Here in California, we’re in our fourth year of a serious drought. We’re all doing our part to conserve water. Lawns are turning brown, washing machines are only being run when they’re full, and we’re turning off the tap when we brush our teeth.
But, what about in the kitchen? After Tim and I began making a conscious effort to conserve more water, I realized how much had been going down the drain.
My dad is a Senior Principal Technologist for Natural Treatment Systems (a fancy way to say that he designs wetlands). For over 30 years he has worked for a company that treats waste water, that helps companies clean up and naturally treat water (wetlands), and is a major force in providing the world with more clean water. When I was a kid, my brothers and I had t-shirts that read, “I NEED CLEAN WATER TO GROW”. I didn’t get it at the time. Water isn’t something a 6 year old usually contemplates. But now, as a grownup, paying our monthly water bill and trying to save as much as possible, I see so much more of the merit to what he is doing (way to go Dad!!).
So I asked him for a few tips, to add to my own, for conserving water in the kitchen. Here’s what we came up with.
When you boil water for tea or coffee (hello pour over coffee, my current favorite!), let the excess water cool completely and use it to water plants (even fruits and veggies).
Scrape dishes off rather than rinsing. If you need to soak an extra dirty dish, strain any food particles, dump the soaking water in the rinsing bowl, and use the water for the flowers or the grass.
Use biodegradable soaps and save the water from rinsing washed dishes in a large bowl. Use it to water plants and flowers. Some say to fill the sink with hot soapy water on one side and hot rinsing water on the other side (if you have a double sink). We don’t use this method because there often aren’t enough dishes to justify it, or, mainly, because it’s easier to collect the water in a bowl (I feel like less goes down the drain).
If you have to use a garbage disposal, use the already spent rinse water from doing the dishes, rather than fresh water from the tap.
Wash fruits and veggies over the rinsing bowl, or use a small bowl with a bit of water in it, and dip, scrub, and dip to rinse (or use a trickle of water to rinse over the bowl). Then use that water for the garden (if it’s just veggie washing water, use it to water your fruits and veggies too). You can also dip your veggie scrubber in water, scrub the veggies, and rinse over a bowl. Even extra dirty potatoes don’t need to be under running water the whole time.
Steam rather than boil. But, if you must boil, reuse the water. If you’re boiling veggies, the used water can be used for pasta, beans, rice, stocks, and soups. Then, whatever isn’t used or absorbed, can be cooled down and used on the grass or flowers (I do this, I don’t know if it’s best to use pasta water in the flowers, but I really don’t like to dump it down the drain if possible).
One last thing, even though it’s not in the kitchen… A lot of water goes down the drain when the shower is turned on and we wait for the water to get hot (or cold, depending on the weather). We keep a bowl by the shower that’s used to collect it. Since it’s soap-free, it can be used on the veggie garden too.
Ok, for real last tip, turn off the water when brushing teeth, shaving, sudsing up (yep, even in the shower), washing dishes… just turn it off! It’s not that much more of a hassle to turn the tap back on (especially if you have one of those fancy faucets that just needs you to wave your hand by it).
Whether it’s a time of drought or not, it’s always a good thing to conserve water. This drought will end at some point, but there will be others. What if we kept to these water saving practices so that there’s always enough?!