How did it go? – reduce water use

With the end of 2019 come and gone, now is a good time to look back and see how I did with the goals I set myself a year ago.

I set out my 2019 goals here.  I’m going to review the goals one by one, in separate posts.

First off water use – how much (less?) did we use, what worked, what didn’t, and what next.

Our water is metered, and there are only two of us in our household.  The meter is read twice a year, February and September.  These readings feed into the bills we receive.  The bills helpfully include information about how much water we have used during the billing period, how that compares with the same billing period last year, and how it compares with national average water use (per person).

First things first

We are fortunate to own our own home, including a garden.   This means that we have control of our appliances and systems, and we have been able to install a water butt (now in fact two garden water butts; soon to be three).  Many many people are far less fortunate than us and have considerably less control over their usage.  Which seems to me all the more reason that those of us who do have that control, use it well.

In order to reduce what I use, I have to first assess what I’m using for what purposes.

A major use (waste?) of water is for toilet flushing.  While I’m not (yet?) suggesting that this should be completely avoided, it’s common knowledge that we can substantially reduce the amount of water flushed away.We have two toilets in the house, both dual flush.  I’m embarrassed to say until today I didn’t actually know how much water each of these flushes uses.  I had to look it up – its 6 litres and 3 litres.  So, clearly there are easy savings to be made by:

  • never use a full flush if it isn’t needed (ie if its only to flush away wee) – 3 litres saved every single time we use a half flush
  • not flushing every time we use the toilet – 3 litres every single time we don’t flush – my simple calculation is that if a household can avoid 6 half flushes a day, that works out to over 6,ooo litres of water saved in just a year.  The old adage: if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down works well
  • using rain water to flush when flushing is needed – this is potentially another big saver, particularly when a full flush is saved, and one I have experimented with this year

We have a bath (with shower over), and three wash basins.  Plus the kitchen sink.  We have a washing machine, and a dishwasher.

Despite having a mains tap in the garden, I never ever use it for garden watering – so far a combination of water butts and reusing water from hand washing clothes and dishes has been enough (that and an acceptance that at time some plants may not thrive).  In any event, this isn’t an issue during the winter months (though in some recent years I’ve been concerned to find that the water butts have been at a very low level unusually early in the year – adding more water butts will help deal with this).

What I did

I began the year by trying to save every last drop of water that could be reused.  Aware that each time I want hot water at the kitchen sink a lot of cold and cool water comes through first, I have for a long time collected the first lot of water in a bowl to use for watering the garden.  But I only use water in the garden during the hotter dryer weather (and frankly dry weather hasn’t been much in evidence recently).  So for much of the year, this water was being wasted.  I bought a pail with a lid (secondhand), which I keep under the wash basin downstairs.

I also began the year by collecting water used for hand-washing (post toilet use) in the downstairs cloakroom.  I bought a small basin (again, secondhand) to use for this, and poured the water into the pail after use.  This proved to be a complete faff, and probably not worth the effort, as I realised in April when thesnailofhappiness pointed it out and said that she uses rain water for this.

At which point the penny dropped, and I realised that I have lots and lots of rainwater in the garden butts that never gets used.  So around halfway through the year I began filling the pail once or twice a day from the butts (no shortage of rain for most of this year), using the water for flushing downstairs.

I was heartened to find that when the September bill came in, the volume of water used was appreciably reduced.  This time just 20 cubic metres (down from 23 the same period last year; down from 21 cubic metres the previous period).

So, summing up this year’s efforts, I have substantially reduced the amount of mains water flushed away in the toilets.  We already did all the obvious easy things, like only washing clothes when they really need it, always running the washing machine and dishwasher with full loads, not letting the taps run more than needed.  But the additional measures this year have resulted in reducing our mains water use still further.

I was pleased to be able to donate the financial saving to a charity that provides clean water  supplies for those who lack it.  For others, this could be a useful saving to reinvest in saving more water themselves in the future.

What next?

This one is definitely a keeper.  Plus I like a good bit of data, and I enjoy plotting our water use as the bills arrive twice a year.  Next one due in February, so that will be my next update.

