Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everyday Ethics: How far for a gallon?

So my last post got me thinking about how much we are willing to sacrifice for something that isn't worth all that much...  Clearly, people are willing to chip in when it isn't a big sacrifice (recycling).  The perceived gain from recycling is far greater than the actual gain. 

But there are real gains from small acts sometimes.  I think water conservation is a good example of this.  Small amounts of water saved every day could have dramatic effects on the local and extended environment.  So here's a real dilemma here for you.  The campus that I work on has recently opened a new building.  The new building is built with a green philosophy, so the men's bathrooms have waterless urinals.  However, my office is on the other side of campus.  It would take about 5 minutes to walk to the use the urinal, which would save exactly 1 gallon of water every time I did this.  A 10 minute round trip.  If I used the closest bathroom to my office, I could be done and back in probably 2 minutes.

Do I have a moral obligation to use the waterless urinal?   


  1. I think you answered your own question when you said, "The perceived gain from recycling is far greater than the actual gain."

    I feel ethics, morals and to the extent we may be willing to sacrifice for a cause depends upon how strongly we think about it and also how does it weigh on our intrinsic scale - both the ethics and the sacrifice.


  2. Well, I live in a drought prone area, and so saving water, even a gallon, over a relatively short period of time can make some pretty significant gains...

    Maybe it would be permissible for me to pee in the bushes near my office?

  3. The bush is the most practical answer. Not only are you saving water but also helping the local plant life. Watch out for the campus police, indecent exposure fines are rather large.