Monday, August 31, 2009

What Goes Down Must Come Up?

Plumbers are in my bathroom right now because I put baby wipes down the toilet in the midst of a potty training plunder. Some advice: DON'T PUT WIPES DOWN THE TOILET. Well this experience not only put a dent in my bank account (and my dignity after trying to lie about how many wipes actually went down there. "Errr... four?" How was I supposed to know they would all come out still fully INTACT???) but also I am down a few gallons (I'm guessing) of water because of all of the "testing" that went into making sure the pipe was clear. This plumber did not look like the kind of person that I felt comfortable saying, "um, excuse me, but can you let that water run into this here watering can. She was hard at work and I stayed out of the way. I'm sorry guys, tomorrow's another day. Did anyone else do something to save water that will make up for this?

I did pick her brain about how much water my toilet was using and she said probably about 3 gallons. So I had her lower the water level in the tank. Hah! I just made that sound like it was my idea. SHE said she would lower the water level for me. Unfortunately, the toilet very old and is still using a lot of water. Needless to say, we're going to have to figure something out. Another new policy is about to go into effect. A flushing policy. What the policy is just yet, I can't say. I can't exactly tell my toddler that we don't flush the toilet when we pee, because other people might take offense. I'm going to have to get back to ya'll on this one. In the meantime, I have to go cry about how much this little experience has cost me (in dollars and water).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Corny Can Be Good

My husband told me today that saving water is not going to catch on until we have a system where each household is only given a certain amount of water each day. He said he is sure that it is going to come to that some day. Am I a terrible person for thinking that that might not be the worst thing in the world? I know many people would think that's Un-American, but when I think of the world that my son will have to live in if we don't start getting serious, I get so scared, I'm not really concerned what that kind of label that statement puts on me.

There's actually a guy on facebook named Kevin Freedman in Winnepeg who challenged himself to live on 25 liters a day. Wanting to raise awareness about people who suffer from water shortages, like refugees who live on 15-20 (sometimes as little as 5) liters a day, this limited water supply was to be used for everything from cooking to bathing to cleaning. EVERYTHING. You might want to look him up.

Anywway, back to the latest step in water conservation for this house. Last night I made corn on the cob. Only four cobs took at least two gallons of water (Hmmm, no I didn't measure. Maybe I should have. Sorry, I'm learning). Anyway, when it came time for cleanup, I saw this big pot of water and knew if I pour this corny smelling water down the drain, I'm going to have to confess it to the whole world on this blog. So I left it there, sitting in the pot on the stove. Every time I passed it, I knew that I was going to have to think of a way to use this water (Oh, I should mention that my plants are VERY well taken care of from the other water I'm saving, and the lawn gets watered by the landscape company for the building. So that would just be wasting it too.) Then at lunch, I made a bunch of stuff that stuck to the pan that would be a pain in the butt to get off. Finally, I figured it out. I could use the water to soak the pans with the sticky stuff in it. Is it a sign that my life is getting too boring when stuff like this makes me happy? (Please don't answer that!)

Okay, so if you haven't fallen asleep by now (I know when I haven't written the most riveting entry!) I just want to leave you with an anecdote. My little one hates it when I use the garbage disposal. So when I opened the cabinet today, he gave me the look. The look that says, "oh gosh, here it comes..." But given my new policy - no more garbage disposal - I told him not to worry, that I wasn't going to use it anymore, and started to explain why. But he interrupted me and said, "Because it wastes water." I'm so proud. It makes me really happy to know that, while for me, these things are going to be tough to learn, for my son, it's going to become second nature to him. (He also knew that the pit from the plum he ate was to go in our new compost garbage bag, but now I'm just bragging...)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I knew once I started reading about water conservation that I was going to come across a lot of scary stuff that would motivate me to continue to conserve water. But the other day I came across something I really didn't want to hear. I mean, tell me to pee in the shower, sure! I'll do it. But this... THIS? Rrrr... Okay, now I've made a big deal about it and when you hear what it is you're going to think I'm overreacting. It's the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal I have always lived without until about a year and a half ago. But now that I have one, I throw EVERYTHING in there. No more stinky trash. Just send it to magical, fairy garbage land and never think about it again.

Well, according to, it turns out that using my garbage disposal less can save me 50-150 gallons of water a month. It's just something I can't ignore if I'm going to do this right. Of course, I could throw all of it into the garbage, but they recommend composting. How right you are people who are way smarter than me! But um, I live in an apartment and I don't think my neighbors would appreciate me taking up their yard with a compost heap. So, I looked it up and I easily found out that there is an entire website for my area's waste collection. There is a special garbage can for all foodwaste (which must be put in a brown bag, milk container or ice cream container.

