Top 10 Tips For Saving Water

Gorgeous Image by Cathy Durden

Considering we are well into a hot dry, summer here in Perth I decided to focus my weekly article for Conservation Council of Western Australia on the best ways to save water.

Here Are My Top 10 Tips to Save Water

1) Use less

This is the principle at the root of all things ‘lower impact’. Apply this to every aspect of your life – take shorter showers, use less pressure when you do, only wash your dishes once a day, turn the tap off while brushing your teeth and don’t fill your saucepans right to the top. Every time you use water think about ways that you could use less.

2) Catch me if you can…

A heavy-handed tap user can waste litres and litres of H20 every day. There are easy ways to stop this liquid gold literally going down the gurgler.

  • Wash your dishes in a large stainless steel bowl in your sink. You can use the leftover water on your garden as long as you are using garden-safe dishwashing liquid or, better yet, make your own.
  • Rinse your fruit and veg in a bowl of water. Then, if you are cooking them, use that water in your saucepan or steamer.
  • Put a bucket at your feet while you shower to collect water. If you would prefer not do that, at least have it in there while you are waiting for the water to warm up.
  • Don’t rinse dishes and cups under a fast-flowing tap. Keep a bowl of water next to the sink to use throughout the day (great for the workplace).
  • When washing your face, use a small bowl instead of filling up the whole basin or using the running tap.

3) A Good toilet trick

On average, a single flush toilet uses around 12 litres of water per use. However, a four-star water efficient dual-flush toilet uses less than half this amount. So if you are installing a new toilet aim for one with a WELS rating, a smaller cistern, a flushing system toilet or all of the above. ­

If retrofitting isn’t an option you could try this handy tip – fill a soft drink container with some sand (to weigh it down), screw the lid back on the bottle and place it into the toilet tank. This will reduce the amount of water it takes to fill the cistern and therefore the amount that gets needlessly flushed away.

4) Switch to a water-efficient showerhead

This is one of those little retrofits that you can do even if you rent. The Water Corporation has a great incentive where you can swap up to two inefficient showerheads for efficient replacements absolutely free! If you rent make sure you check with your property manager before swapping – though I can’t imagine it being a problem. If you are not allowed to swap them you could always just buy a water saving showerhead that you take with you to each new rental. Just make sure you remember where you keep the old one!

5) Change your shower habits

How committed are you to saving water? After learning that 22% of total household water is used in the shower (plus heating which wastes power) I have decided that this is the next frontier for my household. The timer has been great and I have whittled my showers down to a maximum of two minutes, but now I will also try turning the water off while lathering hair or soap. If this is not really your thing, avoid doing things in the shower that can be done elsewhere, such as shaving or washing your face.

6) Wash settings save water, energy and money!

  1. Check to see if your washing machine has an ‘eco’ setting. This will vary on different machines. For some it will reduce the amount of water used in the rinse cycle and for others it will reduce from two rinse cycles to one.
  2. Manually set your water level to the lowest you can each time instead of letting the machine set automatically.
  3. Advance your time settings to a shorter (lighter) wash cycle where possible.
  4. Only wash when the machine is completely full and wash on cold to save energy.
  5. Avoid the permanent press cycle which uses more water on most machines.

7) Water-wise your garden

For existing gardens, ensure that you always apply a thick layer of mulch (5-10cms) around your plants roots to slow evaporation, reduce plant stress, protect your soil and reduce weeds. Only water during the coldest part of the day and pour the water directly over the root of the plant. Remember, less frequent deep soakings are better than lots of little sprays.

If you are planting new plants, choose drought resistant varieties and create a stunning native garden. A good rule of thumb is to look for plants with silvery leaves. The Water Corporation has this fantastic online resourcewhich helps you choose the best water-savvy plants for your region.

8) Cover your pool

If you have a pool, invest in a pool cover. The Water Corporation says that during summer, a cover can save up to 55 litres of water a day! Considering the popular Target 60 campaignsets a target of reducing your water use by 60 litres a day, a pool cover could just about get you over the line in one fell swoop.

9) Check for wasteful leaks

A leaky toilet can waste up to 25 litres of water every day! To find the leak put a few drops of food colouring into the tank and if colour appears in the bowl without flushing then there is a leak!

If you suspect any other leaks though, The Water Corporation again comes to the rescue with this guide on how to Seek A Leak, and what to do if you find one.

