Thursday, June 20, 2013

25 Easy Ways to Conserve Water (and Save Money)

My husband and I spent the last few days away celebrating our wedding anniversary (ten years!). It was lovely. However, one not-so-lovely thing that greeted us upon our return was this:

Apparently, our city is running out of water, saying that if water usage stays at its current level, we'll have water outages. Yikes! I'm still wondering why they're only letting us know this now. I have to say, too, that we're all pretty bummed at our house about how this latest water emergency has basically put the kibosh on our new slip-n-slide. At least we got to use it once this summer...

At any rate, water conservation is something we should all be doing, whether you live in a desert (like me) or where rainfall is plentiful. It's always wise to conserve natural resources, especially when it's a limited one like water. A nice byproduct of water conservation? Saving money! Even though water is fairly cheap (the average price for tap water in the U.S. is $2 per 1,000 gallons), the little ways you save add up over time (I seem to say that about a lot of things, don't I? I'm feeling like that's sort of my motto for this blog.).

Here are 25 easy ways to save water, both indoors and outdoors. And none of them include that adage of "when it's yellow, let it mellow...". That one always sort of grosses me out.


1.  Try to wash only full loads in the washing machine. If you do a smaller load, try to match the water level to the load size. This simple step can save up to 1,000 gallons of water a month.
2. Wash clothes only when truly dirty. My family routinely re-wears clothing (especially when it comes to church clothes and school uniforms; also especially applicable in the colder months when my kids aren't playing outside all day). If it's not stinky, dirty, or stained, it doesn't need to be washed just yet.
3. Wash your towels and linens less. You don't need a new towel every day (my mom color-coded ours. Each kid in my family got two towels per week in our color; mine were purple. If we left ours on the floor and forgot to hang them up to dry, we were out of luck.). You can also wash sheets less and just switch out pillowcases more often; pillowcases are the dirtiest and most germy part of your bedding, after all.

4. Bathing isn't necessary every single day. I don't shower every day (unless I've worked out or gotten particularly dirty in the yard). My boys don't get a bath every night (again, unless they really need it. Some weeks, they seriously need a bath every night).  Just switching to every other day can make a difference.
5. If possible, bathe your kids together. Not only is it fun for the kids, but it saves a lot of water. The average bath uses about 30-50 gallons of water; if each kid gets an individual bathtub of water, that can translate to lots of water (and money) going down the drain. (This tip also can apply to couples...wink, wink.)
6. When running the water for the bath, plug the tub from the get-go. No need to wait for the water to get hot to start filling it; even if the water's ice cold, the hot water that comes later will balance it out.
7. Use a low-flow shower head. I know, I know...low-flow shower-heads have a (deservedly) bad reputation. The key is finding the right one; ours is awesome. Read here about our low-flow shower head. A four-minute shower uses about 20-40 gallons of water; installing a low-flow shower head can reduce that by 40%.
8.  Shorten your shower by just a minute or two. Shaving 1-2 minutes off your shower can save up to 150 gallons of water (per person) a month. Even I, the girl who loves ridiculously hot and long showers (I do my best thinking in there!), can handle shortening my showers by a minute.
9. I just learned this tip: keep a bucket in your shower. While you're waiting for the water to get hot, let the cold water fill the bucket; use the water in the bucket for other uses, like watering houseplants. I'm honestly thinking of keeping my green watering jug in the shower so I can water the pots on my porch.
10. This is the obvious one: turn off the tap while brushing, washing hands, and shaving. 
11.  The biggest water user in your home: the toilet (as much as 27% of the water in your home is used here). Watch out for leaky toilets. A leaky toilet that runs all day into the bowl can waste hundreds of gallons. To check if you have a leaky toilet, add some food coloring to the tank (as pictured below). If you see that color in the bowl within 15 minutes of not flushing, you have a leak. Such leaks can be pretty easily fixed and most often don't require a plumber's help.

