Toilet/sink combo just one way to green your home

So now we can brush our teeth and pee at the same time? Not me.

By Tracy Pulley • FOR THE TENNESSEAN • June 14, 2009

When U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced in May that President Obama’s administration advocates painting roofs white to keep buildings cooler, it started a national conversation. Paint roofs white? What would that do to resale values?

While homeowners mull over that prospect, they can consider smaller projects that aren’t quite that drastic. “It’s not as hard to green your home as everyone thinks,” says Tiffany Wilmot, owner of Wilmot Inc., a green-building consulting firm in Nashville. “You can do everything from using a timer to take shorter showers to switching to an old-fashioned reel mower to save on gas and emissions.”

And every little bit helps, says Jamie Qualk, vice president of Smith Seckman Reid, an engineering design and consulting firm that helps Nashville companies earn LEED certification. “It can be overwhelming to try to green your home overnight,” he says. “Homeowners can do one thing at a time, one room at a time. . . . We’ll get there eventually.”

Toilet/sink combo

On a trip to Japan in 1986, Nashvillian Carl Brown saw something clever. “Everywhere I went there were toilets with sinks molded into the porcelain tank,” he says. “It was such a simple, smart idea.”

The industrial designer found himself drawn back to that sink/toilet concept for years. When it still hadn’t arrived in America by 1996, he took action. Brown patented his version, SinkPositive, a sink that fits on top of a standard toilet tank.

Thirteen years later the idea is finally taking off. SinkPositive earned a nod in WorkBench magazine’s top innovations of 2008, and they’ve been installed in the Good Hotel, an eco-friendly hotel in San Francisco. The product hit the New York Times in March, mentioned as a simple way to capture and reuse gray water, or water that has been used in the home.

Brown thinks the slow response was partly due to squeamishness about toilets in general. “There’s an irony to it — a handwashing toilet,” he says. “But it’s more hygienic because you don’t have to touch a faucet or handle, and it uses fresh water that’s on its way to fill the bowl.”

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