10) Change your diet

Amazingly an average meat eater’s diet uses between 3 and 15 times as much water as a plant-based diet every year, which can add up to approximately 5 million litres per year1. Abbatoir run-off and effluence (heavily associated with piggeries) can also play a critical role in polluting scarce freshwater sources. If, however, you or someone in your household is not willing to try a vegetarian or vegan diet you could possibly try just reducing your consumption of animal products. If you want to give it a go try Meat Free Mondays, a campaign created by legendary Beatle and animal rights advocate Paul McCartney. Good Luck!

While doing a bit of research I found this gorgeous French advert that the WWF released as part of its water saving campaign. Oh so cute…

If you are looking for even more ways to save water, I wrote this post which also has some simple tips that can help you save.

Enjoy.

The Fight For Our Lives – Gas vs. Water

This video needs to be seen. Yes, it is a little bit dramatic and yes it is also slightly reminiscent of the opening word crawl in Star Wars but, all that aside, the drama is justified. The world and everything on it needs water. Fresh, uncontaminated water. Yet mining companies – with exploration licences in hand – are threatening local, national and international water sources with unsustainable and downright dangerous methods.

Check out what is happening as we speak in Australia…

What is Coal Seam Gas?

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is methane that is trapped in coal seams. It is trapped by water (in pores and cleats) and are found in coal deposits that are too deep to mine.

Image originally from Action On Coal and Gas

Why is mining it a problem?

Groundwater

For me this is the scariest risk. In a country where drought is one of our major concerns the thought of ‘fracking’ is just insane. To extract the CSG water must be removed which can then affect the water levels in aquifers and alluvial systems. Mining companies cause micro-seismic (tiny earthquakes) to create pathways for the gas to move through. This is called Hydraulic Fracturing AKA Fracking. If these fractures hit the wrong places (say a fault or fissure) then hey presto! we have contaminated groundwater.

The First Law of Ecology: Everything Is Connected To Everything Else

-Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle, 1971

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This entire industry is dirty. Coal Seam Gas is a fossil fuel – a non-renewable resource. Not only does the burning of the gas produce carbon emissions, but there are often methane leaks (which is not stringently monitored by the industry). Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, 72 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a period of 20 years, or 25 times more effective over 100 years.

Calculating how much carbon is absorbed by which forests and farms is a tricky task, especially when politicians do it.
– Donella Meadows

Conservation

A CSG well has a footprint of one hectare – which doesn’t sound all that bad. Except there over 40,000 wells in Australia as well as all the infrastructure and roads created to facilitate them. That leads to the removal of a huge amount of unique and valuable habitats.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

Mohandas K. Gandhi quoted in EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful.

Threats to Health

Gas wells release dangerous dust into the atmosphere which have been linked to respitory issues and cancer and affect the nervous and immune systems of humans and animals.  Gases which are release include BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Of these gases – 25% are carcinogenic; 37% affect the endocrine system; 52% affect the nervous system and 40% affect the immune system.

“I do care a great deal about the environment but my real work and my greatest challenge is trying to overcome deceits that end up jeopardising oublic healthy and safety”

– Erin Brockovich

What can you do?

Money talks. When up against a mining company that has more money than god it is a hard fight to win. The Lock The Gate Alliance  is a fantastic not-for-profit organisation which suggests – as the video also does – that people need to make some noise. Their website is a fantastic resource if you want to get involved. It has information about rallies, groups, contact details for letters, petitions and a whole lot more. Take a gander and get inspired.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) quoted in John M. RIchardson, ed. Making it Happen, 1982

If you’re interested?

If you want to see examples of fracking (and all that comes with it) then I recommend watching the Sundance Festival award winner Gasland by Josh Fox. It left me flabbergasted. Here is the trailer – check out the guy lighting his tap water on fire.. YIKES.

“Plasticized” Movie Premiere

The crowd gathering before the movie

On Friday night (13th Jan) the amazing crew at Hulbert Street managed to add another gorgeous green get-together to their list of achievements. As arguably one of the greenest streets in Australia, Hulbert is often a central meeting place for community events that are focused on creating awareness about environmental issues and living sustainably. With the zany Tim and Shani Graham at the helm, Hulbert is fast becoming a Mecca for environmental education in Perth.

Shani Graham (The Painted Fish)

Even with all this eco street cred though, the greater Hulbert community managed to outdo itself last week by not only premiering an eye-opening and inspirational documentary but also reeling in the Director for a mingle and some questions. Special mention goes to absolute eco-babe Lisa (Head Campaigner for Plastic Free Freo) who recognised the powerful message in Plasticized after seeing it in Melbourne and set about organising its Western Australian premiere. The unexpectedly young and unduly anxious Director, Michael Lutman, flew over from his adopted home of Melbourne (a San Fran native) to personally introduce the documentary and then answer questions after the screening. Judging by the rip-roaring applause at the end of the movie he can stop feeling so nervous about how his debut film will be received…

High-tech Cinema Screen doubles as Bed Sheet!

