15 Ways to Save a Lake (or part of one anyway)

Screen shot 2011-03-09 at 9.10.00 AM1. Take a five minute shower. Set a timer and get out when it rings. You can click here to watch yours truly (yep, that’s me in a towel) talking on French TV about the importance of water conservation.

2. Skip the shower. Then you can go on European TV in a towel too. Americans bathe too often and for too long. It’s better for your skin and the planet if you don’t take a shower every day. More in this New York Times article “The Great Unwashed.”

3. Don’t bathe your kids. Children don’t need baths every day. Sponge off the places that are dirty and have them bathe once or twice a week instead of daily. Spot clean infants under the chin where the milk tends to curdle and around the privates and you can get away with bathing them only once every two weeks, if that often.

4. Put a bucket in the shower to catch the water that’s usually wasted as you wait for it to heat up. Use this gray water to flush the toilet.

5. Water the house plants with rinse water. House plants love beer and milk. When you rinse out the milk container (the glass one that you will bring back to the store or the carton that you will save for your friend Sue because you can’t recycle it in Ashland but you can in Portland), water the plants with this water instead of throwing it away.

6. Fix the leaks. A leaky faucet or a running toilet can skyrocket your water bills and your water consumption. A huge amount of water waste comes from unfixed leaks. Check outdoor faucets as well.

7. Use a cup with some water in it when you brush your teeth. If you have to use the faucet, don’t let the water run.

8. Don’t wash your clothes after just wearing them once. Even with a super efficient washing machine, washing clothes wastes water. Besides, you’re just going to stink up your exercise clothes, why bother washing them?

9. If it’s yellow let it mellow. Close the toilet cover after use and only flush down the brown (with the water from the shower bucket, see #4). Every time you flush the toilet you use about 3.5 gallons of water. Use the money you save to go to the movies.

10. Run the dishwasher or the washing machine only when they’re full. Our friend Bruce says you can always squeeze in one more dish.

11. When you need new appliances, upgrade to energy and water efficient models, low-flow shower heads, and a low-flow or composting toilet. Low-flow shower heads are often available for free from your town or city, and cities will also give you a healthy rebate check if you buy an energy-efficient appliance or low-flow toilet.

12. Compost kitchen waste. It takes a lot of water to grind kitchen waste in the disposal, and there’s no reason to do it. Start a compost heap or an indoor worm bin. Here’s Attainable Sustainable’s primer on lazy person composting.

13. Use the same glass all day. Whether you’re drinking water, coffee, or juice. That way you don’t have to wash it, just refill.

14. Don’t run the water to defrost food. Defrost in the refrigerator the night before.

15. Use a rubber spatula to scrape food into the compost bin (see #12) before putting in the dishwasher. Do this for every plate at every meal and you’ll save hundreds of gallons!

Related posts:
15 Ways to Save a Tree
The Impact of No Impact
Turning on the Heat

What are your best tips for saving water?

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7 thoughts on “15 Ways to Save a Lake (or part of one anyway)”

  1. All good tips and worthy too. But never underestimate the calming effect — and fun — of a bath. My pre-teen still likes to take one. So I have the quick showers to keep our water consumption down.

  2. Oh-la-la! I loved that footage of you in the towel! I am a crazy quick shower taker. Having grown up in Northern California and having lived through a couple of droughts, we are serious out here!

  3. I take long-ish showers, about 12 minutes – 15 in the summer when I shave my legs, but only twice a week (okay more when I’m pregnant in the summer but those cold showers are quick and cut down on A/C use!). My hair and skin can’t stand anymore. I bathe the kids once or twice a week unless they’re really dirty. I use a hot water bottle instead of a hot bath to ease aching joints. I use a bowl of hot water to defrost meat in instead of running water over it constantly like hubby does.

    I even let the toddler’s poop from his diaper (If you use disposables, you know you’re not supposed to throw it out with the diaper, right? If you use cloth, you know this already) sit in the toilet until the next person uses it. Hubby thinks it’s gross but hey – he has his own washroom lol.

    I definitely use the same cup all day – if I can find it – rather than a new one. Kids also use the same sippies all day unless it goes missing. I use leftover water in drinking glasses/sippy cups to water the plants (didn’t know about milk – thanks!) In fact, often I forget to water the plant until I come across a half full/empty cup of water lol. Lucky plant (notice the single tense? It’s the only one that has survived!)

    All this talk about water is making me thirsty!

  4. Oh, and I’m very blessed to live in a city where they compost! We just put the compost bin out by the road on garbage day and they take it all away. Our garbage bins rarely stink because there’s no rotting food in them – we change the bag every other week.

  5. Lots of good tips here. I’m stuck on the brushing teeth one. I always think AFTER letting the water run that I should not have turned it on in the first place. Any suggestions on breaking this habit?

  6. There are some great tips here. I love how many of them are small and ought to be easy enough to do. Small things really do make a difference.

  7. Alexandra, I do have an idea for how you can get into this new habit with teeth brushing. Write about it on your blog. Make a pact with your readers that for the next week you will be paying close attention to your water consumption, and you will be brushing your teeth from a cup, using a fraction of the amount of water you usually use. Then every day report back to your readers (and friends and family) about your progress. There’s something about making a public declaration that reminds us to do things differently. I wager that by the end of seven days the reform will be complete!

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