Saving water is a vital aspect of being an environmentally conscious citizen. In addition to helping the environment, it can benefit your financial bottom line by lowering your utilities, so why wouldn’t you strive to save? From simple adjustments to your daily habits to more involved projects, you can quickly reduce how much water you use daily.
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How to Save Water at Home – In the Kitchen
There are several simple ways to save on water usage in the kitchen. Some of them are a bit intuitive but hopefully you’ll spot some new ideas you haven’t thought of.
Use the dishwasher
For 13 whole years, I suffered without a dishwasher. I got so used to washing dirty plates by hand that I didn’t know what to do with one when I moved into my apartment.
Truth be told, I still do most loads by hand, so I am far from perfect in this water-saving department. But mainly it’s because I barely have enough for a half load on any given day, much less a full load.
But at the end of the day, dishwashers are better because they use an average of 3 gallons of water per load, while hand-washing can use up to ten times that amount. And by running full loads, you can save even more.
Wash dishes by hand, but conservatively
If you don’t own a dishwasher or dirty up enough plates to run it, there is a way to more judiciously use water when washing dishes by hand. You just have to think conservatively.
First, don’t turn the water on full-blast; let it trickle over your dishes and pans.
Secondly, don’t wait for the water to get hot before beginning to wash. Certain foods like those high in protein actually wash off better with cold water.
Also, except for fatty or greasy foods that need warm water for scrubbing, the idea that cold water won’t clean your dishes is a myth. While hot water does kill germs, the heat required is way hotter than our hands can tolerate.
As most of us learned during the pandemic, soap kills most viruses by “unraveling” the lipid membrane of the virus, and a good lather will trap germs in the bubble pockets, carrying them away.
So to get your dishes good and clean with cold water, you just have to use the right kind of soap.
Use cold water detergent
Okay, so I’ll admit, washing dishes in cold water isn’t comfortable, and I don’t suggest you should do this for ALL your dishes. I just don’t see the need to run water for however long it takes it to warm up before getting started.
But if you have a good dish soap that lathers and rinses well in cool or cold water, that’s all you need.
I use Seventh Generation, and I frequently use cold water to wash dishes (until the water warms up), and I can assure you it lathers up great in cold water.
Side note: I thought Second Generation was eco-friendly, but I’ve just learned that it could be a potential skin irritant and contain some ingredients that are toxic to aquatic life, so I will need to further research this.
Please, for the love of Pete, stay away from big commercial brands like Dawn, Ajax, Palmolive, and Joy. Even some “green” brands like Simple Green have been shown to contain toxic ingredients.
If you don’t want to use Seventh Generation, stick with some other trusted brands like Mrs. Meyers and Ecover.
Pre-soak pots and pans
If you still have pots and pans with food stuck to the surface, soak them for at least an hour in warm, soapy water. Use a silicone or wooden spoon to scrape off the residue instead of trying to clean it off with a forceful blast of water like I used to.
Or better yet, invest in a big basin to soak everything in so that you don’t have to rinse everything off.
Steam those vegetables
Steaming vegetables, as opposed to fully submerging them in a pot of water, can save a little bit. And steamed vegetables are much better for you as they retain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants after the fact.
You can also roast them and skip the water altogether.
Recycle water used to cook
Some home cooks use pasta water to thicken homemade sauces. And I know from personal experience that it’s a great way to repurpose water.
But you can also use that same water to feed your plants. I was shocked to learn this though I don’t know why because I get some good tea from my compost that’s plant-friendly.
When you cook vegetables, pasta, eggs, or even potatoes, some nutrients, like calcium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, infuse with the water. Pour it into a glass bowl and let it cool, and not only do you have some H2O for your plants, but you’ve also got an excellent liquid fertilizer.
Some professionals even suggest putting cooled pasta water in your hair for a great shine. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s on my list of weird and wacky things to do.
Want some other cooking-water reuse ideas? Cooled rice water supposedly relieves sunburns, and potato water soothes tired feet.
Be sure to store leftover water in the refrigerator if you don’t use it right away.
Soak vegetables to get them clean
After unloading all your vegetables from your latest shopping trip, consider soaking your vegetables in a bowl of water to get them clean instead of holding them under a running tap.
Invest in a low-flow kitchen faucet
Low-flow faucets can be installed in both the kitchen and bathroom and they can save up to 60% on your water usage.
Buy a countertop composter
If you haven’t thought about learning to compost as a way to save money, you’re not alone. It never would have occurred to me either, at least until recently, when I began composting in my apartment.
