Since adopting the Zero Waste lifestyle, my life and that of my family has completely changed, for the better. We not only feel happier, we lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff.
Today, my goal is to shatter pre-conceptions associated with the Zero Waste lifestyle and share what we have discovered about its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits. 

3 things you can do to save water using 3 containers you already have


I went to Quebec to speak about my lifestyle last week. The Quebecois might not see it as a blessing, but the amount of snow on the ground made me envious... In California, we're experiencing a major drought. And although I brought some 'bad" weather back with me (it finally rained this weekend), Northern California is far from meeting its annual precipitation requirements.

A drought is sad, but it's not all negative: It's made everyone here rethink its water consumption. For our household, it's been an opportunity to tweak a few things. Since adopting the Zero Waste lifestyle, we reduced our water consumption substantially with the tips mentioned in my book, such as applying the rule "If it's yellow, let it mellow", running only full loads of laundry, eliminating thirsty landscaping, installing drip systems, etc. That said, our current desperate situation pointed to some inefficiencies.

Here are three small adjustments we've made or 3 things you too can do to save water using three containers you already have.


Tip 1: A bucket... to flush the toilet 

A bucket collects water in the shower
In previous years, we had a bucket in our shower to collect water while it heats, but having to take it downstairs and outside to dump it onto our plants, we got lazy and eventually stopped doing it.
Today, we brought the bucket back, but we use the collected water to flush the adjacent toilet: It makes so much more sense, it's so much closer than our backyard!
If you've never tried it before, don't be afraid, there is no trick to it: just pour the water into your toilet bowl and whatever is in it, will simply flush out.


The tile grid helps to set the best location for filling the bucket
-we can't spare a drop here!



To keep it from scratching the tile and avoid the purchase of a plastic bucket, we outfitted its bottom rim with a scrap piece of clear tubing, sliced in half .


Tip 2: A tub... to soak dishes (and water plants, if needed)



Our kitchen sink's tub
We used a tub in the sink before the drought, but we had set it on the right hand side of the sink and we would fill it every morning.
Today, we have moved the tub to the left hand side of the sink, under our soap dispenser and faucet. We no longer need to fill it in the morning: it gets filled through washing, straining, rinsing, etc. After Zizou licks our dishes, we use the collected water to rinse them prior to loading the dishwasher. We then dump the water onto ornamental plants outside (once or twice a day, depending on the amount of cooking involved) - that's an advantage of using a mobile tub vs. a double sink to collect water.  The trace of Castile soap in the water also benefits our plants, by keeping fungus and pest at bay (see anti-fungal recipe in my book).


Our tub, placed under the soap dispenser and faucet.


A sink strainer also eliminates the need to run water for the garbage disposal -we empty it into our compost receptacle.


Tip 3: A trash can... to collect rainwater


Our former trashcan as rainwater catchment
The refuse bin is generally a household's largest container: A Zero Waste lifestyle frees it up for better uses than sending resources to a landfill. We've been using ours for gardening purposes: To carry the cubic yard of loose mulch that we get delivered to our house once a year, to contain the leaves that we sweep off our steps and use as weed control, to collect the few weeds that we pull throughout the yard and then put in the compost bin. Since 2008, our trash can has thus been repurposed into a wheelbarrow -sans wheels that is :). But in the winter, it usually rests in the back of the house, only to be used by the occasional weekend house renter. This past storm blew its lid open to collect 12" of rain. Scott marveled at how many inches dropped from the sky (as you know, he is a number's kinda guy), I marveled at how much water I collected for my living wall (as you know, I am a practical kinda gal). It seems that nature took care of things, but we learned from her and will open our lid for, we pray, subsequent rains.

With the water that I collect every week from my herb planter and that we collected with our trash can this week, I have enough water to care for my houseplants this month...


A small bucket also catches drainage from my herb planter


My plant wall thriving with my rainwater/drainage mix

... and at the end of which, we'll hopefully be blessed with more rain!

Regardless of rainfall, my trash can will no longer sit unused, for I have found that, with its lid upside down, it's a great place to deposit the crumbs that collect at the bottom of my bread bag and toaster each week... I'd have never thought that my trash can would one day become a bird feeder ;)

Our former trash can as a bird feeder.

46 comments:

  1. Que de bonnes idées faciles à adopter, merci!

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  2. This is brilliant and not something I would have thought of myself. Thank you!

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  3. Anonymous2/12/2014

    Simple and wonderful. Well done, practical kinda gal :)

    Nika

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  4. Good tip about the tubing on the bottom of the galvanised bucket, thanks. I have a plastic bucket in the shower (it was brand new but was going to be thrown away at a White Elephant stall because nobody would want to buy something that mundane) and I flush the loo with it. If it breaks I don't want to buy another plastic one, so I'll remember that.

    We're far from having a water shortage here in the south of the UK, but saving water does become habit.
    I do all the things you do.I try to reuse cooking water too- water from cooking carrots, for instance, might go into gravy or soup.
    When the children empty their water bottles from school, they empty them into the dogs water bowl.
    If I boil pasta or potatoes, I use the water to make bread (mostly in my bread machine :) ) It only takes 3 loaves of bread to save 1 litre of water and the starch in the water makes the bread rise better too.

