Retro Saturday: Realistic Conservation

Retro Saturdays are a chance for new Home Ec 101 readers to see something from the archives and allow Ivy and I a chance to spend time with our families. This was originally published in October 2007.

Heather says:

Our governor has asked South Carolinians to conserve water as nearly every county has been upgraded to severe drought conditions.  I know, at least in our household, that conservation is more likely to be practiced if it isn’t painful.  For our part we’ll be:

  • Taking bootcamp style showers and the boys will bathe in only an inch or two of water.
  • We already have low flow toilets, so I’m considering following the old “if it’s yellow” adage, but I reserve the right to change my mind.
  • Any car washing will just have to wait.
  • Each family member will be limited to one drinking glass per day.
  • I’ll place a bucket in the sink when I wash produce and use that water for my plants.
  • We have a high efficiency washer, but I will be double checking to make sure jeans and pajamas have been worn the maximum number of times possible.

So tell me, Home Eccers, what water saving tips do you consistently practice and what do you do when conservation becomes a must?



  1. Barb Szyszkiewicz, sfo on October 13, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    You can drain cooking water (from pasta or potatoes) into another container and then use it to water plants. Or potato water can go into bread!

  2. Rebecca on October 12, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    I have tried the “if its yellow” method. It was ok, but the toilet started showing yellow stains the same day I cleaned it. There are only 3 in our house and I don’t want to clean the toilets all the time when one of the three is in diapers still. Yucky. But we don’t water the lawn, and my husband will declare clothing lost when it gets put into the laundry. I don’t wash them every time, but after 2 weeks in the same pair of jeans, they are getting washed.

  3. A.D. on October 11, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Atlanta too…but for a long time now. I think it’s been well over a year. We have been doing the same drastic drought measures you mention. We aren’t even allowed to water our yards (except veggies) or wash our cars. It’s a total outdoor water use ban here. Inside, our family “mellows”, does the navy shower thing, wears clothes a long time, only runs a FULL dishwasher, etc. We also use a 5-gal bucket to collect the water running out of the shower as we wait for the warm water to arrive from the water heater. This is the water we flush with. Sometimes we go nearly a week before we pull the flush handle.

  4. Pam on October 11, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    A friend of mine has this note posted in the bathroom:
    If it’s yellow—let it mellow
    If it’s brown flush it down….

  5. Canadian on October 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    I am fortunate to live in a place where fresh water is plentiful. However, I do believe in not wasting water, just like I believe in not wasting food, even though it is plentiful and I can afford it. I take navy showers (are bootcamp showers the same thing?). I also reuse my drinking glass. I wear most clothes 2-3 times between washings, unless I spill something or sweat a lot. I don’t have a car so no need to skip washing it. When I wash dishes I put water in both sinks, with the second sink for rinsing (rather than rinsing under running water like some people apparently do). I fill a pitcher with tap water and keep it in the fridge so it’s nice and cold, rather than letting the water run each time until it gets cold enough. I turn off the tap while I brush my teeth. I live in an apartment so I have no lawn to water.

  6. Christopher on October 11, 2008 at 11:13 am

    I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating. People are generally very wasteful when it comes to laundry. Unless you sweat a lot one day or something gets particularly dirty, there’s no good reason not to wear most clothes a few times, and towels can be used several times between washings.

    I do like your suggestion of one water glass per day. I’m sure a lot of people with dishwashers don’t think twice about going to the cupboard, filling a glass, drinking about half of it, tossing the rest down the drain, and putting the glass in the dishwasher. A few times a day.

  7. chocolatechic on October 11, 2008 at 10:47 am

    In this house, water conservation is a MUST, as our water rates have jumped almost 40%.

    When running water for the shower, I have a 4 gallon bucket under the tap. It doesn’t fill completely, so I let it fill during the shower. With this water, I flush my upstairs toilets, using the “if it’s yellow” method, and flush after there are 3 balls of TP in the bowl.

    I do not own a dryer, so it is very easy for me to access my drain tube from the washing machine. I leave the lid up during the wash cycle, and when it is time for it to drain before the first spin, I fill up 3, 2 gallon buckets of water. This flushes my downstairs toilets.

    We do not use a dish washer. Instead, I purchase 2 dish tubs from Stuffmart and we use those. 1 for wash, 1 for rinse. In the rinse tub, I put a blurb of vinegar to help with the soap suds. By doing this, we use well under 1 gallon of water to do dishes.

    When we are first running water for the dishes (waiting for the cold water to become hot) we stick a tub under the faucet and use that water for either flushing or watering plants. If none of that needs done, then the water sits to use for hand washing.

    We have a timer in the bathroom for 10 minute showers.

    I also empty my dehumidifier water to flush/water.

  8. Mom of three on October 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Water plants from tub water, teach outside plants to be drought resistant by not watering in non drought times. Bathe less often.

    Sorry though I can’t get on the not flushing thing. Toilets are germy enough without adding bodily fluids.

  9. Rebecca on October 11, 2008 at 9:49 am

    In our house, we try to practice some of the basics of water conservation already. Like you say – high efficiency washer, low flow toilets. We carefully check through the laundry. And for bathroom breaks in the middle of the night, we already follow the ‘if it’s yellow’ story. And we’re not even on a septic system or anything.

    When crunch times happen, I have to say, I do feel a bit frustrated (I know it’s wrong) knowing that there are folks out there watering their lawns at noon when I’m going through all this trouble already. It’s sometimes hard to feel like cutting back even more. BUT.. we do.. We start pouring water into a glass for toothbrushing (instead of letting it run at all) and rinse with whatever is left in the glass. And we institute similar shower and bath situations as you’ve suggested.

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