But tossing your food scraps into a small compost bin instead of rinsing them down the garbage disposal will ultimately cut down on the amount of water you use at the kitchen sink. Make sure to dispose of your compost properly, either in your own backyard or at a community drop-off location.
How to Save Water at Home – In the Bathroom
Shower instead of bathe
I’m not a big fan of bathing myself, but I know a lot of people are. However, running a bath instead of showering uses anywhere from 35-50 gallons whereas a short’ish shower can use about half that amount.
Install a low-flow toilet
Another water-saving device is a low-flow toilet. FIrst introduced in the 90’s, they are pretty much mandated at this point. So if you want extra savings, pick a water-saving toilet that has the WaterSense label as they use 1.28 gallons per flush as opposed to the standard 1.6.
Or, better yet, go for something like a Niagara Stealth that uses a mere 0.8 gallons per flush.
Turn off the water while lathering or brushing
Turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth seems like common sense. But if you can stand it, do the same while you’re in the shower, or while washing your hands.
If it’s not the dead of winter, it’s not a bad way to save water.
If you don’t want to turn the water off altogether, install a flow-control valve that will slow your water to a trickle.
Install a low-flow shower head
A decent low-flow shower head should use around 7 gallons less than a standard shower head for a ten-minute shower. Add that up over a year, and you’ve just saved 2,555 gallons.
Invest in a thermostat shower valve
Most people turn on the shower, then walk off to get undressed while the water gets hot. But you don’t want it to keep running once it’s reached the right temperature. This is where a thermostat shower valve comes into play. It stops the flow of water once it reaches the desired temperature until you’re ready to step in and lather up.
Get a touchless faucet
Designed to turn on only when needed, a touchless faucet can slash your water usage in half.
Let it mellow
As the saying goes, “if it’s yellow, let it …” well, you know the rest.
Whenever I think about this phrase now, I’m reminded of the show Love is Blind when Cole and Zanab returned from their pre-honeymoon vacation and Cole’s toilet was … pretty disgusting.
It was later revealed that the poor guy was in such a hurry when leaving for the show that he forgot to flush, allowing it to “mellow” for far longer than any human should.
But I digress. If you can let it mellow, just don’t forget to eventually flush it down. Especially if you’re leaving for a reality show and will be returning home with guests and a camera crew.
Check for leaks
I’m embarrassed to admit just how long my kitchen pipes were leaking before I noticed. It was the musty smell that eventually gave it away.
The leak was very slow and way in the back of the cabinet, so I’m not surprised I didn’t notice it sooner. But I wonder how much water could have been wasted if it had been worse, or how much damage could have been done.
I recommend going around your house about once a month to check for leaks. And get them fixed right away instead of placing a bowl underneath to catch the flow.
If you can’t afford a plumber, at least reuse the water you catch for your houseplants.
How to Save Water at Home – in Your Laundry Room
Wash full loads
A fully loaded washing machine is much better than one that’s half filled.
Skip the extra rinse cycle
I can think of some rare occasions where you might need that extra rinse, like if something stinky spilled on your clothes, but otherwise, it’s completely useless and wasteful in my opinion.
Invest in water-saving appliances
Front-load washers typically use 50% less water than top-loading machines do. They also use less energy overall, so they’re a great eco-friendly investment.
Don’t over wash
It’s easy to get in the habit of tossing your clothes in the dirty hamper after each use. But quite often, this is just overkill. Our culture has become brainwashed into thinking every thing has to be pristine and spotless all the time, but it’s just downright wasteful.
If you’re wearing an undershirt and not getting all sweaty, you probably don’t need to wash a sweater every time you wear it.
And the same goes for your jeans and slacks. Some situations warrant a toss in the wash, but please try to wear your outfits at least twice before cleaning them. They’ll last longer, and you’ll save water.
How to Save Water at Home – In Your Yard
Sweep instead of spray
Sweeping sidewalks and driveways is a more sustainable way to clean up yard debris. And it’s better for your health.
Install a water shut-off valve
A quality shut-off valve for your garden hose can restrict the flow of water and prevent leaks. Every homeowner should have one of these inexpensive devices on their outdoor hoses.
Plant dry weather and native plants
Begonias are very drought resistant, and I can tell you from personal experience they are virtually impossible to kill. They require little watering, love shade, and can thrive in temperate climates through the first part of the winter.
