز انت تعلم ان شركة القائد هى الشركة الوحيدة التى تمتلك كبر عدد فى بجازان من الاجهزة الحديثة والمعدات الموجودة فى شركة القائد نحن نعمل فى جازان وفى جميع انحاء المملكة العربية السعودية تقدم شركة القائد افضل وارخص شركة مكافحة الفئران والصراصير بجازان كما تقدم شركة القائد افضل شركة مكافحة حشرات بجازان افضل الخدمات فى جازان منها شركة مكافحة حشرات بجازان ونحن فى جازان نعمل على مدار 24 ساعة يومين ولا نمل من مكافحة الحشرات لان الحشرات هى الوحيدة التى تسبب للاطفال امراض كثيره وكما تقدم شركة القائد خدمةشركة تسليك مجارى بالرياض نحن افضل شركة تسليك مجارى بالرياض اتصل بنا على افضل شركة فى الرياض لان شركة القائد من الشركات التى تمتلك الخبرة والكفائه العالة وهى التى تمتلك اكبر عدد من الاجهزة التى تستخدمها فى مجال تسليك المجارى بالرياض. تقدم الشركة افضل شركة نقل اثاث بجازان شركة القائد هى التى تعمل فى بجازان باحدث الاجهزة الحديثة الموجودة فى جازان اتصل بنا على افضل شركة نقل اثاث بجازان نحن الافضل فى جازان شركتنا من الشركات الموجوده فى جازان هى الشركة الوحيدة التى تمتلك اكبر عدد من السيارات لنقل الاثاث ونقل العفش بجازان اتصل بنا الان على افضل شركة نقل اثاث بجازان نصلك اينما كنت وفى اسرع وقت ممكن.

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  28. من بين جميع الشركات تجد أن شركة الماسة الألمانية أفضل شركة لنقل العفش والأثاث حيث تعتبر الشركة افضل شركة نقل عفش بجدة فإذا كنت تبحث عن شركة نقل عفش بجدة فالماسة الألمانية هى من كبرى شركات نقل الأثاث والتى تمتلك أسطول من السيارات الحديثة والمتطورة والتى تساعددك على نقل العفش بكل سهولة ويسر كما أن الشركة تعتبر ارخص شركات نقل العفش بجدة فإذا كنت ممكن يبحون عن شركة نقل اثاث بجدة فلا تترد فى التواصل معنا عبر موقعنا الإلكترونى للتعرف على الخدمات الكثيرة والمفيدة التى تقدمها الشركة لكل عملائها

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