But it's so easy just to send it down a magical pipe in my sink!!! No! No, Karen, stop it! 50-150 Gallons. Goodbye garbage disposal!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nagging Quota Filled

I knew it was going to be tricky. After all, this water-saving thing is my deal, not my husband's. But how could I sit here and nerd-off on this stuff day after day if I don't get my whole family involved? I can't. So I filled my nagging quota for the week and- uh... "informed" my husband that he will have to stop letting the sink run (at full blast!) while he brushes his teeth. He smiled, as if he knew that this mission was bound to affect him sooner or later, and he said, "Doesn't that water just get recycled?" Uhhh... Hey, what are you looking at me for? I never said I knew any real facts about this stuff!

Well, put on your varsity jacket, grab your trapper keeper and take a trip with me back to science class. Here's what the "Water Science for Schools" page on the US Geological Survey site says (

"Q: Where does it go after we are done with it?
A: Water leaving our homes generally goes either into a septic tank in the back yard where it evaporates or seeps back into the ground, or is sent to a sewage-treatment plant through a sewer system. In 1995, the last year for which consumptive-use data was compiled, about 26 percent of the water coming from our homes was "consumptively used." That is, it was evaporated or transpired from yards. The other 74 percent was discharged to septic tanks or sewage-treatment plants, where it was cleaned and sent into streams, or sometimes reused for other purposes, such as watering golf courses and parks."

76 percent! No wonder golf courses are so green! This paragraph actually raised more questions for me, like, what is considered consumptively used? More research is necessary, but for now, here's the thing I'm going to focus on: my husband turned it off the sink while brushing his teeth. Well, babe, if you're reading this, you saved up to 8 gallons of water today by doing that - as long as you do it again when you brush tonight! (I know, there I go, "informing" again!)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Refusing To Get "Pooped"

Are you sitting down? Well, actually, even if you are, I'm not going to show you what I want to show you just yet. I'm going to preface it with a little anecdote that might help you take in the information I'm about to give.

It was a fine water-saving day. I followed all my little rules like shutting off the water when brushing my teeth and I instructed the little one not to let the sink continue to run when he's finished washing his hands. Hey, it's a slow process, but we're headed in the right direction. Then, my potty trainer had a code brown. Needless to say, it was upsetting for both of us. Of course in an effort to be supportive, I kept my tone easy-breezy and we headed into the bathroom so I could perform the ultimate super-parent doody... er- I mean, DUTY, and clean him off while not for one second making him feel like this was anything to be ashamed of. And boy did I do a great job. One arduous cleanup session and poof! Psychological crisis averted! Then I noticed the sink.

I had turned on the sink in order to wash my hands (I'll let you guess WHY I had to wash my hands in the midst of all of this) only to immediately continue tending to his needs. Are you going to make me say it? Don't make me say it!!! Ugh! Okay... I left the sink running. The whole time. THE WHOLE TIME!

I don't know why I'm taking it so hard. Well, maybe I do. Here I am, trying to be a better person so that I can pass on a better world to future generations and one brush with poop turns me back into the same wasteful person I thought I'd written off.

I guess I'm telling this story because, if you're anything like me, you look at the list of things you should be doing to conserve water or save the planet or maintain a healthy lifestyle, help your fellow man and it gets overwhelming. And then, if you're anything like me, it just gets to be too much and you just say screw it and you let the water run, throw your used batteries in the trash, eat a box of doughnuts and give your neighbor the finger. But I refuse to take this experience and let it prove to myself that this is impossible. However, I also will stop telling myself that anything like this will ever happen again. I am not perfect. I am not an extremist. I'm just a person who is doing her best to hand over a better planet. And, despite all my flaws (particularly when there is poop loose in the room), I'm not even going to consider that what I'm doing means nothing. Screw that.

Okay, still sitting? Good. Now for the link to your "water footprint." (I know, "Gulp!") This gives examples of how much water is used, not only directly by you, say when you brush your teeth or take a shower, but also indirectly. For example, it takes 37 gallons of water to make my beloved morning coffee. Then the chart offers alternatives that use less water, like tea. I know, some of us would rather never shower again to make up for the water before giving up their morning Frappa Cappa Mocha whatever. You'll know if I do - this blog will get bitchy real fast!

So, how is the poop story related to this link (below)? The point is we should all remember that we're not perfect. Life is always going to throw curve balls or random bodily functions at us that cause us to mess up. Take in the information and do what you can. It means something.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Okay, so when your toddler stops himself from pouring the extra water down the drain and says, "I want to give it to the plant," you know you're making progress. Hey, I never said that I was saving the world, just a little water. But I'm hoping that's all it takes.

By tomorrow we will have a watering can by the sink (hey I've got a life just like you, so I have to make time for this stuff!), but for now, we're using big cups. It's not gallons of water a day, but maybe it will amount to a gallon a week - 52 a year. Then there are those times that I let the water run, waiting for it to get hot or cold. Honestly, I'm gonna need a big bucket/watering can for all the water that wastes. According to, a household can save 200-300 gallons of water a MONTH just by saving that water, say, by making sure that you keep cold, filtered water in your refrigerator. That's amazing.

