Green Building Perspectives: Kohler

kohler-logoGrowing up, I never considered how much water toilets used, let alone their brands. In fact, the more water, the better, right?

It wasn’t until recently, particularly as the economy started to slow down, that I began to think about all of that water. How much does a toilet really need to operate effectively, anyway? How much water am I wasting every time I flush? I’d already become more conscious about letting sinks run unnecessarily, but there didn’t seem to be much I could do with a toilet to cut down on water usage. I’m not quite ready to move into a world where you don’t flush after each use.

Not surprisingly, Kohler Co., which makes toilets, sinks, faucets and all kinds of kitchen and bath products, has water conservation high on its list of priorities. Founded way back in 1873 and headquartered in its namesake of Kohler, Wis., Kohler is also, interestingly, one of America’s oldest and largest privately-held companies.

Kohler spokesperson Mark Mahoney said the company is excited about its participation in the Green Life Smart Life project because it’s a good opportunity to educate homeowners about water conservation and the solutions that are out there. With Kohler products, he said, “You can help the environment and save money along the way, without sacrificing performance.”

Mahoney shares some interesting stats about those flushes we all take for granted. It turns out that toilets have already become much more efficient than they were in the past. This fascinated me. Thanks to the U.S. Government’s Energy Policy Act (EPACT), all toilets installed after 1994 use 1.6 gallons per flush. To get a handle on just how revolutionary that is, consider this: Toilets installed before 1993 used 3.5 gallons per flush. Toilets installed before 1980 used five gallons per flush. And toilets installed before 1950 used seven gallons per flush!

As you can see, we’ve come a long way, but Kohler thinks it (and we) can do better. It sees demand for high-efficiency toilets increasing, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because water shortages are expected to spread across the United States over the next five years. “Water conservation is still a regional issue, but we expect that to change,” said Mahoney. “Traditionally, the trouble areas are the Southwest/Southern California, but water shortage has spread to the Southeast, particularly the Atlanta area, as well at the Northwest U.S. We expect almost all of America will be touched by this problem in the coming years.” And depending on the locale and the severity of the shortage, water bills could rise rather quickly; it’s already happening in Southern California, said Mahoney.

Kohler’s products are directly helping consumers cut down on water consumption. Its dual flush toilets offer you the option of a 1.6-gallon flush or a 0.8-gallon flush. It also offers toilets that use only 1.28 gallons per flush with the help of its High-Performance Gravity technology. Kohler also offers faucets, shower heads and other products that save water while not sacrificing performance.

Kohler is a proud partner of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, which promotes water-efficient products and practices nationwide. Toilets like Kohler’s that carry the WaterSense label use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than their less efficient counterparts. Kohler is such an advocate for the program that it was named the one and only 2008 WaterSense Manufacturer Partner of the Year.

Kohler has various videos on its site that describe its products. You can see a run-down of its water conservation program here and its environmental philosophy here. It has even started a site called, which features water-saving ideas; Kohler even donates $1 in water-conserving products to Habitat for Humanity’s sustainable building efforts for ever visitor who takes a brief quiz. Kohler distributors are taking water conservation ideas directly to consumers, setting up tents and educating users on how they can save money, conserve water, and make the switch to more efficient water consumption.

Kohler is also doing its part internally to contribute to the greening of the planet. “It’s not just the right thing to do, but from a cost perspective, we can examine our processes and eliminate waste, which is good for business and for the environment,” said Mahoney.

Posted by Joe Paone



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