I am certain that the minimal effort required is really worthwhile, so I will be continuing with it next year.  I will also be looking to see if there are other easy savings to be made.  My Christmas present wish list was a water butt (or two), and we’ll be looking out for and installing something suitable over the next few months (two because I want an additional one for the garden, plus one to fit on the greenhouse on the allotment).

Work is also ongoing to apply the learning from this exercise to my work with Bath City Farm, and we continue looking at ways to reduce our reliance on (and expenditure on) mains water there as well.





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2020: enough (what?)

So here we are in 2020, and I have more than enough ideas about what I want to do this year, all of them positive (ie focussing on taking on things rather than giving things up).

I’ll write a review of how my 2019 went soon, but in the meantime, I’ll just say that I was sufficiently happy with all of them to want to carry on with them into this year.  They have essentially become the new normal for me (with the exception of weight loss, more of which in due course).

But for now my focus is on looking to the future, to how my word ‘enough‘ will translate into action (or maybe inaction?) this year.  I’m considering deciding on a theme for each month.  I’m definitely doing this in January: this month my focus is:

  • Enough prevarication: getting on and finishing/doing those things I have already decided or said I will do, or have started but not finished.  This will include some actions for others (including Bath City Farm), some for myself, and some for others.  I have made a list of what I need to do, in several categories, and I will do at least one thing (and sometimes more) every single day – of which there are now 25 left, including today.  I’m glad to say that I have already ticked off 5 things, but there are more than enough things left to do.

In addition, here are some other ‘enough‘ opportunities I have identified.  There will be more.

  • Enough books: in this I take inspiration from several other bloggers, who have prioritised reading the books they already have.  During last year Malcolm and I both did a first big sort of our books, and gave away many that no longer have meaning or appeal for us (or else books that do have meaning, but would be of more use being liberated into the world to be read by others, rather than languishing unread on our shelves).  I can see another sort through of books coming, along with much re-reading of what I already have.  I will continue to borrow books from friends and from the library, and sometimes charity shops.  I will avoid buying new books (though there may be exceptions for exceptional books).
  • Enough clothes: I already have enough clothes to see me through the rest of my life (apart from underwear, which does need replacing regularly).  Last year I had an honest look at what I had, and I gave away many things that I had grown out of, either physically or emotionally.  I am still left with more than plenty.  In addition, the more I read about the depredation caused by the clothes/fashion industry, the less I want to be any part of it.  So, while I’m not saying I will never buy anything new, this year my priority is to make the most (and best) of what I already have (repairing; pairing and wearing differently), if possible to buy second-hand if I want/need something else, and only as a last resort buy anything new – always thoughtfully and carefully, paying close attention to the ethical values and practice of the seller/maker.

And for now, that’s enough to be going on with.  I have things to do, and tasks to tick off my lists.

More preserved lemons – made yesterday (took less than 10 minutes to make; will last me the year)


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2020: Enough!

Still feeling in ‘holiday mode’, I think I can stretch the Happy New Year greeting to you to today.  I wish for you and us all the very best in this scary time.

For the first time I can recall, this is a year I enter with some considerable dread.  On a personal level, I am fortunate to be in a position where I can look forward to good things and good times.  But the bigger picture?  Well, that feels increasingly bleak.

I know many of us feel the same way.  So.  All the more reason for us to share the good things, make some fun, share inspiration, and above all take the actions we can as individuals to make the world a little better.  Or at least a little less scary than it might otherwise be.  And to remind ourselves (and believe) that we can make a difference.  I hope we can educate, inspire and support each other.

To that end, it came to me as I pondered whether or not to make any resolutions for 2020 that one word captures much of what I feel about 2020.


So much held in that one small word.

Enough already!  (the referendum, the elections, the lies….)

I have enough (clothes, money, food, goods, housing, friends, family, confidence, education, self-belief …..but others don’t)

Enough is as good as a feast

Enough and no more

Enough is all we need

This is all the resolution I need for the year.  I hope it will help guide me to:

  • reduce my footprint on the earth
  • let go of things I don’t need or love
  • help support those who don’t have enough

I hope you’ll come along for the ride and join in with me on some of the projects.  Some of them are things I’ve already started, and will continue with (more in later posts on how I did with my 2019 challenges).  Others will be new to me (but almost certainly not really new – most of the things we can imagine already exist somewhere, which in itself is inspiring).