    We got our water bill last week and the amount the 5 of us use in a year (approx 114m3) is what the Water Authority classes as efficient (as opposed to typical) usage for a 3 person household And yet we're not depriving ourselves, or even working very hard at it.

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  5. My bathroom is like yours: at the 1st floor and this is just the best tip ever you gave me !

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  6. How ironic to be reading about conserving water when we over here in SW UK are drowning in the stuff! Pity we can't send you some!

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    1. Anonymous2/13/2014

      And we here on the East Coast have so much snow that we don't know what to do with it. I wish i could send some water to the West Coast.

      By the way, nice post! Thank you for reminding me.

      Sandra

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  7. Le récipient dans l'évier... déjà en usage chez nous depuis plusieurs années, ainsi qu'un container d'1m3 relié à la gouttière pour récolter l'eau de pluie. Par contre, je n'avais pas pensé au seau dans la douche ! Ingénieux ! Merci pour ces précieux conseils !

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  8. Anonymous2/13/2014

    At this very moment England is knee deep in flood waters. If anyone needs water, come and get it!

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  9. Julie B.2/13/2014

    Thank you, Bea! I found this post most inspiring. I especially love your bird feeder

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  10. Anonymous2/13/2014

    You can also save bread crumbs in a clean container with a lid. Eventually you will accumulate enough to use in recipes. My mother did this for years.

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  11. Thank you for writing this. I love the toilet water idea and your blog in general!

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  12. Thanks for the great article and helpful tips! Did you find your tub for the sink second hand or do you have a recommendation as to where a similar one could be found?

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    1. I bought it from a restaurant supply store years ago.

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  13. I used to always use the mellow yellow technique, but for some reason the current toilet I have will not allow that. It makes some kind of calcified layer. Does anyone know a way to prevent that? I'm not sure why it has never happened to me with any toilet but this one.

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    1. Are you in a hard water area now? I'd have thought it was more to do with that than the actual toilet, but just a guess...

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    2. Anonymous2/16/2014

      Magnoball.

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  14. As we have a 2-in-1 shower/bathtub unit, I close the bathtub to collect the water, have a shower and then use the water all day long to flush my toilets. This way I can reuse most of my shower water, not only the pre-heating water. Doesn't work with all shower configurations, but we found ours allows this trick.

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    1. NatalieInCA2/13/2014

      Great idea! That's also an incentive to take a really quick shower if you don't want your feet to marinate and you actually have a good visual on how much water you consume. I love it, thank you for sharing.

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    2. Thank you ! It's definitely a visual trick. Like: "oops, the water level has reached the top of my feet/my ankles, time to get out!"

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    3. Anonymous2/16/2014

      The japanese got it right this time too. Just go find out their shower style and how they do their laundry. The water gets used 3 times, in the most hygienic manner.

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  15. Quelle inspiration de vous lire et de vous avoir découverte à Tout le monde en parle la semaine dernière. Je fais déjà le 3/4 des idées proposées dans votre billet. Cela me réjouit. Dans la même veine, si je fais trop thé, je garde l'excédent au frigo pour un thé froid du lendemain. Avec le cumul de tous ces petits gestes de conscience et de bien d'autres, je me sens, non seulement plus en harmonie avec notre planète, mais aussi plus légère et créative.

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  16. NatalieInCA2/13/2014

    I have a recipient in my bathroom sink to collect water from washing hands. We used that to flush the nearby toilet.

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    1. Anonymous2/16/2014

      Roca company came up with a very stylish sink/toilet that does exactly that: reuses the water from washing hands to flush the toilet!

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  17. Amazing and inspirational!

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  18. Hahahaha! That last one got to me. A bird feeder? Brilliant! I love all these ideas and hope to integrate them into my family home. Especially now during Malaysia's dry season.

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  19. Anonymous2/14/2014

    Once again, brilliant! I, too, have latched onto the
    'feed breadcrumbs to the birds, using the garbage can lid' idea! We compost, but of course feeding the birds much better :)
    We also conserve water and plan on adding a greywater laundry system this spring that should help our draught tolerant yard plantings. Water collected in the house is for fruit trees, food plants. We don't have indoor plants since, living in the Bay Area, most days I can simply open a window for fresh air, and look out said windows to enjoy greenery.
    Ironically our biggest water waster is what we installed as an energy conserver: our flash water heater. Since it takes a bit of time to warm up the water, we tend to cluster all hot water activities, i.e., bath time, dish washing, laundry. Helps, but not perfect.

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  20. You make me want to place a bucket in the backyard (we don't own a garden). I would use rainwater to water our plants on the window shelves. It rains a lot during May and June in Austria.

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  21. Sandra in Alaska2/15/2014

    A question if any one might have the answer it would be interesting to know. Does it take more water and utilities (gas elec.) to run a new efficient dish washer with a full load or do the dishes by hand each day so there aren't so many to do all at one time?

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    1. Anonymous2/18/2014

      If you google "dishwasher vs hand washing" you'll find some interesting articles. Generally, it seems that running a dishwasher with a full load uses far less energy than hand washing.