When I look this stuff up, I have to say, I'm floored by how much information is out there about saving water. Am I the only one who has been ignorant of these tips? Am I alone the reason that the water supply problem has become this huge problem? Well, geez, I'm sorry! I'm getting with the program, okay! Here's what the government (the epa) said about me (well, they said "homes" but I'm sure it was just their passive aggressive way of talking about me behind my back):

Water Supply and Use in the United States

Water covers approximately 70 percent of the Earth's surface, but less than 1 percent of that is available for human use. The world must share this small amount for agricultural, domestic, commercial, industrial, and environmental needs. Across the globe, water consumption has tripled in the last 50 years. Managing the supply and availability of water is one of the most critical natural resource issues facing the United States and the world.

Homes use more than half of publicly supplied water in the United States, which is significantly more than is used by either business or industry. A family of four can use approximately 400 gallons of water every day. Those amounts used can increase depending on location; for example, the arid West has some of the highest per capita residential water use because of landscape irrigation.

With water use in the United States increasing every year, many regions are starting to feel the pressure. In the last five years, nearly every region of the country has experienced water shortages. At least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions.

To help American homes and business make more efficient use of their water, EPA has developed WaterSense, a partnership program. By offering simple ways to reduce water use through water-efficient product choices—with no sacrifice to quality or product performance—WaterSense helps Americans save water and money.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's tough to top peeing in the shower... so I've been thinking about what to write all day.  What I really want to talk about is bottled water, but honestly, I'm not ready for that topic.  I'm not ready to address how horrible I think it is.  I'm not ready to address what I think should be done. Because, to be honest, I still find myself - not often, mind you - but every now and then, buying and drinking bottled water.  So what kind of a hypocrite would I be if I damned everyone who did it.  I'm not there yet, and I would imagine anyone reading this is not there yet either.  Perhaps in writing on this topic day after day, I will get there.  WE will get there together.  But for now, I think it's best to stick with reality.  

If you've got a filter, like me, yay for us.  But what really happens after you take a few sips of the water you pour in your glass?  Do you leave it on the kitchen table like me and start your day, only to find it there 8 hours later.  You think I'm going to tell you to drink it like a good citizen, right?  Well, if you're a better person than me, then drink up.  I mean, honestly, you're right.  It's not like a chicken leg, it doesn't go bad.  But if you're anything like me, when you get home, the last think you want is an old glass of warm water.  

So what do we lesser humans do?  Got plants?  Got a garden?  Fill your watering can with it the water you don't drink.  Fill your watering can with any water you don't use.  Keep the watering can by the sink where you feel the most water gets wasted.  In fact, keep one by every sink if you want.  Believe me, your plants won't mind moldy water.  And if they do, they can't say anything.  Sucka's!

Monday, August 24, 2009

I never really thought about water before.  Water... what?  It comes out of the sink and shower whenever I want and on a good day I drink 4 glasses and feel bad about not drinking the healthy-person minimum of 8.  Sure, every now and then I would hear on the news that it hadn't rained enough and that homeowners could only water their lawns on certain days.  Stores were occasionally told not to use a turbo hose with enough force to knock over a delivery truck just to rid the sidewalk of a few bubble gum wrappers .  But no matter what, water still came out of the sink.  It was still neatly stacked in every corner store.  It was still nothing to think about.

When I moved to a place where it never rains - apart from the "rainy season," which only lasts a couple of months - I started to think about it.  I know, those of you living in a place where it rains all the time are probably thinking, Awesome!  But when it never rains, turning on the sink becomes a very different experience.  You watch the water escape down the drain and you start to think about it being gone.  You think of all the other things it could have been used for other than filling the time while I put the toothpaste on my toothbrush.  But it's just gone.

I'm a regular person.  But I'm a regular person who's been thinking about water lately.  And then I heard something that scared me so much that you know what I did?  I  ignored it.  I had to.  It was too scary to think about: "Water is the next oil."  I know this is not a new idea.  It's been said before.  But never to me while living in a place where it never rains.   Water is the next oil... Abort all thinking!  Abort all thinking!  Go to happy place!  And I did.   As I said, I'm a regular person.  Some things are just too big for me to handle.  I'm not a super hero.  I'm not even Angelina Jolie.

Then I saw something that someone posted on facebook.  A commercial from Brazil for peeing in the shower.

Peeing in the shower?  Is it a gross thing to do, yes.  But is it a super hero thing to do?  No.  Turns out, all the water from your toilet goes to the same place as the water from your shower.  And if you get any on your leg, well by gosh, there's a bar of soap at your fingertips.  And while you're giving your leg an extra scrub, you can get your mind off of what you just did by thinking about this: a regular Joe or Jane can save hundreds of gallons of water a year by peeing in the shower.  Isn't that gross... er, I mean... great?  Hey, just don't tell anyone you do it.  I'm certainly not going to!

So, as it turns out, it's possible to come out of my happy place stupor and still be happy even without being Bono or Angelina.  Hey, who knows if peeing in the shower is something they do?  Is it possible that this makes me an even better person than them?  (Don't answer that!)