Tag Archives: water

Drip Drip Drop

I have to tell you that I was flabbergasted when I opened our first 2014 water bill.  It was a lot more than we usually pay.  Then, I looked at the gallons used – 12,000!  A normal quarter for us is 7,000 or 8,000 gallons. I had to find out what was going on.  Why did we have this spike in water usage?  Our water company said that they would come out and reread the meter, which turned out to be very similar.  More on our hypothesis of what caused this later… photo


But here’s the thing that made my concern do a 180-degree turn and I started to feel pretty good about our family’s H2O usage:  The average family of 4 in our county uses 400 gallons of water a day.  That would be 33,600 gallons a quarter!!


Just to be sure (’cause I’m all about double- and triple-checking), check my math  —

400 gallons a day (7 days a week) = 2,800 gallons a week

2,800 gallons a week (4 weeks in a month) = 11,200 gallons a month

11,200 gallons a month (3 months in a quarter) = 33,600 gallons a quarter

That makes our 12,000 gallons for last quarter look tiny.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we don’t have plenty of room for improvement.  We’ll get back down to our usual 7,000 gallons – and soon!

So, what do we think caused our tsunami of water usage?  Well, we did host two separate visits from family over the holidays, which means we had extra bodies taking showers and flushing toilets (we don’t want to think about that, but it’s true!), and there were extra dishes to be washed.  I think we ran the dishwasher at least every other day (it was full each time) when we had guests.

We received a really nice compliment from the customer service representative at the water company.  She thought that we only had one person living at our address when she looked at how much water we usually use.  When I told her of our saving strategies, she praised us.

Do you want to get compliments from your water utility?  Or maybe, you’d like to conserve water because you know that lots of people on Earth don’t have access to clean water and there are too many droughts happening?  Or maybe, you’d like to save money on your utility bill?

Here are our strategies for doing all of the above:

1. We fill a 1/2 gallon plastic milk jug with stones and place it in the toilet tank.  This will displace the water in the tank and each time you flush (I know, this topic again!), you’ll save 1/2 gallon of water.  The toilet will flush just fine.  We’ve never had any problems.

2. If it’s yellow, let it mellow.  If it’s brown, flush it down.  We don’t always employ this one, but sometimes, we are able to coordinate bathroom usage.

3. During the Spring, Summer, and Fall, we use a water barrel.  It sits under one of our downspouts and collects the water from the roof.  This is definitely not drinking water.  But it is great for watering indoor and outdoor plants, rinsing out the compost container, and flushing the toilets.

4. OK, flushing the toilets with rain barrel water?  Yes!  We save gallon milk jugs, turn off the water supply to the toilets, fill the jugs with rain barrel water and pour that water into the toilet tank.  Once the tank is at its usual water level, flush away!  And we didn’t pay one cent for that water.  Some people would find it inconvenient to bring in the water from outside, but it’s not so bad.  We really get into the spirit in the Fall.  That’s when we’re trying to use up the water before the first freeze comes.  Because our barrel is plastic, we empty it and put it in storage for the winter.

5. I wash clothes in cold (saves electricity) and in the smallest water level that I can.  I don’t do extra rinses or extra long washes.

6. The dishwasher only gets run if it’s totally full.  And I always run it on the light wash, water saving mode.

7. We take quick showers and may even skip a day if we aren’t going anywhere.

8. We turn off the water when we brush our teeth. Then back on again for a quick rinse of the toothbrush.

9. For washing our hands, we wet our hands, turn the water off, apply soap and lather for a bit, then turn the water back on to rinse.

10. We put fruit, veggie, and egg shell scraps in a compost bin instead of running them down the disposal.

Click here for some more water-saving ideas from the EPA.  And here’s more info about water usage.

Hope I’ve given you some ideas to incorporate into your daily routine for saving water.

How do you save water?

Earth Day: Top 5 Things You Can Do For The Earth

Every Earth Day, I revisit my list of what my family does to cut carbon emissions and use fewer natural resources.  What are we doing and what can we add to that list?  We’re not perfect, but we try to do what we can.

