A Boy and His Bucket

Saving Water

Katie and I have always been mindful of our impact on the environment, and since moving into our own house, we have been more committed than ever to cutting down our waste. We recycle as much as we can and (though we slip up sometimes) pay attention to the amount of packaging we buy when grocery shopping. When we no longer need or want something, as long as it’s in decent condition, we always donate it to an op-shop rather than throw it away. With our future food garden in mind, we started a compost heap the very day we moved in here and already the layers of food scraps and dead leaves are piling up. I’ve also been collecting our grass clippings and drying them out to use as mulch when the garden is up and running.  I recently forgot to put the bin out and when it was collected the next week, after two weeks of our rubbish building up, our little bin was still less than half full. Considering all of this, I’ve always thought that we were pretty good at keeping our waste to a minimum. That was until a big plastic bucket opened my eyes to how much we really throw away.

It all started when I bought a giant 40L bucket to collect the excess water from our shower. When we moved into this house, after months of dry weather, the little garden was extremely parched. So I decided to start saving as much water as I could to supplement watering it. What I soon realised was just how much water we waste. That 40L bucket fills up surprisingly fast! Our washing machine uses approximately 77L per wash and the average shower (without a water saving showerhead) uses about 120L (though I know we use substantially less than that). At that rate, if Katie and I did two loads of washing each week and each had one shower a day, we’d use 1834L over the course of a week! That’s not even taking into account the water we use on stuff like washing our hands, flushing the toilet and doing the dishes. While I’m now saving as much of our waste water as I can and putting it to good use, giving our long neglected lawn, apple tree and hydrangeas a drink, I can’t help but feel a bit sad about wasting so much water over a period of (28) years.

There’s nothing to be done about past wastages, but to make up for it in some small way, I’ve challenged myself to using/wasting as little as possible from here on in. I’ve created a bit of a game of making showers into a race against the clock, and am now seriously considering hooking up a hose with a sprinkler to the washing machine (an idea I got from a co-worker). Using less water is not only good for the environment but it will save us money too!

Of course our water waste is just the tip of the iceberg. With our compost bin filling up fast, our recycling bin fuller than we’d like it, and our pile of grass clippings growing by the week, we are now able to see more clearly just how much we throw away. And though putting our scraps, rubbish and excess water to use is great, I know it would be better still to create less waste to begin with.

Who would have thought a humble plastic bucket could teach a guy so much?!


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About Reuben

Reuben is a green thumb with a knitting machine for a brain. He likes dinosaurs, The Beatles and homebrew (among many other things).


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24 Responses to “A Boy and His Bucket”

  1. Justine March 26, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    Well, I suppose it depends on just how environmentally friendly you’d like to be. You can always start implementing the yellow let it mellow method with your toilets, and you could stop taking showers altogether and just take baths which are a fixed amount of water. You could lose the notion that baths have to cover your whole body when you get in and only fill it a few inches -this will still rise when you get in-. You could set up rain barrels (I know precipitation is rare where you are…) and save whatever rain water you can for watering your garden in times of drought. There are many things one can do!

    One must lose their issues with germs to begin furthering their efforts toward wasting less, to be honest. There are things that people find too gross to being doing, but will see dramatic changes if they did. Good luck in your pursuit toward a more self-sustaining/environmentally conscious life!

    • Reuben
      Reuben March 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

      A bath would be great but unfortunately we don’t have one… Rain barrels are a great idea though!

      • Justine March 30, 2013 at 3:33 am #

        Rain barrels are great! They really add up. My old university had them, but it was really cold there, so they filled with snow. But in the summer they’d melt and be used for various things.

        You can also hand-wash your dishes, and only run the water when you’re rinsing them off, not just a forever stream while washing them with a sponge. This goes for brushing your teeth, your hands, and anything else.

        You can use cloth napkins and simply wash them like any other bit of laundry.

        I could go on! Haha.

    • Aubrey March 29, 2013 at 7:51 am #

      I love how you called it the “yellow let it mellow” mellow method. My husband and I do that but I never had such a clever (and less gross) way of describing it. So thanks for that!

      • Justine March 30, 2013 at 3:24 am #

        Haha, I’m so glad I could give you a better phrase! 🙂

  2. Milynn March 26, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Wow that is a fascinating find. I never thought about how much water we do waste and thinking about it now, it really is a lot that I use daily. I am definitely going to start being more cognizant of the amount of water I use and find ways to reduce that. How do you collect the excess water from your shower? I think that’s where I want to start.

    • Reuben
      Reuben March 26, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

      I just stand in the giant bucket while I shower, so it collects all the runoff. If you are going to do this just make sure you use products that are labeled “biodegradable” or “grey water safe”. You don’t want to be putting lots of nasty chemicals in your garden 🙂

  3. Hopskipandjump March 26, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Really proud of you guys going green, keep it up!

  4. domestickate March 26, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    When I had a garden, I started catching the excess water from my shower too. Amazing how far that water will go and how much of it there is! I don’t have a garden and no good place to put it, so I’ve stopped collecting it, but I should start again if only to use it in the toilet or for cleaning. I’ve also tried to stop throwing my clothes in the hamper if they’re not really dirty and instead try to hang them and air them out a bit to save on laundering.

