I made my Zero Waste Week pledge months ago but it seems particularly relevant now due to the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Undoubtedly a worthy charitable cause, clearly a lot of fun, but a terrible waste of water. I was nominated and made a donation to the ALS Foundation, without wasting any water or adding to my utility bill.
A year ago our water provider switched us over from estimated bills to metered billing. At the moment, most houses in this country are given estimated water bills based on the size of the house and how many people live there. Metered billing is more accurate, as bills are based on actual usage and water meters are likely to become much more common.
I was worried about the switch because, with two young children in the house, I felt that we used a lot of water and was concerned our bills might go up (along with just about every other utility we have). So I set about finding ways to reduce how much water we use. Here are my top tips:
1. Get a water butt
I got ours from Aldi last summer. It was much cheaper than others I’d seen but we had to be quick because they sold out fast. I wish I’d got two now, because it fills up so fast in the winter but empties really quickly in the summer months.
My husband installed it himself fairly easily. It connects to the main downpipe from the guttering and collects rainwater running off the roof. It has a little tap, where we can fill a watering can or attach a hose. And once you’ve got one it doesn’t cost you a penny.
You can buy them in DIY stores and sometimes supermarkets have them during the summer. I have also seen them for sale in Wilkinson’s.
2. Flush the loo less
Ah, yes. That old saying: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down”. Wise words there.
Yes, I know. No one wants a skanky loo. Or that distinctive bog smell you get in public toilets. But leaving a couple of wees sitting there, won’t do any harm.
3. Time your shower/have fewer baths
Most of us are under the impression that a shower uses less water than a bath. But did you realise that the margins for this are fairly small? It all depends on how long you spend in the shower. The average bath tub, filled halfway, holds xxm³ of water. Five minutes of running the shower uses xxm³ of water. Running it for eight minutes uses xxm³.
I’m a huge fan of the shower. I rarely have a bath but I shower every day. I cannot function as a normal human being without having my morning shower. But I am totally guilty of faffing in the shower and it’s one of the main things I’ve been working on to reduce our household water usage.
I admit to turning it on a couple of minutes before I get in, so the water warms up. Sometimes I get distracted by flossing my teeth or picking up clothes from my eldest’s bedroom floor. Then when I get in the shower, I shampoo and condition my hair separately, shave my legs and armpits, once a week I do a face scrub too, then I use a bodywash, and do a final all-over rinse. And sometimes, just sometimes, I like to stand under the water for a few minutes, enjoying the brief peaceful respite from my children needing the potty emptied or help with their socks. But all of those things adds up to the difference between five minutes and eight minutes.
Use the paddling pool to water the garden
Get a tap airer thingamy
Get a toilet bag thingy
Avoid the hose
There’s a reason why hoses are the first thing to be banned when we have a long, hot summer. Hoses and sprinklers use a phenominal amount of water.
We now use a watering can to water the veggie patch in the summer. Even then we try to do it every other day, particularly if the water butt is empty and we have to use mains water. The rest of the plants and grass just have to take their chances.
We don’t have a car but using a bucket and sponge, even with a couple of water changes, uses a lot less water than having a hose running for half an hour.
Ditch the dishwasher
We don’t own a dishwasher. In my mind, it’s just another expensive gadget that will eventually break down and cost more money. Plus the tablets are another item to add to the shopping list.
As a household, you are using more water and more chemicals. And does a machine really get the dishes as clean as a sink of water, a squirt of soap, and a bit of elbow grease?
Turn off the tap
Leaving a tap running. We’ve all been guilty of it at some point. Most us now know to turn off the tap while we’re brushing our teeth. But what about washing our hands? Or washing some salad or vegetables? You will use a lot less water by sticking the plug in and running a couple of inches of water in the basin, rather than leaving the tap running for two minutes.
So there you have it. My top tips for reducing the amount of water we use at home. Do you have any handy hints to share? What’s your Zero Waste Week pledge?