Toilets are a necessary part of life so it is a pretty standard expectation that churches will provide some, including accessible toilets and changing places for babies. The choice of toilet system can have a big impact on the environment with opportunities to reduce the amount of water used, re-use grey or rain water or simply by selecting recycled toilet paper.
In 2010 a national Churches Trust survey found 1/3rd of churches did not have toilets available. Conventional toilets need both a water source and sewage disposal to operate – for rural areas or older buildings this makes provision of toilets more complicated. There are now a range of odourless waterless toilets which are not only water saving, but also deal with sewage efficiently on site rather than shipping it down stream to become someone else’s problem.
Quick win: Lower your water usage
Old style toilets used 14 litres per flush, the UK average toilet uses 9 litres but by using dual flush or low flush toilets water usage can be reduced to less than half that. If you don’t yet have low flush toilets, a “water hippo” or “save-a-flush” can save you many litres of water. Some water companies give these away free, so do check with yours.
Think about the users:
In planning toilets, remember the different ages and stages of life have different needs (baby change, smaller size for children or fully accessible for people in wheelchairs). Churches often have some activities with a higher proportion of one gender than the other. In thinking about this, St Stephens Twickenham, for example, decided on 6 toilets – 3 in cubicles in a “ladies” to save space and 3 in separate rooms which can be used by either gender, 2 include baby changing mats and one is fully accessible.
Greywater and rainwater
It is possible to install a system to capture grey water or rainwater to flush toilets, topped up from the mains when there is inadequate rainwater. Grey water systems capture water from sinks and dishwashing to use for toilet flushing. These are quite complicated systems so be sure to find a supplier who is familiar with the British Standards Greywater Code of Practice.
Modern waterless toilets are a realistic smell free (!) option for many churches and communities. They are a very environmentally friendly solution as there is no need for electricity, water or sewage for the toilet to operate (although you may wish to install lighting in the venue!). The waste is usually composted and can be used for plant fertiliser.
There are a variety of systems. Some separate liquids and solids and encourage a draught to ensure they are odour free, others require the addition of pine or other materials for efficient composting. Depending on the frequency of use, both types will need a little maintenance as the dry waste may need to be moved somewhere to store until it is fully composted to put on the garden.
Gloucester Diocese showcase a few in church settings for inspiration. GCEJN | Composting toilets
Globally we all need them
Around 2 billion people around the world don’t have access to hygienic toilets, so whether you have low water, grey water or waterless toilets you might want to consider twinning your loos.
These commercial suppliers have some great little videos explaining how the different types of toilets work:
The Church Growth Trust have created a resource for accessible toilet design.
Composting toilets, Week St Mary North Devon
St David’s Abergynolwyn built an attractive extension to house their waterless toilet.