(the food coloring test in action)

12. Stick a filled jar or water bottle in your toilet tank. The jar/bottle displaces some of the water and the tank doesn't refill with as much. As you can see in the picture above, I just reused a pickle jar full of water; it always stays full, even when the tank empties.
13. Don't use your toilet as a garbage can. Put used tissues, smashed bugs, and other things into the regular trash can.
14. Take care of leaky faucets. It usually only requires a new washer (which hardly cost anything -- maybe a quarter) to stop a leaky faucet. If a faucet leaks one drop per second, that's 3000 gallons of water per year that's completely wasted.

14. Store drinking water in the fridge. No need to let the water run at the tap and go to waste until it gets cold.
15.  Reuse drinking cups. My mom got tired of washing tons of cups every day so used to color-code these, too. We each got two cups in our designated color for us to use every day; if we just threw it in the sink after a drink of water or didn't rinse it out after drinking milk, we were out of cups for the day. Totally worked.
16. Instead of running the water and using the disposal for kitchen scraps, trying composting them instead. This doesn't work for everything that goes into the disposal, but it can definitely make a difference. I just keep this compost bin on my counter, next to the sink, to hold scraps for my compost pile outside and my worm composter in the garage. It holds any smells in very well.

17. Wash your produce in large bowl or pan instead of rinsing produce under running water. I did this today after my shopping trip (as you can see pictured above) with all my produce. After I was done, I emptied the water into my flowerpots on the porch.
18.  Reuse cooking water. I've done this a little in the past, but I got some great ideas from this article I found. For example, if you've cooked vegetables, save the water for stock. If you boiled or steamed  some vegetables for a rice or pasta dish, use that water to cook the rice or pasta. Water that has cooked pasta can be used to thin out sauces. Before you save water from boiling vegetables, taste it; only save it if it has some flavor. If the water is tasteless, use it to water plants somewhere.  One other cooking water reuse I employ around Easter: water that's been used to hard-boil eggs is excellent for watering houseplants because of the beneficial calcium.
19. If you use an automatic dishwasher, only turn it on when it's full. If you don't have/use an automatic dishwasher, fill one side of your sink with the rinse water; rinse that way instead of under running water.


20.  During the summer months, let your lawn grow longer (around three inches). Longer blades of grass shade the roots, making it need less water.
21. If you're going to wash your car at home, wash it on your lawn. Also, use a bucket and sponge instead of letting the hose run the whole time. Just five minutes of the hose running uses around 60 gallons. If you do opt to get your car washed professionally, look for a place that recycles its water; the carwash by my house does.

22. Mulch. Mulching has been my gardening revelation this year; I don't know why I haven't mulched in years past. A 2-4" layer of mulch helps your garden not dry out nearly as quickly. I've noticed a big difference in my garden and its need for water since I started mulching.
23. Instead of cleaning your porch and driveway with the hose, use a broom. 
24. Collect rainwater. My dad just starting doing this a month or so ago -- it only took a couple rainy days to completely fill the water barrel by his greenhouse. I'm sure if you live in a wetter climate than ours, your water barrel would fill even faster. I read that during an inch of rainfall, 900 gallons of water flows off a 30 x 50 foot roof! You can find more information from the articles I've pinned, here and here. But it's awesome -- my dad just has a pump hooked up to the water barrel by his greenhouse (he just built it -- I'm soooo jealous) and he waters the plants in there with collected rainwater. Awesome!

25.  Finally, one great way to save water is to spread the word! Share these tips and others you've come across or that you use already. Sure, this step doesn't really save you money but everyone benefits. A little conservation on all our parts can go a long way!

How do you save water in your home? 

