Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Drop in the Bucket

People who live in Texas would not be likely to use the word, "comfortable," to describe our summers.  And as the years progress since I moved here almost 10 years ago, they seem to be becoming not only increasingly uncomfortable, but unpredictable as well.  If anything, "excessive," might be a more appropriate adjective - excessive heat, excessive lack of rain, excessive use of electricity to maintain cool interiors.  And ah, yes, excessive use of water to maintain the illusion that we're not living amidst a drought.

The recent wildfires here in central Texas really drove that point home for me.  In the span of just two days, tens of thousands of acres were burned and upwards of 1400 residences were destroyed.  Concurrently, Austin also enacted Stage 2 water restrictions to not only ensure adequate water supply during the drought, but also to undoubtedly aid the efforts of the firefighters.  With the heavy smell of smoke in the air and so much loss and chaos happening just minutes from where I live, it really made me think:  

What can I do to become part of the solution rather than the problem?

As a "canary," I find it necessary to do a lot of my own cooking to keep within my dietary constraints and maintain my health.  The fact that I enjoy it is just a huge bonus.  However, in the process, I wash a lot of vegetables and fruit, rinse a lot of grains, and clean an abundance of pots, pans, and dishes.  And given the circumstances of our drought, I began to feel extremely guilty.  But in weighing "cooking less" against "saving water," I could see that it would be the lesser of two evils that would prevail.

Now, another thing I love to do is garden.  It's important for me to make living spaces, both indoors and outdoors,  beautiful, energetic, and vital with the presence of plants.  But with the brutality of our summers, particularly in July and August, trying to keep things green and happy can quickly become a lost battle.  And in reality, we lose much more than plants, trees, and grass - we waste a lot of water and we spend a lot of money in the process.

from my butterfly, hummingbird, and bee haven

And between those two passions, I was able to find a compromise. 

While the severe cutback of our sprinkler usage forced me to painfully watch the grass wither, trees molt, and plants crumple in on themselves, I still hand water some of my potted plants.  And I figured, what better way to water them than with recycled water?  So instead of rinsing under running water, I've started filling a mixing bowl with water and dunking my fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens.  When I need to change water, I simply pour it into my 1 1/2 gallon watering can that I now keep in the kitchen while I cook.  On average, I'll fill it 1-2 times over the course of my cooking.  And mind you, I normally have 1 or 2 big cooking days where I'll cook a few days' worth as opposed to cooking and prepping daily.  But even so, it made me wonder how many gallons would otherwise have ended up going down the drain.

The practice of recycling and reusing water has been an easy and effective way to strike some balance between feeding myself, wasting less water, and helping my plants survive to see another season.  And while it's been helpful to have a better grasp of how much less water I'm wasting during cooking, I know it's just a drop in the bucket (pardon the pun).  

hanging tough in the heat

see what you're using...

Water conservation, while definitely in focus during a drought, is and always will be an issue that warrants bearing in mind.  There are still billions of people in the world who don't have access to clean water that is safe to drink.  Billions.  The ability for us to drink water directly from the tap is an amazing luxury that we too often take for granted.  And as the global population continues to grow, the problem of increasing demands on a relatively static supply will only continue to escalate.  

So what can one do?

Beyond recycling water from my food prep, I've also taken to flushing much less, using a mug of water while shaving and brushing my teeth, and keeping a bucket in my bathtub to catch excess water.  That's a good start.  You can also help by keeping a refillable, BPA-free water container with you at all times.  It not only reduces water waste, but material waste as well.

If you'd like more helpful tips and suggestions, here's a great link that I found:

It is my firm belief that I have a link with the past and responsibility 
to the future.  I cannot give up, I cannot despair.  There's a whole future, 
generations to come.  I have to keep trying. 
- King Hussein

If not for us, then for them - the children still growing strong and the children and families and grandparents and great-grandchildren yet to come.  We all need to do our part - one person at a time. And even though it may seem like just a tiny drop in an inconceivable bucket, remember that every little bit really does help.  Together we can achieve the impossible, so long as we keep trying.

1 comment:

  1. 2 drops in a bucket! =) I do the same thing when I'm rinsing the produce. There's a container in the sink to catch it and then when I'm done I take the water outside and give it to the garden or the potted plants on the side of the house. I also have had a compost going for the last few months;which I'm hopeful will help further replenish the garden when spring comes around again. I am definitely an advocate for the refillable container/canteen. Every time I see a bottle of water; it makes me sad. I remembering hearing that it actually takes 3 gallons of water of to make one plastic water bottle. That's just senseless. I use reuseable mesh bags when I shop for fruits and vegetables. There is so much that we all can cutback on in our lives. 'Leave this place, better than you found it.' I often think about that when I'm tempted not to go the extra mile to do all that I can to make sure I'm not wasting a thing. I know how precious they are that we cannot take the conveniences in our lives lightly. Mindfulness and thoughtfulness will take you far and the world will be a better place as a result.

    Seventh Generation products uses a quote for it's company:

    'In our every deliberation; we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.'

    - From the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

    It's something to think about and keep in our minds.

    Thanks for posting about conservation Joe =)


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