Let’s not be squeamish

March 1, 2009

Toilet_god
(image source: World Toilet Organisation website)

Did you know that 30% of a household’s water literally goes down the toilet?

In a world where clean water is increasingly scarce (just look at Australia), can we really justify flushing up to 13 litres of drinking water every time we use the humble toilet? Tricky.

HippoThis is an area ripe for smart new designs – some as simple as Hippo the Water Saver, a 3 litre bag you fill with water and put in the cistern, reducing the amount of water flushed by the same amount. Others get more complicated.

Design is not just limited to the object itself; it also means putting in a place a better set of incentives so people internalise the value of the water they waste. That’s what the Australian government is mulling over with its plan of a toilet tax.

Designers have a responsibility not to be squeamish. Some of humanity’s most fiendish problems are in its most socially difficult areas: waste treatment (human and otherwise), abusive working conditions (such as recycling of e-waste in third world countries) and sex (could a better designed condom slow down AIDS?).

We forget the impact of the things we don’t talk about.

What else are we pushing out of sight?

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