Red Ken's green manifesto: do not flush the lavatory
Tuesday 02 May 2006
David Cameron cycles to work, followed by a chauffeur-driven car that carries his briefcase and work shoes. Sir Menzies Campbell has bidden a tearful farewell to his gas-guzzling Jaguar. Tony Blair had the lamp outside 10 Downing Street's famous front door fitted with a low-energy bulb. But Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, has taken the battle for the environment to an entirely new level.
For the past 15 months, Mr Livingstone revealed to The Independent, no one in his household has flushed the toilet after urinating.
The capital's first citizen has, he explains, been conducting an experiment based on the old adage "if it's yellow, let it mellow". It has worked so well that he now hopes all Londoners will follow his example.
Polling evidence commissioned by the Mayor's office says that climate change ranks almost equal with crime and the cost of living among Londoners' top concerns. Yet London is a wasteful city, expending millions of gallons of purified water washing cars, spraying lawns, or flushing urine away. The Mayor sees his pioneering experiment as a chance to persuade Londoners to change their wasteful habits.
"There is quite a bit that you can do by changing building design, and so on but the really big gains come from changing lifestyles. If people drive a little less, cycle a little more, flush their toilets less, make sure they have got light bulbs that are energy efficient, and a whole range of changes like that, it will make a whole lot of difference."
He added: "If we continue to waste the amount that we do, London will run out of water. We use about 30 per cent more water than French and German people. Londoners use more water than anyone else in Britain and mainly, we just waste it. A third of all the water you use you flush down the loo, and actually there is no earthly reason that you need to flush the loo if you have merely urinated. That's a huge saving of water.
"The experiment in my own home, which is now into its second year, has been a success. We continued with it right through the summer, and never once did a great bluebottle come in the bathroom. After all, why would a bluebottle wish to slurp up a little bit of nitrogenous waste? It has no nutritional value at all. It's just that a lot of people have a perception that their urine is some sort of liquid form of their excreta. A lot of gardeners put their urine in a bucket and actually use it. Plant roots love it."
Ken Livingstone was once the bad boy of the Labour Party. Tony Blair's supporters prevented him being adopted as Labour candidate in the 2000 London mayoral election. When he stood as an independent, he was expelled from the party and it was ruled that it would be at least five years before he was allowed back. But he was soon forgiven, and is now negotiating with the Government about extending his powers.
He wants to be able to overrule the boroughs on major planning decisions. If Labour loses control of more London boroughs inThursday's election, he is likely to be pushing at an open door.
Meanwhile, he has his eye on one minor planning decision. Mr Livingstone has had solar panels installed in his home, and they will soon be fitted into the roof of his City Hall headquarters. He has heard about David Cameron's plan to have a wind turbine fitted on his Notting Hill home.
That will require a planning permit from Kensington and Chelsea council, but if they cause any trouble, Mr Livingstone promised: "I'll turn up as a character witness, in his defence."
How to save water in the home
By Louise Jury
* Divert water from the roof or the shower into a rain harvester (like a water butt) and use it to flush the lavatory.
* Install a "Hippo" (many water companies supply these free of charge) in the loo to reduce the amount of water in each flush. A brick or plastic bottle will also serve this purpose.
* Don't leave taps running while brushing teeth or shaving.
* Wash vegetables in a bowl and save the run-off to water plants. Water that contains washing-up liquid can kill aphids on roses.
* Chill a bottle filled with tap water in the fridge - this saves running the tap until the water is cold.
* Wait until you have a full load before using a washing machine or dishwasher. Use the minimum amount of water in kettles and saucepans.
* Maintain your plumbing system; replace faulty washers to avoid leaking taps and avoid burst pipes by installing adequate insulation.
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