Here are our Top 5 Things To Show We Love The Earth (and you can do them too):

1. Recycleimages

Part of our community trash pickup includes recycling at the curb.  They accept #1 and #2 plastics, aluminum, glass, mixed paper, and cardboard. Every week, our bin is full!

In addition to that, we recycle our #5 plastics (storage containers, yogurt cups, etc.) at Whole Foods. They participate in the Gimme Five program where you just drop your containers into a bin in front of the store.  Preserve melts those plastics down to make toothbrushes, razors, tableware, cutting boards, and lots of other useful products.

Giant and Whole Foods also recycle plastic bags.  So, we save plastic packaging and turn that in.  We don’t have that many plastic shopping bags because we bring our reusable ones whenever we go into a store. Reusables aren’t just for the grocery store 😉   But there are plastic bags used in packaging that are definitely worthy of being recycled.

And Whole Foods composts too.  Inside the store, they have recycling and compost bins. I drop off my waxed cardboard containers (i.e. ice cream and milk cartons) and rubber bands there.

2. Compostphoto 4

Home composting isn’t as bad as it sounds. We collect the fruit and veggie trimmings, egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds, and tea bags to turn them into rich, black soil.  Well, we don’t perform the metamorphosis, nature does that for us.  We just help the process along.

Composting doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to buy a fancy collection bin or a composting barrel.  I found a small plastic trash container and keep it under the kitchen sink.  When it’s time to be emptied, out to the far corner of our backyard we go.  Mix in some leaves leftover from fall and sometimes shredded paper (a great way to get rid of receipts!), and Voila!  It’s all converted, with some time and lots of help from our worm friends, into soil.

I use our compost for planting veggies and making our blueberry and blackberry bushes happy.

Between recycling and composting, the amount of trash our household contributes to the landfill is one 13 gallon bag every other week, sometimes less!

3. Collect Rain Water

We’ve had our rain barrel for about 6 years. We bought it from the Blue Ridge Eco Shop (so disappointed to hear that they’re closing). It holds 60 gallons and usually fills up in one rain storm.

The barrel sits on a paver base and the down spout empties into the top of it. There is a screen, so no mosquito problem. We usually use the spigot on the side to fill a watering can or bucket and water our indoor and outdoor plants.

It’s about time to reinstall the rain barrel. It spends the winter under our deck. But freezing temperatures are now over, so we’ll get it into place soon.  In the fall, we use up the water by filling our toilet tanks with it.  We could do this all spring and summer too.  Maybe that’s something to add for this year.  The water is clean – not potable – but clean enough to flush toilets.

4. Conserve Waterphoto

Speaking of toilets… We decided to save water there too. We filled a 1/2 gallon plastic milk jug with water and placed it inside our toilet tank. So, instead of 1.6 gallons, we’re only using 1.1 gallons per flush.  And the toilet works just fine. Multiply that times 3 toilets in the house and the savings really add up fast!

We added a flush mechanism to one of our toilets where there are 2 buttons – one for less water, and one for more.  So, it caters to your flushing needs.  It works great.

5. Yard Maintenancephoto 1 photo 3

Our reel mower is quiet, doesn’t give off any fumes, never needs any gasoline or oil, and cuts our yard just fine. The only maintenance it requires is to keep it dry (no rust, please) and sharpen the blades every once in a while.

We used to have a lawn maintenance company but decided to quit using all of those chemicals and fertilizers. Our grass hasn’t really missed it.  Dandelions have made a comeback this year, so we just dug them up with our trusty spade. They don’t go into the compost – never put weeds or yard trimmings in your compost.  Weeds go into a different pile to decompose.

Our lone power tool for lawn work is the electric weed whacker – mainly used for edging by my husband.

I hope these have given you some ideas to use in your home.  We all can do small things that add up to make a huge difference.

What is your family doing?  I’d love to hear your ideas!