Since I was a young gal, I had always lived in homes where it took at least a full minute for the water to warm sufficiently to wash my face or hands. And since I was little, I always felt ill at ease knowing that the water, which was in such need as evidenced by all of those third world country commercials especially rampant in the 80s and 90s, was going literally down the drain. So, now that I’m a big girl, I figured I can do what I want and left a glass next to the bathroom sink and a bucket in the bathtub. Whenever I turned on the water, I poured the cold water, glass by glass, into the bucket in the bathtub until the desired warmth. Gradually, this evolved to pouring the glasses of water spoiled by my cats’ spit (because GOD FORBID they actually drink out of their own bowl), the water in the shower, and the water left over after blanching vegetables and cooking pasta.
The aforementioned experiment in good will began towards the end of 2011, and left me in wonder of how much water I was actually saving (what was done with the water in the bucket to follow shortly). Given the perfect timing, I set out on a year-long quest to pour, document, conserve and, lastly, calculate (resulting in some arguments with my spouse and the cats along the way). My study begins on the first of the year in 2012, through New Year’s Eve. My bucket holds six liters, and I marked how many liters per day via a calendar hung on the wall in the bathroom. Some days yielded only one liter, and other days, fifteen liters. Different months yielded differing results, i.e. the stay-cation when showers were a rare occurrence for the week, hence no water from the shower. Or, trips back from the farmers’ market when lots of greens were blanched, leaving pots and pots of green liquid that further fed my indoor and container plants on the porch.
The results below reflect that of a household containing two adults and two full-grown cats.
Here are my 2012 results:
612 liters of water saved, or
306 2 liter bottles, or
Just over 159 gallons
If only 9 people did this in one year, we could fill up a pool this size ————————————>
The most water gathered was from heating up the water before the shower, and after the shower. (You know, after you’re down showering, when you turn off the water, that little button-like device that turns the shower water into the faucet water pops down and a lot of extra water comes out at the end after it’s off.) Just before I knew I was going to turn the water off, I’d stick the bucket under and almost a full liter would come out each time.
You may be wondering, what does one do with all of that water throughout the year, especially during the colder months? It was used in a number of ways. As previously mentioned, watering my indoor plants, plants on the porches during the warmer months, and the Christmas tree during December, but mostly, it was used to flush the toilet, which is a little wonderful secret that remains elusive to many people. If your toilet is full of (liquid) waste, you can pour the bucket of water down and it will not only flush, but refill some of the way. It’s really quite amazing if you’ve never tried it before. Our household is also a “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” one, so the times that the toilet is actually flushed each day is minimal.
At this point, I’d like to think that you’re wowed and awed by the findings. But, I’d like to drive the point home a little more, if I may. Let’s face it, in the U.S., we live in a patriarchal, capitalist society, based on consumption, aggression and power. Meaning, we’ve aggressively tried to exercise our power over the environment by consuming mass amounts of our natural resources, and in turn dumping our excess into landfills and the air. Therefore, saving water, composting, recycling, et al may seem counterintuitive considering the constant intake of advertising telling us to consume, consume, consume. In short, wasting water seems normal to us because it’s completely acceptable, if not encouraged in other, more subtle queues in our daily lives.
Now that it’s 2013, the bucket has become a permanent fixture in the bathtub. Some have responded to my bucket with resistance, including disgusted facial expressions and my personal favorite, “My husband would never let me do that” (I’ll keep my response to that one to myself). The biggest hurdle is accepting responsibility and making that commitment. Saying that you’re going to “go green” is great, but our planet doesn’t really care about your empty promises. I am by no means “there” yet–I don’t ride my bike everywhere, I occasionally forget my coffee mug at the coffee shop, and I still put a lot of crap into the landfill. But, day by day, the attempt is made to do what’s right and accept accountability for how I treat the earth. It suffices to say that my six liter pink-handled bucket is now a part of our family; hopefully it will become a part of yours.
Below: my bucket today, catching water from a leaky faucet.
2014 Update: The faucet has been fixed, but water is still being saved in other creative ways-water from blanching chard, water left over from canning, et al.