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Don’t Throw Out the Baby OR the Bath Water: Recycling Gray Water

Every time I pull the plug on Roscoe’s bath, it pains me to watch several gallons of relatively clean water vanish down the drain.  Perhaps this angst is inherited from my resourceful mother, who always transferred our bathwater to the washing machine for a load of laundry after we were tucked into bed.  She currently keeps a bucket in her shower at all times to capture water for use in her garden but she wishes that there was a better solution for all that gray water waste. 

Thanks to Brac Systems, an innovative Canadian company, there is!  They have designed a grey water recovery system that filters bathwater and redirects it for use in toilets.  The entire system costs just a few thousand dollars (plus installation) but Brac claims that the system could save people up to 40% of their water bill costs.  It’s possible to redirect the water for landscaping use as well and to use the system to harvest rainwater. 


Save Water with BPA and Phthalate-free Baby Bathtubs

We’ve received a couple emails asking us about BPA and phthalate-free bathtubs.  This Spa Baby European Style Tub claims to be BPA-free, and the baby in the picture appears to enjoy the “European spa” experience the tub offers.  At $45, it’s a bit pricier than the typical tubs found at Target, but if you are worried about toxins, it may be worth the higher price.

Of course it’s possible to go without a baby bathtub.  One water-saving option is to have the baby bathe or shower with a parent.  Babies can also use the full bath tub, but that can end up being a waste of water, especially in the early days when the baby isn’t interested in splashing around for the fun of it.

Little Water Wasters: What to Do When Your Youngster Doesn’t Understand the Meaning of Conservation

Has anyone else spawned a water-waster?  If I give Audrey a little watering can and ask her to water the flowers, she’ll dump the whole thing on the pavement.  She enjoys flushing the toilet.  If she washes her hands, she turns the water on full blast and splashes water everywhere.  Then she cries when I won’t let her wash her hands every five minutes.  One day I wondered why it was eerily silent in the bathroom, and I found that Audrey had taken all the towels out of the cabinet and soaked each one in the sink!

How have you talked to your kids about conserving resources–at a two-year-old level?  Audrey will beg to water the plants or wash her hands, which seem like innocuous enough activities for a youngster–but how do I encourage her to do those things with the proper respect for Mother Earth?  Or do I just need to put up with the waterworks for a few years, then sit her down as a teen for a comprehensive lecture on ecology? 

How Do You Hand Wash Dishes to Conserve Water and Dish Soap?

After writing these last three posts about eco-friendly dish soaps without coming to any great conclusions, I started examining my dishwashing method.  Whether you use an “eco-friendly” soap or some generic brand, the best thing for the environment is to use it sparingly and conserve as much water as possible.  So I started looking around for the most efficient method that claimed to leave dishes sparkling clean.

For years I’ve used the soapy sponge method.  I squirt some soap in the sponge and scrub each and every dish.  Then I rinse off the dishes under a stream of hot water.  I thought this method was pretty efficient, but I was potentially wasting water, depending on how long I left the faucet running.

Don’t Rinse Your Dishes!

We hear this tip again and again: don’t rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Still, from my observations, most people do rinse dishes, potentially wasting hundreds of gallons of water each year.

Today’s dishwashers and detergents are designed to whisk away food bits and leave your dishes sparkling clean. I have tested this with my own new dishwasher and Biokleen Dishwashing Powder. I’ve put in yogurt containers with ½ cup of expired yogurt still in there. (I know I should be better about not wasting food, so I did feel bad about this!) Pans with cheese and bits of pasta still baked on. A dish full of old whipped cream. Spoons coated in dried-up rice. Jars with the peanut butter scraped out.

How to Use Baking Soda in Place of Shampoo

Ever since Joy’s baking soda in the bathroom makes an eco-friendly shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste post, I’ve been curious about replacing shampoo with baking soda. Traditional shampoos contain sulfates and other ingredients that can be harmful to our health as well as the environment. But the bigger issue, for me, was the number of plastic bottles I was tossing in the recycling bin. Those take energy to produce and recycle.

For several months I used dry baking soda in the shower. I’d leave some in a little dish, scoop some out, form it into a paste with the shower water, then work it into my hair. It cleaned my hair really well, but it was somewhat of a mess dealing with powder in the shower. I eventually gave up this practice and started using a sulfate-free shampoo from Trader Joe’s.

Happy New Year: Evaluating Last Year’s Green Resolutions and Setting New Ones

Thanks to my green resolutions from last year, I was able to make some big changes one step at a time.  Although I haven’t accomplished all of them perfectly, they did help to get me jumpstart 2008 in a much greener fashion. 

As I begin 2009 things seem even more hectic than they did a year ago.  Here’s the big news: I’m pregnant!  Our baby is due on June 15th, which is wonderful news.  It also means that I’ll be juggling a nearly full time job, growing a human being, parenting a toddler, enjoying marriage, writing this blog and starting a monthly column in Metro Parent.  It’s all great news, but already I find myself a little short of breath as I consider balancing it all.  So, this year my goals are humble, but they will still be a great fun to accomplish.


Even More Gift Ideas for the New or Expecting Mother!

Here’s how you assemble a wonderful gift basket for a new mom. Still need ideas? Here are some more:

A Boppy pillow. Both of us managed to raise our babies with very limited baby gear—and we both had Bobby pillows. They make breastfeeding easier by propping the baby up to the right position, easing the strain on the back and arms. As baby grows older, you can use it to prop him in a sitting position.
baby sleeping on boppy nursing pillow
Note: You aren’t supposed to let your baby sleep on the Boppy! We kept our eye on her–just a week old!

Kindle. A Kindle—are we kidding? Well, a ways back we wrote this post, posing the question: Is a Kindle greener than regular old books? Sure, it saves trees and shipping fuel, but a wireless reading device uses batteries and may end up clogging a landfill one day. Still, we’d heard that it’s perfect for reading books while breastfeeding–turn the page with the click of a button! Avid readers who like to buy all their books instead of borrowing from the library claim to save money in the long run.

Green Your Dishwasher!

As a proud dishwasher owner for the last four months, I obviously qualify as an expert. I’ve even learned a few more tricks since my initial dishwasher post. According to the Energy Star website, an Energy Star dishwasher uses 5.8 gallons of water or less per load. Most studies indicate that using the dishwasher will save money and water compared to hand washing. However, remember that  this is not the case if you pre-rinse dishes (wasting up to 20 gallons of water per load!) or use the heat dry option! The estimated energy usage that you see on that Energy Star tag are based on running loads on the normal cycle and letting the dishes air dry.

When Are Disposables Greener than Washing Cloth Diapers?

It pains us to admit that cloth diapers do not always win the fight against disposables. We love cloth diapers for their cuteness, cheapness, and eco-friendliness, but the truth is, many people waste so much water and energy laundering their Fuzzibunz that they might as well switch to Huggies as far as the Earth is concerned.

So how can you tell if you’re doing more harm than good? Do a little bit of math to determine how much water you’re using laundering your diapers: multiply the gallons of water your washing machine uses by the number of loads you do per year. (If you aren’t sure, use 40 gallons for a top loader and 12 for a front loader.) Is your resulting number less than 4,000? Then you are on the right track! More than 4,000? You should probably re-evaluate your laundering habits.