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Friday, May 7, 2010

10 ways to conserve water in the kitchen (and beyond!)

We live in Nashville, where the city is still recovering from the worst rains in the state's recorded history. The floods have taken one of the city's water treatment facilities offline, resulting in dwindling water supplies and impending water shortage. The city has asked all citizens to cut water consumption by half, and they haven't mentioned how long this water conservation effort will go on. There are a number of internet resources suggesting ways to cut water: skipping showers, cutting shower time, waiting to to laundry, and the always popular "let it mellow." But I didn't see many good suggestions on how to reduce water usage in the kitchen. So here are ten--some obvious and not-so-obvious--ways to reduce your water consumption in the kitchen.

It has probably been a long time (or forever) since you were in a class where they reminded you just how much water certain household activities consume. Try this questionnaire from the US government to estimate your household water consumption. Their official estimates for water consumed by each household activity:

Bath: 50 gallons
Shower: 2 gallons per minute
Teeth brushing: 1 gallon
Hands/face washing: 1 gallon
Face/leg shaving: 1 gallon
Dishwasher: 20 gallons/load
Dishwashing by hand: 5 gallons/load
Clothes washing (machine): : 10 gallons/load
Toilet flush: 3 gallons
Glasses of water drunk: 8 oz. per glass (1/16th of a gallon)

Its pretty clear from a cursory glance at that list that lots and lots of water gets poured down the tubes in your bathroom. This is a clear place to limit water consumption during times of drought or water conservation. But lets take a look at some less obvious ways you can reduce your water consumption through cooking, food prep, and clean up.

Use paper plates. They'll reduce the dishes you have to wash, and they are biodegradable. Heck, there are certain species of worms that will compost several pounds of paper plates a week! So before this water conservation is over your worms could turn those plates into compost for your garden.

Hand wash dishes. The government estimates a savings of about 15 gallons per load if you opt for hand washing over dish washing. You can reduce this even further if you use the "two tub" method: partially fill one side with hot soapy water and another with cold water for rinsing. Dip and swish your dishes in the rinse water to rinse them and then set in a rack to dry. When you are done, remove the tub of the rinse water and use it as pretty "clean" grey water to water your garden or plants. Even the dirtier "wash" water can be dumped into the bowl to flush the toilet.

Prepare your veggies in batches. We used to do this all the time when we lived in Ghana. Instead of running fresh water over your veggies, fill up a small tub of fresh water and soak your veggies instead of rinsing them. Save the soaking water for other uses. Cut up all the veggies you'll be using for the week at one time, so you only use one knife and one cutting board. (Plus this saves you time down the road!)

Use dry cooking methods. Try grilling and roasting instead of steaming and boiling. Frying and sauteing are also less desirable because fats are often more difficult to remove when washing later, and the fats do more to contaminate the grey water left over after you do the dishes, which means that grey water is less useful for reusing to water your plants.

Conserve on pots. Time to break out the crock pot and other one-pot cooking methods that dirty up a bare minimum of dishes. Check out 365 Crockpot for inspiration.

Enjoy finger foods. Buy a ball of pizza dough, spread on some ready-made sauce, and top to your heart's delight. After it is baked, bring it out on your back porch and enjoy a slice in your hand. At the end of it all, you will only have dirtied the pan you baked on and the knife you use to cut the toppings. As long as it wasn't in contact with any uncooked meats, the knife can be reused after baking to cut the pizza.

Reuse your water glass. Keep one large glass for drinking water from throughout the day. I personally use a giant Three Stooges mug I inherited from my father.

Reduce your sodium. Pass on the salty fries. Salt, caffeine and sugary drinks can all dehydrate you and make you thirsty, so you will have to drink more water to satisfy your thirst. Conserve by just sticking with drinking water and opting for lower sodium foods.

Go bento. If you are packing your lunch, traditional bento style packing uses a bare minimum of containers. Check out Lunch in a Box, My Bento Kitchen, for pure visual inspiration, check out the inspiring Bento Flickr! Group or see Laptop Lunches for an American-style take on bento.

Consider reusing your kitchen's "grey" water. Grey water is already used water that has no fecal matter in it. A little bit of googling will get you plenty of information on how to reuse your kitchen's grey water. The simplest way may be to do your washing in rubber tubs and then use those tubs to transport water to either your garden, or your bathroom. The Colorado State Extension Service has a pretty serious look at grey water usage.


Chrissie said...

To add to the suggestion of putting your vegetables in a bowl of water to clean them, use that water when you are finished to water your indoor plants.

Danielle said...

I live in Chicago, with family in Nashville, and while looking around for more info about what is happening in Nashville, I came across your post. I just wanted to say thank you for these tips! I'm sure my Earth conscious sister-in-law in Nashville would appreciate them, but there's also no reason everybody else couldn't take a cue and start conserving more water!

Jenny said...

It is better to save water on your own way. It helps you more responsible.
Great blog. Thanks.

kitchen tables said...

We have been recycling water here in our household for a year now. We always make sure that we do it to help conserve water. It is our own little way to help.

Satellite tv on pc said...

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Kabbalah said...

I like your blog posting and i think its the best one. Its really very useful and informative.

Wastewater Treatment Training said...

First time of hearing about grey water. Although these is a great lists of ways to conserve water!

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