      Kris

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    2. As mentioned before, my dishwasher uses one gallon of water per wash, there is no way I can wash and rinse that many dishes by hand using such little water.

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    3. It's true that dishwashers are more efficient, but the environmental impact varies according to where you live. For example, I live in Québec, where all the electricity is produced by hydropower. When you consider the energy, water, and materials used to manufacture my dishwasher and then ship it to my home (from China), I think the environmental impact of my dishwasher over its lifetime might be as high or higher than washing dishes by hand. Water use is less of course, but the cradle-to-grave impacts of energy use are probably higher. That wouldn't be true in most other places where electricity is produced with fossil fuels. EPA has a free tool called Power Profiler that allows you to see how clean your electricity is -- you just plug in your zip code to find out.

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    4. Thanks for your input Brad, I keep forgetting to remind that I have solar on my roof ;)

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  22. Anonymous2/16/2014

    I live in California and have always used the bucket method... even when we aren't in a drought-situation. I easily get about 2-3 gallons while waiting for the shower to warm up. That water is either used for flushing, or i fill it into a very large container we have in the backyard for watering the plants, or I take it and mop the floor with the water (and castile soap) and then take the soapy water and water the outside plants. I have also used the bucket water to fill up the dishpan in my kitchen sink. I grew up in the midwest with artesian wells.... I know what it's like when the well runs dry!

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  23. I love all these ideas! I sponge bathe with a towel with dr. bronners soap with warm water in the bathroom sink daily, then bucket bathe every other day in the tub and shampoo/condition my hair and take a regular shower about once a week. i'm looking into a DIY greywater system for the laundry to water the lawn (got cited by the city for not keeping the lawn green enough) but working on an edible front lawn for the future when i get some funds to get it started. with dishes, i have two bowls for the kitchen sink. as i'm rinsing the clean dishes, i do it on one side with the plug so it fills up the sink. then the dirty dishes (food scraped and rinsed) go into that side. Then when i'm ready to do dishes for the night, they are already rinsed and soaked so it's super easy to wash them. i drain that side and repeat the process over again when i'm rinsing dishes off. i just air dry my dishes in the dishwasher, leave it open over night. then i put them away when i get home from work. been working out great!

    for those that use sink water to flush toilet, do you see any residue left over on the toilet bowl from the soaps and toothpaste etc?

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  24. Thank you Bea, love the way you curate the simple yet stylish objects that enter your home, even when they get hacked or upcycled, they still look great. Du grand détournement !

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    1. Anonymous2/19/2014

      That's the beauty and inspiration of these posts isn't it?
      Well said!

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  25. maggie2/20/2014

    great post! thanks for sharing such practical tips!

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  26. Have you ever thought about getting an Incinolet toilet? It incinerates waste to ashes so It dosen't have to even enter the environment and dirty the drinking water.

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  27. Anonymous2/23/2014

    Bonjour, Béa. Je veux te Féliciter pour ton passage à l'émission (tous le monde en parle) à Radio-Canada. Cela m'encourage à faire toujours moins de poubelles.
    Par ton exemple d'avoir refuser la carte de Dany (carte plastifiée) , et bien maintenant les cartes seront de papier recyclé et non plastifiées. Par de petits gestes ici et là, cela peut faire une grande différence dans nos dépotoirs.
    Bravo ! Bravo !

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  28. Anonymous2/25/2014

    Hi, Bea [from sunny South Africa]. WOW... is all I can say. Well, we have an interesting scenario here.. Thrift shops are more or less non-existant, because we give all our old clothes to the needy, the church, shelters directly - or maybe a family member.. So, new and expensive clothes it is..

    Also, the other day I went to our local Food Lovers' Market [sounds similar to an extent to your Whole Foods - have also enquired per e-mail about bringing my own containers.. only hearing crickets outside my window: nothing], and saw a guy emptying 2kg (4lb) plastic bags of bulk goods into the bulk dispensers.. hehe.. histerical, if it wasn't so sad.

    On another note: where do you hang your towels in the bathroom? Surely they can't stay outside to dry for the whole day, and you probably don't fold them away in the "linen" closet.. or are your bathroom shots just cropping out the towel rail =D Thanks so much for this blog - busy reading your book cover to cover.. love it

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  29. Anonymous2/25/2014

    Hi, Bea. Your house is so beautiful and clean. Just wondering - have you always had this colour scheme (seems no, because you had Morocan stuff to get rid of)? Did you sell everything and bought new (to you) stuff - all in white/stainless steel? Just asking - don't know where to begin to start with.. apart from my shopping kit.

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  30. Krystal2/25/2014

    One thought on the water collection outdoors. In some climates such as where I live in Florida, an open container of water would be a field day for mosquitoes and grounds for fines from the local government. However, a solution is to put mosquito netting or any fine mesh fabric and attach it tightly around the rim of the barrel to prevent egg-laying from taking place.

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  31. I have been really impressed by going through this awesome blog. LAVONA

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  32. Bea please please please could we have some wardrobe updates they are so inspiring .I have missed them.

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