In the meantime, my sincere thanks for reading my blog for another year, and for your comments and support.  They mean a lot to me (and are one thing I can never have enough of!).

Perfect roast potatoes, Christmas lunch. Never enough of those!

Did a lot of knitting over the holidays (probably enough)

Our first alternative Christmas tree (it was enough)

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Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again

I know, this has been a bruising time for many of us, and will continue to be so for many many more.  It’s important to take some time for ourselves to grieve over what might have been.

But after that, it’s really really important to pick ourselves up and get ready for what comes next.

A selection of my badges from the 1970s and 1980s -they seem to have aged depressingly well

Over the past few days (less than a week!  I can hardly believe it) I have yo-yo’d between feeling desperate, afraid and frankly desolate, and unexpectedly fizzing with positive ideas.  The fact is that, even more than ever, the only way that anything good will happen is if we join together and make it ourselves.

Seasonal cheer at Pulteney Weir, last Saturday

I am inspired by what has been achieved in 3 places in particular:

I am also inspired by the very timely book I read last week – From What Is to What If, by Rob Hopkins (of Transition Towns fame).  The book is frankly a fairly slim read, but one which encourages us to set our imagination free, to not be constrained by how it is right now, and to ask ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ – and go on to think about how.  It is peppered with examples of projects that already exist – the fact is that many of things we would like to see, they probably already exist somewhere else.  And if they don’t, well we can invent them ourselves.

Yesterday I sent an impassioned email to the leader of our local council and to our newly-re-elected MP, asking them to initiate a local collaboration and partnership between the two universities in Bath, the NHS locally, the council, all the many talented and skilled businesses in our area, and the many civil society organisations already desperate for change.

Today I discovered via Twitter that they got there before me: there is a public meeting planned led by the council and one of the universities early in January.  I’m booked to go.

Today I contacted my local street group to make contact with anyone else who wants to get together to reduce our footprint on this earth.  Maybe something will come of it, maybe it won’t.  We’ll see.

So.  Enjoy your seasonal break, I’m sure you need it, and I wish you happiness and fun whatever variety of celebration you’re going to have.

A different kind of Christmas tree

After that, we return.  We can each make our own mark in our own communities, limited by our other commitments but not limited by our imaginations.

Let’s get on with it.

Posted in Climate change, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Inspirations, Seeing differently, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reuse, repurpose, upcycle: call it what you will, just do it

So much of this going on around here right now.  Both of us have spurts of STO*ing, and the pile of stuff moving onwards and outwards continues to grow.   We now have a basket by the front door for things destined for a charity shop.  It’s a good reminder to pick up a few things to take with us when we’re going to the shops.

The bag and basket will stay. Everything else to go.

Things have been offered and given on Freegle.  Some things have been sold.  Others have been given to family members.

Off to a new life with youngest son and family: basket I bought in Oxfam shop many years ago and used to bring in food from allotment; bottle given to us with home-made sloe gin, now returned with more sloe gin (we drank theirs, they’ll drink ours); book for a little girl who is just a tiny bit obsessed by rabbits (kept from when our sons were little); hat brought home by accident.

Lots of things have been repurposed around the house, and far more have been repurposed on the allotment.  Sometimes all you need is to look around you and think “what if?”.  In particular, when you know what you want to achieve, you will be more likely to spot opportunities when they present themselves.

Now a gate to my allotment. In former lives, a bedhead I found on the street paired with part of a bed frame given to me (thanks to Malcolm for spotting that they fit perfectly together.  Just needed a few small cable ties.

Previously a rubbish bin. Converted by me to be a worm bin. (standing next to the green compost bin given to me on Freegle)

Blue water pipe originally used to construct a hen run (many, many years ago). More recently I’ve used it to support netting over crops – but it was too short. Now it’s grown taller, thanks to the addition of some metal piping I found left on the street last week. Foraging isn’t just for plants and edibles.

This fence panel now provides useful shelter for the hens’ water, and as they go in and out of their house.

*STOing – Sorting Things Out.  You may call it editing; getting things done; tidying up; or something else entirely.  This is what we call it.