Other examples of drought-resistant plants include succulents and cacti, forsythia, rosemary, bearberry, and more.
Bonus tip: plant flowers and other plants that are native to your area to keep your lawn even more eco-friendly. This helps to nurture and protect naturally occurring wildlife like bees, birds, butterflies, and other small creatures that might happen by to forage. And native plants require less maintenance because they have evolved to thrive in your local environment.
Add compost to your lawn
Compost helps soil hold onto moisture and nutrients, reducing the need for frequent watering. Compost also helps create a strong root system for the grass, which in turn increases its ability to absorb water.
To further reduce water usage, you can also place some mulch around your yard, spread some pine needles, or strategically place natural rocks around your plants to help retain moisture in the soil and reduce evaporation.
Don’t be vain about esthetics
Everyone wants that envious lawn that boasts bright green, healthy-looking grass. But I’m going to say what many people won’t: watering your lawn is a wasteful use of one of our most precious natural resources by depleting urban aquifers.
Watering your lawn and garden can account for up to 50% of a household’s total water consumption. But lawns need very little water to stay healthy, especially during cooler weather. So instead of cranking on the sprinkler system, just leave it alone. The cost of having freshly watered lawns is too high.
If you insist on it, however, save water and minimize runoff by installing a drip irrigation system. Or collect rainwater in a barrel and use that to water your lawn and plants.
Wilmington’s rainy season is during the summer, but in the winter, the sprinklers where I live come on regularly, even if it has just rained. It drives me bonkers! But since I rent there’s not much I can do. I absolutely love the landscape in my community, but this is just borderline criminal IMO.
Reroute or capture rain water
Rainwater can be captured in rain barrels or cisterns and used for gardening, washing vehicles, scrubbing your fence, or other outdoor activities.
Additionally, you can install rain gutters on your roof and connect them to downspouts that direct the water into barrels. When collecting water this way, make sure to cover them with a secure lid to prevent mosquitos from breeding.
Once your barrel is full, you can pump the water to wherever it’s needed.
How to Save Water at Home – Get the Kids Involved
One very effective and fun way to save water at home is to get your kids involved.
Start by teaching them the importance of water conservation and how wasting water negatively impacts the environment and our future.
You can also have a light and fun competition–the keyword being “fun”–to see who can cut their water usage the most. Set up a chart to track everyone’s water conservation progress, and offer rewards once you reach your goals.
Try to make it extra fun by offering rewards like age-appropriate treats, family outings, and other things you all enjoy. And make sure the whole family gets to reap the rewards so the kids remain motivated to keep saving.
How to Save Water with Your Pets
One of the best ways to save water with your pets is to use a pet-friendly water fountain. Water fountains are great because they help keep your pet’s water fresh, and they also help to reduce the amount of water that’s used to fill your pet’s bowl.
Additionally, invest in a pet-friendly low-flow shower head to bathe your furry friend – one that gets them clean while saving water.
Frequently asked questions on how to save water at home
If water naturally evaporates then comes back down as rain, and the earth is 70% water, why is it so important to conserve water?
Because water is a finite resource. There are only so many gallons available for use, and that number is being strained with the rise of the population.
Furthermore, the amount of clean water available for consumption is constantly going down due to industrial and chemical pollution, energy usage, global warming, and food production.
Take a look at Mexico City for some real-life scary facts. It’s literally sinking as the below-ground aquifers are being drained.
The demand for water is expected to go up by 55% through the year 2050, and freshwater sources are being depleted faster than they are being replenished. So conserving water is more important than ever.
Are there any organizations committed to helping out with global water savings?
Yes, there are many organizations dedicated to conserving water and promoting water efficiency. Some of the most prominent organizations include the World Wildlife Fund, WaterAid, The Nature Conservancy, and the Water Project.
These organizations focus on improving access to safe water and sanitation, conserving freshwater ecosystems, and helping communities manage water resources more responsibly.
Some of their initiatives include creating water efficiency plans for communities, supporting rainwater harvesting, and implementing water conservation projects.
By supporting these organizations, we can help ensure that our planet’s water resources are used in a sustainable manner.
What are some other ways to slash water usage when away from home?
If you’re staying in a hotel, reusing your towels is a great way to conserve water, as is not requesting clean sheets daily.
Also, if you’re going camping, bring a water filter to clean and reuse water, rather than relying on bottled water. When eating out, decline water refills unless you’re sure you’ll drink it.
All these small steps can make a big difference in the amount of water we use.