Despite California’s record-breaking drought, and the fact that taps in some towns have actually run dry, the state is still struggling to get people to start saving water. Could a little potty humor make people pay attention? The new Drop-A-Brick project hopes to help the state save millions of gallons of toilet water, with a few jokes thrown in.
The project started when a group of San Francisco-based entrepreneurs started wondering why more people didn’t use the water-saving trick of adding a brick to a toilet tank. “We got to laughing about the double entendre of dropping a brick in your toilet, and thought, this is actually a hilariously great idea for a campaign,” says Greg Hadden, one of the founders. “All of us felt that while we were in this huge drought, there’s a massive lack of awareness of it. Nobody really seemed to understand how serious the situation is.”
In older toilets, a brick can make a huge difference, saving about a half a gallon of water for every flush. Across the state, the wasted water in toilets adds up to over 200 million gallons a day, enough to supply drinking water for over a million people for a year. “I think the project started to get interesting when we realized how serious an issue toilet water waste is,” says Hadden. “We realized that toilets are the number one user of water in the home.”
At first, the group planned to ask Californians to use actual bricks, but it turns out that’s not really a good idea–bricks can dissolve, clog up toilets, and cause very expensive repairs. “We didn’t want to destroy people’s toilets, we just wanted to save water,” says Hadden. “Other solutions, like water bottles, have their own problems like leaching toxins into the water system. So we decided we should just create our own brick.”
Made from an eco-friendly rubber, the Drop-A-Brick actually ships flat in a small envelope. It’s lightweight until water is added; a special hydrogel additive makes it swell up and get heavy when someone puts it in a toilet tank. The flexible form can squeeze into oddly-shaped toilets, unlike a regular brick. As a bonus, it also has a dye tablet inside, so it can help homeowners discover leaks, another massive source of wasted water.
The team is crowdfunding Drop-A-Bricks on Indiegogo now, and offers the option for backers to donate extra bricks to homes in places that have been hit hardest by the drought–like the small town of East Porterville in the Central Valley, where residents are currently relying on donated, bottled water since taps no longer work. The brick can help a family of four save about 50 gallons of water a week.
The project hopes to distribute as many bricks as possible, and also just remind people that there’s something they can do. “While we’d like to get a lot of bricks out there–we think it’s a great icon for a public awareness campaign–really what we’d like to do is just get people thinking about urban water conservation and how to save water at home,” Hadden says.