The Documentary

Plasticized is a documentary that shows the insidious reality that is plastic pollution in our oceans. Braving almost 31 days of sea-sickness and some fairly gnarly weather Lutman set off with a team of researchers from the 5 Gyres Institute aboard the Seadragon to examine the reach and effect of plastic in our oceans – the global impact of our plastic addiction!

I expected lots of shocking images of marine animals with bags in their bellies or round their throats and while there was an element of that what I was met with instead was a much more scientific and – surprisingly – much more shocking body of work. What Lutman does a fantastic job of explaining is that it is not just the visible scars bobbing on our horizons that we need to worry about but what they breakdown into. Our plastic rubbish is breaking down into ‘nurdles’ and creating (in Lutman’s own words);

“a plastic soup of confetti”

But instead of me yabbering on about it I’ll just embed the trailer so you can see for yourself –

The Scene

The dress code was “Recycled Black Tie” so my hubby and I had hit the op-shops earlier in the week to find some suitable attire. For $6 I managed to snag a gorgeous little black cocktail dress and Mark was equally successful with his $15 dress jacket. On arrival we realised we may have taken the brief a bit seriously as there were an awful lot of boardies and singlets – but we did get props from Shani who asked me to stand up in front of the crowd and do a twirl for my effort. Tim was the one that really brought the goods though, looking dashing in shorts, a singlet and a tie.

Friendly old fella – wandering around the crowds

At the very end of the cul-de sac (right outside The Painted Fish) sat a group of around 200 people on picnic rugs, deck chairs or just their bums. Loads and loads of bikes scattered around the street. Dogs were roaming around politely introducing themselves and it was a very chilled out vibe. We laid out our picnic rug, I took off my shoes and poured some champagne into some recycled jars – no plastic picnic cups for us thanks!

Who needs a flute when you have a jar?

The Event

Amazingly the first people that approached us were Mike and Lisa. It is so lovely to meet people who are unabashedly enthusiastic and passionate about their work. There was nothing nonchalant about it – just massive smiles and some nerves at the ever-growing crowd. I started speaking to another fellow who was absolutely lovely and halfway through the conversation (when the tipsy little stone dropped) I realised that it was in fact Brad Pettitt – the Mayor of Fremantle. After I stopped jumping up and down with excitement – cool as a cucumber I know! – we had a good chat about how progressive Fremantle is and he seemed very proud to be part of it and very modest about how vital his part has been (and continues to be).

Me and Michael Lutman (Director)

There were loads of familiar faces from all sorts of great organisations such as Sea Shepherd (the gorgeous Britta) and Animal Rights Advocates (the amazing Kim). If you want to immerse yourself in the grassroots of green campaigning these events are such a great place to meet with, chat to, bounce ideas off or just absorb some hippy vibes at.

Lisa (Plastic Free Freo), Brad Pettitt (Mayor of Freo), Mark (Spunky Husband) and Mike (Director)

Britta (Sea Shepherd)

My Overview

This documentary changed the way that I thought about plastic pollution in our oceans. In my simple mind there was a simple solution. We just needed to go out to these plastic islands and remove them from our oceans right? Not the case. Those nurdles that I mentioned earlier are breaking down into smaller pieces – I’m talking microscopic – and are floating through every part of our ocean. Being ingested by marine animals large and small. And then being caught and ending up as dinner around the world. As Michael says on the Plasticized website;

“With every nation, rich or poor, reaching further for dwindling resources at any cost, it is perplexing to see how we neglect one of our most precious and vital assets, the Ocean” – Michael Lutman

The whole point of the movie is that prevention is better than a cure. This documentary has motivated me to completely eradicate plastic from my life. I was not the only one – I bumped into Britta the next day searching for shampoo that didn’t come in a plastic bottle – she found a shampoo bar! Plastic bags and cling-wrap left my life long ago but I am now looking for bigger better ways. This whole week I will be dedicating my blog to articles about plastic and how we can avoid it. If you have any great ideas, let me know (via comments or at oliveonblonde@gmail.com) and I will research them further!

If you see Plasticized being advertised near you I highly recommend you go and see it! I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to start getting a lot of amazing press the more people that see it, talk about it or hear about it.

You could go one better and request a screening for your community! Here are some more pics from the movie…

Sustainable transport – bikes everywhere!

Happiest dog in the world!

Shani and the Freo Red Carpet!

Mike (Director), Me (Me) and Brad Pettitt (Freo Mayor)

Happy chappys!

Lisa taking to the stage!

Mike fielding questions from the audience