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{This post is linked up to Frugal Days, Sustainable WaysFrom the Farm Blog Hopand Little House Friday}

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lovely Links: 'Hooray for June!' Edition

I love June.  The return of watermelon, running through sprinklers, lemonade, Otter Pops, days spent in swimming suits, sunny days, and lots of gardening. *sigh*

Also, the return of my favorite summertime drink. I only have it the summertime so I don't go totally nuts and get burned out on it (kinda like how I only let myself drink eggnog during the Christmas season).  It's really simple, takes hardly any time to make, and it's gooood. It's not too sweet and it's really refreshing on a hot summer afternoon.

I can take no credit for this delicious drink - it's basically a copycat version of Starbucks Iced Passion Lemonade, only my version isn't nearly as sugary.

Nothing against the Starbucks version. I first tried it years ago, in my pre-kids days, when I worked as a Community Relations Manager at Barnes & Noble. Mormon girl that I am, my drink choices at the Starbucks mini-cafe were pretty limited (since we Mormons don't drink coffee or tea). I pretty much only drank the cream-based frappuccinos (mmmmm....double chocolate chip frappuccino...). Then one day, I saw a co-worker drinking a bright pink drink and I had to ask what it was. To my delight, they had an iced tea that was totally herbal (while Mormons aren't supposed to drink tea that contains tea leaves, herbal tea is totally cool). So, I had one of those pretty much every day from then on. Yum.

Anyway, I make my own iced passion tea at home throughout the summer. You can buy the Tazo Passion tea at pretty much any grocery store. I simply heat up a cup of water (usually in the microwave -- no sense heating up the kitchen in the summer heat by using the stove), put a couple bags of the Passion tea into the water, let them steep for about three minutes, and then pour it over ice. Like the Starbucks version, I sweeten the iced Passion tea with lemonade. I really like raspberry Simply Lemonade. I don't use much lemonade -- maybe ¼ cup at the most. I've used other sweeteners in the past (like agave nectar -- which I found isn't really that healthy after all), but I like the raspberry lemonade the best.  Try it -- I think you'll like it. (FYI -- I've heard that hibiscus tea -- which is what the Passion tea is partly made up of -- isn't a good choice to drink while pregnant. I was pretty bummed when I learned that in the summer of 2010, let me tell you.)

On to the Lovely Links...

Here are a few links that have caught my eye or that are relevant to life in June or that I've rediscovered whilst looking through my many, many pins on Pinterest.

A toast to the beginner, or, what to do with garlic scapes :: Eating from the Ground Up
Garlic Scape Pesto :: The Garden of Eating
If you hadn't guessed by the photo or the links already, I'm so excited about the latest thing to come from our garden: garlic scapes! Our garlic is almost ready to harvest (more on that when the time comes) and recently the bulbs sent out the flowers (called scapes).  You're supposed to cut these off before they bloom so that the energy stays in the bulb so you have stronger-flavored garlic. We've never had scapes before and I'm so excited to cook with them! I'm not sure my boys want to eat them quite yet -- they've been having too much fun curling them around their arms and walking around with their arms outstretched, a la The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

DIY Project: Kate's Grocery Planner :: Design*Sponge
In my ongoing effort to be an organized person (sigh), I've been trying out different menu planning/grocery list templates. Of the ones I've seen or tried, I'm liking this one best (I use the menu grocery list).  I also really like how she made a cute clipboard for it -- I'm going to work on mine this weekend.

Clean Your Air Conditioner Unit :: The Family Handyman
This is on my to-do list (okay..let's be's really going to end up on my husband's to do list.) because I've heard that cleaning your A/C unit can save you a bunch of money on your cooling bills. Also, having had our A/C go out last summer (not fun) because we hadn't been so great at maintenance, I've decided to be a little more proactive.

Campfire Eclairs :: Making Memories with Your Kids
Oh my. These look dangerously good. My only change would be to use homemade chocolate frosting (the store-bought stuff is gross and has nothing on this recipe).  We're going camping at the end of the month and I'm thinking these might be a must.

How we stopped living (less than) paycheck to paycheck :: Simple Mom
This is how you do it, people. Little things add up. I love, love, love this post.

Hoping this June weekend is wonderful for you!  

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.
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