Home Made Sustainable: part 2 – Water saving tips & tricks

This week is #WaterSavingWeek, an annual initiative run by Waterwise, an independent, non-profit NGO focused on reducing water consumption in the UK. As such, this isn’t a post about a particular room (if you were expecting all of this sort-of series to follow that structure then I’m sorry to disappoint!) but about the ways in which I try to keep our water footprint down and conserve our most precious resource on the planet.

Water may not seem like a commodity, many of us will expect to just turn on the tap and have it there, yet it is not actually a renewable resource in the way you might think because only 1% of all the water on the planet, is usable for human consumption. Just 1%. And when you think about all the things that treated water is used for – washing our clothes, washing dishes,  washing ourselves, flushing toilets, cleaning and so on – then you begin to realise just how precious water is.

As you can tell, this is yet another thing I’m very passionate about (spoiler: it’s my job), so I wanted to share a few things we’ve done to make our home more water efficient. For more information on why it’s important to save water, follow this link.

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Source: Waterwise’s Instagram

Like energy efficiency, being water efficient can save you money in the long run. If that’s what motivation works for you then that’s absolutely fine. Did you know though, that water scarcity is a serious and rapidly increasing problem in the UK? And that London actually receives less rainfall than Sydney, Istanbul and Morocco? [Source: Waterwise]. Even here in Wales, water resource is a concern because with the extreme peaks and troughs of weather we’re seeing more and more of now (climate change is happening guys), if we get a sudden burst of rain after a long dry period then the ground can’t absorb it properly and we end up with flash flooding. And it’s not as simple as just storing up the extra rain to use later on – if only it were. I could go on about this for hours as a geography and water nerd but here are a few helpful resources if you’d like to go a bit deeper: this podcast by Climate Queens which I recommend listening to, the “Explained: The World’s Water Crisis” episode on Netflix, or this blog on Waterwise’s website.

The point is, reducing our personal water consumption where possible to do so is much needed for the sake of the planet. It is not a renewable resource and it’s significantly more expensive to treat and get to your tap than many people realise. So, how do we do this? Easy, here goes…

Check your supply

The first thing we did was have a new service pipe installed as the house was being supplied via lead [common for old properties like ours], which has been proven to be detrimental to our health and is not recommended, particularly for young children and expectant mothers.

To identify and rectify this issue is pretty simple, all you need to do is get in touch with your water supplier and request a sample to be taken and/or an inspector check your supply [they will still be able to do this during lockdown as it’s an essential service]. If found then some water companies will replace the lead for free in particular circumstances but if not, it wasn’t expensive to arrange a Water Safe registered plumber do the job. The water supplier then needs to return to swap over your connection and you’re good to go!

Additionally, if you aren’t already on a meter then this is definitely something to consider, as it can not only save you money (though not always) but more importantly allows water companies to customise their service a little more and identify any leaks on your supply that you may not see (they’ll tell you if they find anything and what to do about it). This helps to reduce water wastage overall and keeps your supply running as it should.

Check your taps

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My kitchen sink set-up… I love it!

As mentioned in #TapThursday of #WaterSavingWeek, checking your taps is a great way to save water without impacting your daily experience. Our new taps in the kitchen [pictured left] and bathroom come ready-fitted with aerators, which do exactly what they say on the tin; aerate the water so that you get the same supply, same pressure but using less water. To ensure best quality and standards, keep an eye out for WRAS approved products and clean the mouth of your taps regularly to keep any bacteria at bay (holding a cap full of bleach or household cleaner over it for 5 mins or so, then running the tap on full for a minute to flush it should do the trick).

Adapt your shower

There are a few things you can do in the shower to save yourself and the planet some valuable water. Firstly, deploying a water saving shower head is great for lowering your water usage without compromising on quality or experience. These are often available from your water supplier directly but also tend to be in most supermarkets or hardware stores nowadays – they usually contain a tiny little aerator as I just mentioned for taps.

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My water saving shower head & timer

Secondly, shower timers can provide a fun incentive to take shorter showers and save water that way. You could even make it into a competition with your house mates/family and see who can get in under the 4 minute limit! Four minutes isn’t prescriptive, but tends to be the optimum/recommended time for water efficient showering [4-5, better still if you don’t shower everyday but only when necessary]. Timers are, again, often available from your water supplier directly but can also be found online or just use a stopwatch you already have.

Thirdly, those precious few (or maybe not so few) minutes spent waiting for the hot water to come through if you have a combi-boiler like ours, can be prime opportunity for some water saving. Placing an empty bucket or watering can in the shower to capture this excess water is a fantastic adaptation that can save a lot over time; it has more of an impact than you might think! I tend to keep the bucket there during the rest of my shower to catch any bounce-off etc., then use the water to flush the toilet (not all in one go, just as and when until empty), provided that there aren’t any nasty chemicals in there of course – best to opt for natural products to be on the safe side or take the bucket out before you begin washing your hair and such. I’ll go into this more in a minute but do remember that all we should be flushing is the 3 P’s: pee, poo & paper. I’d also like to note that essential oils should not be part of any bathroom cleaning as they are known to be very harmful to aquatic life (despite their presence in many homemade cleaning recipes). I could do a whole other post on what happens from toilet to treatment so let me know if that’s of interest.

Reduce the amount you flush

So, as mentioned above I would hope it goes without saying that nothing bar the 3 P’s should be going down your toilet on a regular basis. Even cleaning solutions are best kept to a minimum where possible. Wet wipes, sanitary products, hair and all kinds of other stuff cause vile, disgusting and disruptive blockages [even fatbergs] which can lead to flooding yourself or your neighbours and ultimately, the price of fixing this is reflected in the bills you pay (not directly, but it’s an expensive problem to fix).

The age-old saying “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down” genuinely has some merit when it comes to saving water because the average toilet flush uses around 9 litres. Can you believe that?! Again, many new ones have now been adapted to use less; however, toilets are also the leading cause of household leaks, so it’s totally worth checking yours over to make sure it’s in tip-top condition. There are also some nifty, inexpensive little bags you can pop into your cistern which reduce the amount of water used for each flush. The Hippo is a great example.

Get a water butt

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Excuse the messy garden but here’s my butt!

As well as watering our flowers & plants with grey water (a term often used to describe household waste water NOT from the toilet i.e. washing up/shower/dishwasher etc.), we have a water butt fitted in the garden which collects rainwater ready to use as and when we need it. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can get special types of crystals to go in plant pots or glass bulb things which secrete the water at a slow & steady pace, making it last longer and keeping plants better hydrated.

I installed our water butt all by myself (rather proud) and have to say it wasn’t complicated, plus it filled up in just one rainy evening! Dream! I’m seriously considering getting a second to be honest, especially as we don’t have an outside tap.

And there you have it, my top tips for saving water at home/things that we’ve done to try save as much as we can. One other habit I’m trying to get into is remembering to pour excess water from drinking glasses etc. into the watering can instead of down the drain! It’s all a learning curve. If you don’t have a water butt you can also use the water left after washing up the dishes to water your plants & flowers, provided that you’re using an eco-friendly washing up liquid.

Do you have any extra tips? Let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: this post was not sponsored in any way, however was done in support of Waterwise who happen to be friends of mine.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

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