When running water to wait for it to warm up, collect it and use for other purposes like watering plants
While waiting for the water from the tap warm up for your shower or to wash dishes, as much as 1 – 2 gallons of clean, potable, usable water rushes down the drain. Put that water to good use around the house! Catch the flow in a bucket or pitcher, and use it to water houseplants or an outside garden, or add soap and use it for mopping. You can even use it to flush the toilet!
Photo credits: Gosheshe, Flickr; Austin Kirk, Flickr
Runoff from rainstorms can overwhelm existing storm drains and washes pollutants into waterways. The increase in paved surfaces decreases the ability of the land to absorb rainwater before it becomes runoff. You can help make a difference in managing runoff and improving water quality by installing a rain garden on your property.
From Pennsylvania Resources Council web site:
"Rain Gardens are shallow, planted depressions that absorb runoff from impervious surfaces and allow it to infiltrate into the soil. Rain gardens are designed to have a “bowl shape” or “dip” that retains rain water as it waits to be absorbed into the soil.
Rain Gardens are planted with deep rooted, native plants. Native plants are beautiful, hardy, and once established require less maintenance than a conventional lawn. Native plants provide food and shelter for a host of native birds, butterflies and beneficial insects.
Rain Gardens reduce the initial rush of water that enters a stream during rain storms by capturing and absorbing runoff from yards, roofs, and paved surfaces. Rain gardens can absorb 30% more water than a traditional lawn. Properly designed rain gardens drain in 24 – 48 hours, can filter many common pollutants found in runoff, and help to recharge the ground water supply."*
Avoid body washes, exfoliators, and other skin products that contain plastic microbeads, which endanger the Great Lakes, oceans, and waterways.
Photo Credit: totoronoir
From the shoreline at North Avenue Beach in Chicago, the blue water of Lake Michigan stretches as far as the eye can see. But beneath that pristine image, there’s a barely-visible threat, says Jennifer Caddick of the Alliance for the Great Lakes: microbeads.
These tiny bits of plastic, small scrubbing components used in hundreds of personal care products like skin exfoliants and soap, can slip through most water treatment systems when they wash down the drain.
Environmentalists say they’re a part of the plastic pollution found in the ocean, and, increasingly, in the Great Lakes, which contain more than 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. Now, Illinois and New York state lawmakers are a step closer to banning them.
Reduce both your water bill and harmful runoff with a rain barrel.
If you are not ready to install a green roof yet, you can achieve some of the same benefits with a low-cost solution: a rain barrel, which captures rainwater that would otherwise run off of your roof.
One of the main benefits is to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. Typically rain water flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots and other "impervious surfaces" into storm drains, which discharge either into community sewer systems or into nearby streams. In the first case, rain over-burdens sewers, leading to overflows that can contaminate public swimming beaches. In the latter case, rushing stormwater can erode stream banks, introduce pollutants and ruin habitat for fish and other aquatic life.
A second benefit is for your wallet. You can use water captured in rain barrels to irrigate your lawn and garden, saving on utility bills. (In water-stressed regions, or during droughts, this water-conservation technique may be a necessity, given the imperative to conserve water.)
The drier the climate, the more water gets dumped outdoors, according to research by Aquacraft. In the desert Southwest, as much as 60% of home water usage occurs outdoors, whereas the figure is as low as 20% in wetter regions, like the Northeast. In summer, not surprisingly, the percentage of water used outdoors spikes, as we water lawns and gardens.
As Environmental Work Group recently pointed out, if we use tap water to irrigate, we're essentially wasting our own tax dollars, which have gone toward treating that liquid to drinking water standards.
Commercial rain barrels can be attractive, and can be built to prevent mosquito breeding and make hooking up gardening hoses easy. But you can also make your own rain barrel. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a how-to pdf.
Grasscycling or leaving grass on your lawn after mowing, can reduce your lawn’s fertilizer requirements by 25%.
Grass clippings and other yard waste (leaves, tree and shrubbery prunings) make up 20 percent of the solid waste collected in the United States every year, according to researchers at the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and LIfe Sciences. The amount can exceed 50 percent during peak grass cutting and leaf collection times in some parts of the country. A single acre of grass yields three tons of clippings using up around 260 bags each year, according to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. That’s why many states (including Pennsylvania) have banned grass waste from landfills and require that you bag them separately from your garbage. And bagging grass consumes far more energy, especially if you consider the waste from making the grass bags and transporting heavy loads to the dump.
The environmental benefits of keeping cut grass clippings on lawns are considerable, according to the Department of Horticulture at the University of Missouri:
Here are some suggestions for creating a healthy lawn that saves water, time, landfill space, and money:
Keep newly-planted trees healthy using a watering bag instead of a sprinkler or soaker.
One bag will handle a young tree up to 4 inches in diameter, or two can be zipped together for larger trees. The bag uses only 20 gallons of water, which it delivers slowly at the base of the tree over a period of 5-9 hours and which will sustain the typical tree for about a week. Check with the garden shop for the best watering schedule for your particular circumstances.
It’s easy to zip into place, and can be moved from tree to tree if you’ve planted more than one. And you don’t have to remember to turn off the water, or stay around to keep an eye on things; just fill it up and get on with your day. The Treegator is sold at local garden outlets and online for about $30. Other brands and sizes are also available.