Good, cheap, fast

· green ·

[About this time of year, the pressure of exam marking robs me of the ability to string thoughts together in a coherent way, so please forgive the somewhat rambling (or more rambling than usual) article below. Lacks structure or a properly constructed argument, and shows little evidence of independent reading. 2.2]

There's a well known saying in project management circles: Good, cheap, fast: pick any two. I've been thinking recently that something similar could be applied to eco-friendly or ethical products. There's usually some trade-off to be made when compared to the traditional alternative. For example, meat produced with good standards of welfare for the animals tends to be of better quality than standard meat, but is more expensive. Recycled paper is better for the environment than non-recycled paper (probably...), but it isn't as good quality. Travelling on public transport rather than going by car is cheaper (when you take all the costs into account), but much less convenient. In some cases, the eco-friendly alternative is cheaper than the alternative, but only after some initial period when the capital invested in installing it is paid off (solar or wind power).

I've been thinking about this a lot recently as we've been considering various measures to try to reduce our impact on the Earth's resources a little bit. We're composting already and planning to get cavity wall installation and better loft insulation installed, but another issue is our water use. In this case, we seem to actually be losing money by using the traditional alternative (un-metered water billing) over the more eco-friendly alternative (metered billing). Of course, metering per se doesn't make it greener, but you can be sure that if you're paying for every litre of water you use, you're going to work hard to save water, so the end result is the same.

We had a water meter in our last flat in Oxford, and our bill was about half what we're paying now. They seem to work out the flat charging scheme on the basis of fairly profligate usage, and when we filled in a quick survey of our typical water use, it looked as if we'd save at least 25% on our yearly bill. Since installation was free and it's just as easy to use, this is nothing but plus points.

However, now that we're paying for every drop, we want to save water wherever possible. We have a water butt for the garden, we shower rather than having baths, and we don't have a dishwasher, so the biggest water saving we can probably make is by saving toilet flushing water. I've found a clever looking gadget called an Inter-Flush which alters the flush so that the water flow stops as soon as you release the handle. I was going to make a comment about "Pay As You Go", but thought better of it... Anyway, it seems like a sensible idea to only use as much water as you need for flushing. Has anyone installed one of these? Are they easy to install without plumbing experience? Are they reliable? I'd be interested to know before I plunk down some cash on it and start messing about with cisterns.