At the start of our school year last year we decided to do a green living project for the duration of the year… it turned out to be somewhat of a lifestyle project that we won’t be giving up any time soon. Our project began with a home audit, we wanted to see what we were using that was harming the world around us and what we could do to change that. We looked at our electrical usage, our car usage, our plastic, and just how much garbage we were creating. Some of the results were okay, South Africa has been through an electrical crisis, where load shedding had caused us to reduce our use of electricity significantly. A number of things had already happened that meant we were on a journey to reduce our garbage significantly.
The most obvious environmental change that we started working on was our water consumption. Had we known back then what we know now, that a water crisis of giant proportions was going to hit the City of Cape Town and hit all the folk living here, we would have begun working on our water savings much sooner. It really helped us to chart our water month after month to see that the changes we were making were making a huge impact on our consumption and also on our water bill. The biggest change we made last summer was that we no longer swam, we stopped topping our pool up, expecting it to rain over the winter… one summer with out swimming would be okay. Turns out our pool is completely dry this summer as well, and I am ridiculously grateful that we live near the sea and that we can still swim regularly.
Other changes we made were obvious: No longer tidying up by tossing clothes into the washer, doing the least possible amount of laundry, doing the dishes in a smaller basin in the kitchen sink, and only watering our garden with grey water. Water we had saved from showering and washing dishes, went onto our precious garden. And until last Spring we were fairly happy with the changes we had made. We had managed, just through obviously taking a lot more care of our water resource to reduce our water consumption significantly. But this summer the water situation has become a lot more drastic… and at this stage the stress of potentially no water has become a harsh reality.
Se7en Tips for Saving Water…
This summer the water crisis and lack of rain meant that the water we had been saving was setting us up to have some already good habits in place… we needed to get a lot more intentional about every single drop of water…
- Ecoflow Taps: In our plan of being intentionally green this year and buying one thing that will redirect our house towards greener living each month, we bought Ecoflow Adjustable taps during January, for the taps that we still use. The tap in the kitchen and the tap in the shower. These tap attachments reduce the flow of your water significantly, from your average of 15litres per second to 2 litres per second. It took a bit of getting used to, but over the month of January we have managed to significantly save water because of them and so we love them.
- No Flushing: This sounds appealing, but it is the harsh reality of living here right now… After about twenty years of saying flush the toilet, every single time a child went to the bathroom… it took exactly one day to train our children not to flush the toilets. The grownups in our house flush the loo and that’s it. We no longer use grey water for our garden at all, and only use grey water for flushing. Otherwise, hand sanitiser, rather than soap for hand washing after a visit to the bathroom.
- Buckets everywhere all the time: It is not aesthetically pleasing, especially our buckets that we grabbed from a painter friend… but they do the job!!! We shower with buckets, the washing machine empties into buckets and there is some sort of container under every single tap, in case any water drips when it is turned on or off. In actual fact we no longer use most of our taps at all and no potential for drips.
- Only Absolutely Essential Laundry: Gone are the days of clean sheets every week, every other week at the most. And I don’t want to talk about towels. Using smaller towels is great, and hanging them out to dry in the sun when we use them really helps. Always using the washer when it is full and with the least amount of water.
- Dishwashing: Only put the dishwasher on the lowest water cycle, and only when it is absolutely packed full. And otherwise washing dishes once a day and using the water from one wash up to soak the dishes for the next wash up.
- Drinking Water: While we used to have a lot of spillage, or kids would over fill their glasses and we would water a pot plant with the excess… well not anymore. They pour less into their drinking glasses, if they want more they can pour more, but not the other way around. Also water bottles are working for us, they fill their water bottles and when they aren’t thirsty anymore than can just return the bottle to the fridge.
- Showers: After years of telling teenage boys that they have to shower every single day, we now say they have to shower after they have been running or hiking. We having a running competition to see who can shower the quickest… our champions have the tap running for less than 40 s. A Shower looks like: tap on and off… soap, shampoo, and then tap on again to rinse off. Its fine in the summer, or after gym when we are all hot… I am not looking forward to it in the winter.
I have a feeling so many folk are really doing their best to save water, I do find it annoying that some folk still have luscious green gardens, ours is completely gone. I find it annoying that there are folk on our block with two or three people living in their home that are using more water than we are with a family of ten. And I find it annoying to see the amount of fear mongering that goes on in the media… regular folk are completely stressed out about the lack of water. People are queuing at local springs throughout the night… and folk are buying bottled water (that comes out a municipal tap anyway) like there is no tomorrow.
We have decided to concentrate on doing the best we can and save every drop, not just because there is a water crisis but because it is the right thing to do. Some of the changes we will never put back to how they were, I can’t believe how unthinking we were in our water expenditure before… I can’t imagine that we will ever bath again or even shower without a bucket. What I can say, is that eventually we are going to have to recreate a garden that is far more adjusted to the world of drought. And we will be starting with a fresh canvas so to speak… so that is going to be interesting.