Here's my latest submission to the Sheffield Star Green Scene.
In Bermuda every home has built in rainwater harvesting mandated by code as there is no natural source of fresh water. There is also a developing network of water mains provided by a desalinization plant. As this process uses a great deal of electricity, provided by an oil burning power plant, the cost of this water is some incentive to conserve. Many homes have 3 sources of water, a shallow well that provides brackish water for flushing toilets and washing clothes, the rainwater harvesting system used for drinking water, bathing and dishwashing, and the desalinated mains back up for those weeks of dry weather that exhaust the rainwater supply. The long history of relying on the skies for much of their water has contributed to the development of a deep seated water conservation ethic in many Bermudians.
We are not so fortunate as to have mandated rainwater harvesting here in the UK where water usage in the home breaks down as such;
toilet flushing - 33%
washing machines - 21%
baths and showers - 17%
kitchen sink - 16%
wash basin - 9 %
dishwashers - 1%
hosepipes - 3%
and a further 5 to 10% is lost through leaks in the home.
(Harris and Borer 2005 p.279)
From these figures some obvious avenues of conservation are evident. Firstly, why do we flush our toilets with drinking water? We can at least cut down on the number of flushes. In Bermuda there is a saying, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Another simple flush saver is to have an occasional surreptitious garden pee on your compost heap. The extra nitrogen will speed up the composting process and as long as you don’t overdo it the heap won’t smell much different.
In our home we place a collection bucket in the shower to capture the water wasted while waiting for it to get hot. When we step in we push it back against the wall and it continues to collect splash and drip throughout the shower. We then pour this “excess” water into the toilet to flush.
Showers use less water than baths unless you have a power shower. If you have a hot water heater you don’t need a power shower which uses far more water and electricity than is needed. In either case take as short a shower as you can.
Use a bucket in the sink when you wash dishes, you can use this water to flush toilets or to water your lawn. Be sure to use gentle, natural soaps. Avoid antibacterial soaps as they will have a deleterious effect on the soil ecology.
Don’t use hosepipes. If you must wash your car or water your plants use buckets. The simple act of carrying your water will encourage conservation. A running hosepipe can get through an astonishing amount of water, hundreds of litres, in a very short period of time.
Avoid plantings in the garden that are water hungry, if you must water plants use rainwater from a water butt. Rainwater is better for the plants and the soil as it does not contain chlorine.
There are more expensive options for water conservation. If a replacement is needed of a water using device be sure to carefully source lower use options such as low flow shower heads, spray taps, and low use toilet cisterns. An even better solution is a compost toilet which uses no water and produces compost for your fruit trees.
Harris, C. and Borer, P. 1998 - The Whole House Book; Ecological Building Design and Materials 2nd edition,
What have you done today to lower your impact?
We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.
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