    • Reuben
      Reuben March 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      Using shower water for the toilet or cleaning is a great idea! So is cutting back on unecessary laundry. There are so many simple little ways we can reduce our impact!

  5. Elle Mental March 26, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    My dad was in the Navy. He was always telling us that “in the Navy, you get wet in the shower, then turn the water off while you soap up and shampoo, then turn it back on to rinse.” I have revised what he said to suit my own comfort, and I turn the water on the very lowest setting that will still drive water up the pipe to the shower, and use a water saving shower head. It really uses very little water that way. When we lived in Southern California where water is at a premium, the motto was conserve water, shower with a friend 🙂

    • Reuben
      Reuben March 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      I went to Japan on a homestay thing when I was in high school and found they do the same thing as your dad! It’s a good idea.

  6. Sarah @ Chantille Fleur March 26, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Wow! That’s a lot of water! We were lucky that this house came with all the grey water already connected. The sink, shower & washing machine all come out of a hose, which we move around the yard to keep the grass green out the back of the house. That grass feeds our baby turkeys, which are moved around the area in their small movable hutches, until they are big enough to free range.

  7. Esther March 26, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    So, I am facinated with the idea of a bucket in the shower.. do you stand in it or just let it catch the water off you? I am thinking that soaps and shampoos (natural/organic ones) would be fine to put on the garden? You’ve given me lots to think about Reuben! Water wastage is a really big thing for our country. Nice work guys.


    • Reuben
      Reuben March 26, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      Nah, you have to stand in the bucket or you won’t catch it all! Bath stuff that is fine to put on the garden should have ‘biodegradable’ or ‘grey water safe’ written on it somewhere. If I’m using something that’s not ok to put on the garden, I just rinse my hair or whatever outside of the bucket 🙂

  8. Meg March 26, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Hey Reuben, great work on the water saving front . . . if you are lucky enough to have your washing machine/laundry sink waste water pipe on the outside of your house (like we do) it is super easy to hook up a diverter and hose which can be purchased at your local hardware store. Having a diverter means that you can shut the water off during the wettest part of the year and prevent creating a bog/wetland in your backyard. And grey water/garden safe detergents are very easy to find (they often come in a bulk, recyclable container). Have you pondered the waste disposal issue for your furry friends? I did some research into dog poo composters and had a go at one myself. We have two medium sized dogs and realistically we need another composter . . . will add that to my DIY jobs list!!

    • Reuben
      Reuben March 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

      Had not ever considered a dog poo composter – what an awesome idea! Definitely going to look into that, thanks Meg!

  9. Margaret March 26, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    It is good to see how you are both trying to save water etc, isn’t it strange how small things can give you a wakeup call and start the flow of ideas to implement changes.

    I live alone and am vegetarian, my weeks worth of garbage fits well into a plastic shopping bag, from friends, so I only put out the big bin every few weeks….lots of waste goes into the compost and some goes into the recycle bin.

    One of the best things you can do to save water, is get a front load washing machine, they do a good wash, use little water and are now not limited to long programmes.I am on to my second one,the first lasted 11 years.

    Have you planted some Comfrey for your compost bin ? it speeds up the process when added to compost, so you will get useable compost quicker, it is quite hardy, so give it a go.

    • Reuben
      Reuben March 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      We haven’t gotten our garden started yet, but I have read about comfrey in compost and am keen to give it go! 🙂

      • Margaret March 27, 2013 at 9:17 am #

        The Comfrey doesn’t have to be nutured,and grown in a garden bed….just bung it in near the compost bin ,so you remember to use it and it will be big enough to take some leaves from pretty soon, you just take some, and leave a few to keep the plant growing.
        If you get the compost going now, by the time you have the gardens organised the compost will be ready to use.

  10. Lisa March 27, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    We also compost, recycle, grow our own veg, keep chooks & are vegan. We find our rubbish bin is never full but our recycling bin (only emptied fortnightly) is always full. We have a bokashi bucket for composting & it’s fantastic.what doesn’t go to the chooks or dogs goes in the bokashi 🙂

  11. The Life of Clare March 28, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    I’ve had a bucket in past showers but not our current one where we are making much more of an effort to be enviro friendly. We also didnt put our bin out last week, when I checked it, worrying that we’d missed out, I foud it was empty. We were still using the same shopping bag sizes rubbish bag inside, that we’d been using all week!

  12. Aubrey March 29, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Yay for a compost heap! We started one in our old apartment and had it on our balcony. It worked great! Like Lisa, we are also vegan and do much else for the planet. In one year’s time we plan to be in an Earthship home, which is a home made for off the grid living where you provide your own solar and wind power, as well as your own water and it’s set up for sustainable food production. It’s a beautiful thing and we are so stoked!!

    • Sajaanaa April 7, 2013 at 3:39 am #

      Yep just to add that anyone can save water from bath or shower and if you don’t have a garden that needs watering, the water can be used to flush the toilet. It’s insane we use water to flush away highly nutritious ‘waste’ but if you have to, better to do so with recycled water.

      On a second point, I’d urge any woman to stop using toxic and polluting tampons or pads and use a cup (mooncup etc) or make your own pads. I do both.
      Saves waste, water, pollution and messing with your girly bits!

      Thanks for a great conversation and well done for walking the talk Katie and Reuben x

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