Beyond the Tooth-Brushing Routine

Beyond the Tooth-Brushing Routine

You wouldn’t even guess that this garden doesn’t need that much water.

What immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word water?

  • a cold drink

  • a hot shower

  • a dip in a pool

  • that you are thirsty and need to hydrate

  • that your body is around 75% water

  • your vegetable garden

  • that your area needs rain

Or maybe you think storms, flooding, hurricanes. No mater what the word water triggers in your brain, it is an absolutely essential and invaluable resource, one that with global warming and climate change we must honor and use wisely. And in our daily lives right now, it is no longer just about not running the water while brushing your teeth.

I now live in California and thus my care-free days of watching storm after storm plow through the plains of Iowa are over. And when growing up in Chicago, we would look at Lake Michigan and never fear that it would dry up and we wouldn’t have water. California and other states out west are a different story. In California, it hardly ever rains, though we are hoping for an El Nino that could bring lots of rain via the ocean. FINGERS CROSSED. In the meantime, it won’t hurt anyone living in the U.S. to consider conserving water.

Truly the ability to turn on the tap and get clean fresh water is something we have all taken for granted. Now conserving or reusing water is becoming as important as recycling.

A friend from Chicago was recently visiting and stepped up to wash the dishes. A wonderful gesture, but habits die hard and the water was flowing. I had to kindly stop the process, as conserving water is now part of how I do things. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I am getting there.

  1. Preparing and Cooking Food. It’s amazing how much water we use during this process. When cleaning vegetables, set a strainer over another container to catch the water–and don’t have the tap running full-blast, use a brush to scrub instead of the pressure of the water to do the cleaning. The saved water can be used in your garden or to water your house plants.
  2. Make sure you have a low-flow faucet (1.5 gallons per minute) so that you aren’t running water and money down the drain.
  3. Don’t use water to defrost foods, but think ahead and defrost in your refrigerator.
  4. When boiling pasta, potatoes, veggies, just cover the food with water. You will save water and the fuel necessary to heat an amount that is not necessary. Plus more nutrients will stay in your vegetables and not be thrown away with the water. After your meal, when this water has cooled, use it again in your garden.
  5. The Cleanup. Energy-efficient dishwashers are the best way to wash dishes. However, not everything can go in the machine–so first, load it up. Then turn on the faucet is get hot water flowing (dish washers work faster if they start with hot water) but save that hot water in a tub or large cooking pan and after adding soap wash up those items that can’t go in the dishwasher. Don’t just let the water run. Turn on only when you need to rinse. You’ll get used to this process and find yourself turning off the tap after each rinse. IT DOES BECOME A HABIT.
  6. Other Kitchen Tips. Compost food scraps or have a medium-size garbage basket with a liner for your after-meal cleanup. Garbage disposals might be going away, as they require lots of water to flush and prevent clogging.
  7. Buy a container and keep water in your fridge so you don’t have to run the tap to cool water down. And don’t buy bottled water, which requires water in the manufacturing process not to mention filling up landfills.
  8. If you spill ice cubes on your floor, you can always put them in your plants or collect and toss in your garden.
  9. Showers, Sinks, Toilets, Hoses: To heat up shower water, collect the cool and again save for other purposes. Use low-flow shower heads and limit your time in the shower as each minute of showering is 5-7 gallons of water.
  10. When washing your car, use a hose that allows you to turn the water on and off–don’t let it just run into the street.
  11. When possible, purchase high-efficiency toilets. They use 1.28 or less gallons of water per flush. Using these could cut indoor water use by as much as 20%. Older toilets use 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. And don’t use a toilet for a wastebasket. Have one right there in the bathroom, instead!
  12. If your water bill is high, have a plumber check for water leaks.
  13. Install faucet aerators. Older faucets use between 3 and 7 gallons per minute. Low-flow faucet aerators use no more than 1.5 gallons of water per minute. The aerators can be attached to most existing faucets.
  14. Install drip irrigation instead of using sprinklers that waste water because of evaporation. And depending on the zone you live in, replace water sucking plants with drought-tolerant.
  15. Create a new mantra; CAPTURE THE WATER! and discover how many ways you can do this.

I am sure there are many more ways to save water. We learn as we go. When in July we Californians were treated to two days of wonderful rain, I went out and bought a new plastic garbage can to place under a gutter and also to store pots and buckets of water saved from showering, washing veggies etc. Rain barrels are a great investment if your house can accommodate one.

I do remember the years of brushing my teeth and just watching that water go down the drain. Those days are long gone. You don’t need to live in the western states to realize that saving water is part of our future. So get in the habit and share ways that you save.

Photo: Thanks to gardenista.com