One of my most egregious self-indulgences is a nice, long, hot shower, one of those where I continue to stand under the water stream long after having finished soaping up and shampooing. Because I’ve always lived in rented apartments, where water bills were someone else’s concern (my landlords’), I’ve never felt any financial incentive to conserve water.
That’s still the case, but you can’t preach environmentalism without paying attention to water use. It would be strange, I think, to run around turning off power strips, recycling, and canning local foods for winter, all while sending five gallons of water down the toilet each time I flush, or wasting as much as 50 gallons per shower(!!). So I’m trying to shift my conception of water from "everlasting resource" (which it’s not) to "one more conservation challenge" (much more appropriate).
I started scouring home-improvement Web sites in search of a low-flow showerhead that I could install in order to make my bathing marathons a little more environmentally friendly. But then my editor let me in on a little-known secret — the Portland Water District offers water conservation kits for as little as $6.50 per household. For less than 10 bucks, you can get a low-flow showerhead, two faucet aerators, and a toilet dam sent to your door in a matter of days. The devices are simple enough to install; they work by limiting the flow of water through my pipes (without affecting water pressure — really!) in the case of the screen-like faucet attachments, or by reducing the amount of water in my toilet tank.
It was both cheap and quick, and now that it’s done, this simple task will save me gallons — and my landlord money — without me having to change my lifestyle a whit. The PWD obviously doesn’t see the need to publicize this, so I’ll do it for them: Go towww.pwd.org.
Changing my lifestyle, however, is one requirement of this overriding "Going Green" project. And so I continue to look for ways to reduce my daily water use (the average American uses between 70 and 100 gallons a day). I bought a dishpan to fill with soapy water to cut down on wasteful dishwashing water; I’ve started holding cups under the faucet while I wait for hot water, and using what I catch to water my plants. We’ve begun flushing only when we, um, need to.
One of the biggest household water wasters is the laundry room (which also eats up a ton of electricity — a double offender!). I still haven’t cracked this quandary. We don’t have a washer or dryer, so my options are a laundromat or hand-washing. It gets even more complicated — my laundromat options are that normal one across the street, or that eco-friendly one across town. Adding to the headache is the fact that I never have any time to do laundry, seriously.