Last Saturday I sat on my couch, surrounded by four laundry baskets full of clean laundry, all of which belonged to my two children. My husband walked into the room and said, "Aren't you creating more work for yourself than is necessary?"
"What does that mean?" I asked, immediately on the defensive.
He suggested quite simply, "If the kids had less clothes, you wouldn't be sitting here like this every weekend."
"But then I'd be washing clothes more often and that would just be a waste of water," I retorted.
In our household, we use 84 gallons of water per day on average. The American Water Works Association
says the average daily water use is 69.3 gallons. The organization's statistics indicate that washing machines account for about 15 gallons or 21.7 percent of total daily use.
My family lives in an all-electric house, so it takes a while for the hot water to enter the pipes. I'm the one who protests when someone throws away an empty plastic bottle instead of recycling it. Yet, I'm also the one who can't stand to get into a cold shower and I refuse to wash dishes in cold water (they can't possibly be getting clean, can they?). So, I let it run until I feel it starting to warm up. Even as I hold my hand in the stream, guilt eats away at me.
Because our children outgrow clothes so fast, I buy 95 percent of their clothes at thrift stores or consignment shops. I try to keep them in impeccable condition because I also consign them back to the stores or have a seasonal yard sale.
I usually start the wash on Friday. By Sunday, I'm done washing but I have at least three baskets of clean clothes. Thankfully, in my entire married life, I've never had to wash my husband's clothes. I guess this left me enough free time to go out and to buy excessively — albeit cheaply — for the kids.
Doing laundry has always been one of my favorite chores. I love putting a stained item in the wash and having it come out good as new with those detergent and dryer sheet smells. For those reasons, it actually doesn't bother me a bit to fold so much laundry. However, my husband's question about my clothes-washing habit did encourage me to think about our water usage. It had never occurred to me to consider that some things don't need to be washed every single time they are worn.
Replacing our top-loading washer for a front-loading model or a top-loader without an agitator would be another way to conserve water in our home, according to the Consumer Energy Center
. In a recent article on the website, the Consumer Energy Center reported that changing to a front-loader would create a "38 percent savings on water usage and 56 percent energy savings for the washer and hot water heating system”. But in these recessionary times, that's a purchase that will have to wait for a least another year.
In the meantime, I've decided to announce four reforms to my water-wasting ways:
1) Put a pail in the shower to catch water that I will later use to water my plants.
2) When preparing to wash dishes, I'll let the cold water run into a mixing bowl to be used later for rinsing.
3) I'll make my kids always wear cover-ups at meals to prevent clothes from getting so soiled that they need washing right away.
4) I'll never run the washing machine unless it is full.
Hopefully, with these changes, I will see a drop in our water usage next month.