February 12, 2014

3 things you can do to save water using 3 containers you already have

I went to Quebec to speak about my lifestyle last week. The Quebecois might not see it as a blessing, but the amount of snow on the ground made me envious... In California, we're experiencing a major drought. And although I brought some 'bad" weather back with me (it finally rained this weekend), Northern California is far from meeting its annual precipitation requirements.

A drought is sad, but it's not all negative: It's made everyone here rethink its water consumption. For our household, it's been an opportunity to tweak a few things. Since adopting the Zero Waste lifestyle, we reduced our water consumption substantially with the tips mentioned in my book, such as applying the rule "If it's yellow, let it mellow", running only full loads of laundry, eliminating thirsty landscaping, installing drip systems, etc. That said, our current desperate situation pointed to some inefficiencies.

Here are three small adjustments we've made or 3 things you too can do to save water using three containers you already have.

Tip 1: A bucket... to flush the toilet 

                                                                                            A bucket collects water in the shower

In previous years, we had a bucket in our shower to collect water while it heats, but having to take it downstairs and outside to dump it onto our plants, we got lazy and eventually stopped doing it.
Today, we brought the bucket back, but we use the collected water to flush the adjacent toilet: It makes so much more sense, it's so much closer than our backyard!
If you've never tried it before, don't be afraid, there is no trick to it: just pour the water into your toilet bowl and whatever is in it, will simply flush out.

                                                           The tile grid helps to set the best location for filling the bucket 
                                                                                    -we can’t spare a drop here!                                                                                   

            To keep it from scratching the tile and avoid the purchase of a plastic bucket, we outfitted its bottom rim with a scrap                                                 piece of clear tubing, sliced in half .

Tip 2: A tub... to soak dishes (and water plants, if needed)

                                                                                Our kitchen sink’s tub

We used a tub in the sink before the drought, but we had set it on the right hand side of the sink and we would fill it every morning.
Today, we have moved the tub to the left hand side of the sink, under our soap dispenser and faucet. We no longer need to fill it in the morning: it gets filled through washing, straining, rinsing, etc. After Zizou licks our dishes, we use the collected water to rinse them prior to loading the dishwasher. We then dump the water onto ornamental plants outside (once or twice a day, depending on the amount of cooking involved) - that's an advantage of using a mobile tub vs. a double sink to collect water.  The trace of Castile soap in the water also benefits our plants, by keeping fungus and pest at bay (see anti-fungal recipe in my book).

                                                Our tub, placed under the soap dispenser and faucet

        A sink strainer also eliminates the need to run water for the garbage disposal -we empty it into our compost receptacle.

Tip 3: A trash can... to collect rainwater

                                                                   Our former trashcan as rainwater catchment

The refuse bin is generally a household's largest container: A Zero Waste lifestyle frees it up for better uses than sending resources to a landfill. We've been using ours for gardening purposes: To carry the cubic yard of loose mulch that we get delivered to our house once a year, to contain the leaves that we sweep off our steps and use as weed control, to collect the few weeds that we pull throughout the yard and then put in the compost bin. Since 2008, our trash can has thus been repurposed into a wheelbarrow -sans wheels that is :). But in the winter, it usually rests in the back of the house, only to be used by the occasional weekend house renter. This past storm blew its lid open to collect 12" of rain. Scott marveled at how many inches dropped from the sky (as you know, he is a number's kinda guy), I marveled at how much water I collected for my living wall (as you know, I am a practical kinda gal). It seems that nature took care of things, but we learned from her and will open our lid for, we pray, subsequent rains.

With the water that I collect every week from my herb planter and that we collected with our trash can this week, I have enough water to care for my houseplants this month...

                                            A small bucket also catches drainage from my herb planter

                                                            My plant wall thriving with my rainwater/drainage mix

... and at the end of which, we'll hopefully be blessed with more rain!

Regardless of rainfall, my trash can will no longer sit unused, for I have found that, with its lid upside down, it's a great place to deposit the crumbs that collect at the bottom of my bread bag and toaster each week... I'd have never thought that my trash can would one day become a bird feeder 😉

                                                                Our former trash can as a bird feeder.