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6 (good) things on Saturday (November)

1 Baking – this week I baked the best bread I’ve ever baked.  I used my normal sourdough starter and all white flour, and followed zerowastechefs guidance on baking in a ‘Dutch oven’ (which I now know is what I call my le Creuset pot – more on that later).  So easy to do, and so very delicious.  Superb crust, and the open texture you’d expect of a white sourdough loaf.  This is definitely going to be a regular in this house.  I’ll be writing this up shortly.

2 Knitting – a couple of weeks ago I was given a large bag of leftover sock wool, to knit up as I like items to sell in the Bath City Farm shop.  I’m enjoying knitting pram/buggy blankets.  2 finished so far, and another on the way.  I’m hoping to get 3 altogether out of this donation, which will raise a decent amount of money for the farm.

3 Growing – my greenhouse seedlings are coming on a treat, and I’ve ordered my seeds and seed potatoes for next year.  I’ve also ordered some more fruit trees to add to my cordon.  The onion sets are in, and so is the garlic.  A positive start to a new growing season.  If you don’t garden, you might assume the new season starts in the spring, but in fact the earlier planning and preparation is key to success.

4 Reading – feeling in need of a sharp burst of optimism, I bought myself a copy of the newly-published book by Rob Hopkins – ‘From What Is to What If’. (He of Transition movement fame).  I’m just a chapter in so far, but it has reminded me of my decision after the referendum and then the US presidential election that now it’s up to us as individuals and communities to make the changes that absolutely need to happen.  With many examples of where people have done exactly that, it has indeed renewed my commitment and my enthusiasm – both much needed in yet another depressing UK election period.

5 Moving – not us, but youngest son, his wife and our granddaughter have now moved away from Bristol.  I admit I was apprehensive about it in advance (they used to live just 30 minutes drive away from us), but now I’m feeling excited to be involved in the very different lifestyle they have chosen for themselves.  They are living on a co-housing community farm.  It’s beautiful place in a lovely part of the country, not too far for a day trip if wanted and easy to stay overnight.  I’m looking forward to sharing in some of the farming life (hand milking cows and goats? yes please!  cheese and butter making? when can I start?  helping grow food in an old walled garden? oh my!).  And yes, I know – mud (and plenty of it…).

6. Autumn – colours, cosy weekend afternoons, different salads.  And everything else that goes with the season.

Posted in Five (good) things on Friday | 3 Comments

Do what you can with what you (already) have

By the time you get to my stage in life (early 60s), with a life of largely good fortune and hard work behind me, I already have most of the things I could want.  I am  (well, we are) in fact in a process of saying goodbye to many things acquired over many years but now unused.

For example, Malcolm recently gave away the photographic enlarger that was his 18th birthday present from his parents.  Well used for many years, and then unused for many years, he realised that his photographic interests now lie elsewhere.  He offered it on Freegle, where it was swiftly snapped up by a newly-retired couple who want to resume their earlier interest in processing and printing their photos.

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and all that.

As for me, I am finding that often when there is something I need want, I already have that thing somewhere in the house.  Often if I sit with the thought for a while, as I go around I spot the very thing that is the solution.

I have two backpacks I regularly use.  The smaller bag is big enough for my essentials pouch (money, glasses, diary, lipsalve etc; re-usables pouch (cutlery, cloth napkin); my box for food purchases (which itself holds my reusable bags and cheese wrap); my knitting; laptop if needed; reusable cup if wanted; and maybe a book.  The larger one is big enough for all that plus whatever is needed for a night or two away, or for the weekly trip to town for food shopping. (I bought both pouches shown below in charity shops.  All they needed was a good wash).

Constantly swapping between the two, I often find I forget to transfer something I need.  So I began emptying the bags out after use, and repacking each time I go.  Looking for a container to fit with them between the end of a bed and a wall, I came across the perfect thing – a  basket that was my mum’s, sitting unused for many years on top of a kitchen cabinet.

And so it often goes.  The moral of this is, once you reach my stage in life, look at what you already have before buying something new.  The next step of course is to look second-hand (Freegle, charity shops, second-hand sales), and only buy new if all else fails and you really need (or want) something.

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