What are your water-saving tips?

Over the last few years we’ve made a few big changes in our water habits . . . but we haven’t seen these changes reflected in our water bill. What gives? Here are some of the things we’ve done:

We got a dishwasher. A dishwasher is supposed to use far less water than even the thriftiest hand washer. Or so they say.

We started using a drip irrigation system for our garden. It’s supposed to save water over a sprinkler or hose.

I love love love my automatic timer. It’s supposed to be better for the plants and save water, too.

We got an egg cooker. It counts for something, right?

Green Idea: Reduce Your Overall Amount of Laundry

In the early days of the Green Baby Guide, I admitted to some baby “rules” I violate to save the planet.  One of them is separating baby clothes from the rest of the laundry–a guideline I heard during our childbirth class and read in various baby books and websites.   I am not sure what the reasoning behind that bit of advice is; certainly if someone in the house has a contagious illness there are easier ways to catch it than wearing clothes that have been washed in the same load.

The average family of four does more than seven loads of laundry a week.  Many people wash even more than that, according to the answers to this Yahoo question.  We (three of us) don’t do any more than three–maybe four–loads a week, and that includes diaper laundry! (We also use cloth napkins and dish towels instead of paper towels.)   Reducing the amount of laundry you do can save thousands of gallons of water, not to mention electricity.  If you have a 40 gallon top-loading machine and wash a load a day, you’re using over 14,000 gallons of water to wash your clothes every year!  Tumble drying all those clothes could release as much as 1,825 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere in a year’s time, depending on where you live.

Save Water, Energy, and Money Washing Diapers with a Front-loading Washing Machine

Our old clunker of a washing machine came with our house.  A typical top-loader from the 1970s or ‘80s, it probably used about forty gallons of water per load.  Another downside of this appliance is that it did not even get the clothes clean.  Dark clothes (i.e., all my clothes) came out with streaks of lint, clumps of detergent, and the dirt and grime they had before “washing” them.

A positive pregnancy test motivated me to replace my washing machine.  I wanted to try cloth diapers and figured pre-baby was the ideal time to switch.  I knew a good front loader used just ten gallons of water per load, but I was disappointed that they cost so much more than top-loaders.  The cheapest one I saw advertised was $800.  Knowing I could save hundreds of gallons of water, not to mention all the energy used to heat the water, I convinced myself it would be worth it.