The Lifewise Eco-Loo is currently being tested in a Gugulethu home, in a trial facilitated by the Better Living Challenge and Think: Inn’s Ansi Gilfillan. The Eco-Loo, which was entered into the Better Living Challenge by product developer, Giepie Smit, is an innovative device, which offers a more affordable and eco-friendly alternative to the conventional flush toilet. It boasts the remarkable ability to reduce water usage by 75% through replacing the traditional closed cistern, positioned on top of the toilet, with a hand-basin. In so doing, it automatically redirects used water from the basin into the sanitation system and thus ensures that no water is wasted in either the wash or flush processes.
The Lifewise Eco-Loo has the potential to have an immensely positive impact on low-income community members. Not only are there numerous cost savings and green advantages to such a set-up, but also, importantly, the practical benefits of this installation mean that the Lifewise Eco-Loo immediately provides a hand-basin for a space.
A hand-basin is an amenity that many low-income dwellers have to do without. Living conditions are already cramped and where ablution facilities are available they are generally too small to include a hand-basin – as in the case of our test site in Gugulethu. Not only does this present hygiene challenges, but also creates a situation where the possible improvement of insufficient sanitation infrastructure is hindered by space limitations.
The Lifewise Eco-Loo offers a solution to the above by saving on floor space. Space is generally at a premium in low-cost housing and the Lifewise Eco-Loo is able to bypass these logistical challenges through the innovative positioning of the hand-basin, which does not take up any additional floor space. Similarly, the installation of the Lifewise Eco-Loo does not require that the existing toilet unit be replaced. Instead, an easy conversion is done whereby the original fittings and water connection point are used, leading to an 80% saving on installation and material costs.
The Better Living Challenge decided to conduct a working trial of the Lifewise Eco-Loo in Gugulethu due to the current water and sanitation challenges faced by this community. Although the houses are equipped with proper plumbing infrastructure and there is access to water inside, the cost of water in Gugulethu is inexplicably high. In addition to this, each household is allocated only 240 litres of water per day. Therefore, there is a critical demand for decreased water usage and water cost reduction. The Lifewise Eco-Loo was found to be the ideal product to test and determine if its use could improve the present situation.
The Lifewise Eco-Loo was installed in October 2014 at the residence of Thandabantu Jeku and his mother, Xoliswa. Jeku is a skilled plumber who like many Gugulethu residents is unable to find full-time employment. Working alongside Jeku, Smit installed the Lifewise Eco-Loo on site with a focus on training and skills transfer.
Feedback garnered from informal interviews conducted on the day was immediately positive with many community members indicating that this was a marked improvement on the current conditions. It is hoped that after the initial testing period of six months, the Lifewise Eco-Loo will be ready for distribution.
The Lifewise Eco-Loo will work towards community empowerment and product sustainability through actively encouraging engagement with community members. Ideally, this will involve Jeku and individuals in similar situations who will be able to train as Lifewise Eco-Loo installers; creating employment opportunities within the community whilst also putting a broad distribution network in place. Progress is also being made to work in conjunction with municipal bodies and invite greater involvement in the process. This can only serve to increase awareness of the product as well as the possibility that the Lifewise Eco-Loo will be readily available in the near future.
Smit, whose passion and dedication have been an integral part of the Lifewise Eco-Loo project, says: ”the Lifewise Eco-Loo is an excellent product and can effectively be put to use in households similar to the Jeku’s. We are very much looking forward to taking our product forward and working with dynamic entrepreneurs in the future!”