Having more people in the house means using more, which means I have to try even harder to cut corners where I can, which requires some serious Out of the Box style strategies.
My latest scheme deals with saving water.
Our water-saving goals don't have to do with scarcity, though. We live in a fairly wet area, where 50% of the year we're having some sort of precipitation. Flooding is more of an issue than drought. There's plenty of water.
The issue has to do with wastewater disposal, and when one lives with a septic system (which one has had replaced and wishes not to have to replace again) instead of a municipal sewage system, one is too keenly aware of the cost of getting used water out of the house.
I had my concerns when we had the system installed, and I researched every other option I could find, including composting toilets and gray water systems, but I'm pretty sure our code enforcement officer would not have approved of either of those choices, and in fact, a gray water system is not recommended for my climate (too cold).
My first concern was the size. The leach field encompasses our entire front yard, taking up a good portion of the sunniest part of our yard. I wanted that space for gardening, but I can't plant anything right on top of the leach field and raised beds would compromise the efficiency - or so I understand (container gardening, however, seems to be okay, and that's what I'll do this year - See? Thinking of possibilities instead of limitations :).
My second concern was with regard to the pumping station. Because the grade isn't steep enough for gravity to draw the water from the septic tank into the leach field, we had to have a pumping station with an electric pump, which means that the more water we use, the more water ends up in the septic tank and the more the electric pump will need to run.
The only option is to use less water, especially now that there are eight people living in a three bedroom house with a septic system that was designed for the average American family of five.
We already "let it mellow", and our guests have been apprised of that situation and are trying to comply. We understand, however, that it's a tough transition to cancel out years of training and habit.
There are more dishes, and so more water used there.
There are more showers, too.
And that's where I found my most recent solution. I decided that a bath would be more efficient than a shower. Deus Ex Machina suggested that our shower head, which is low flow, might actually be more efficient than our bathtub, however, and so I measured it. The bath faucet fills a gallon jug in about half a minute, which is a flowrate of 2 gallons per minutes. I think that's actually on the low end of things, but I may be wrong.
Regardless, however, I feel like I'm better able to control the amount of water I use when bathing, because I can turn on the water faucet and set the timer, and after five minutes, I know there's ten gallons of water, and after ten minutes I have twenty gallons of water, which is plenty enough.
We have a huge tub. Twenty gallons of water is about two inches, which is plenty of water for bathing (too much, probably). The thing that makes it good is the way that our house is organized.
The clothes washing machine is in the same room as the huge tub.
So, my current crazy idea is that I scoop the water from the tub and put it into the washing machine after I've bathed and use it to wash the clothes. I use the fill the washer with water and let soak, and then wash on the shortest cycle possible method to wash clothes. From some of the things I've read, soaking clothes followed by some agitation, followed by a good rinse is the best way to clean clothes.
The other thing about this particular method is that I don't use extra soap in the washer. I use Dr. Bronner Peppermint 18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soap for my personal bathing. After I've washed in the tub, the water left has soap in it, and so I don't add extra soap to the laundry wash (although I do add a mixture of Arm&Hammer washing powder and Borax).
I'll try this out for a while, and if our clothes don't seem clean, I'll make my own laundry soap, and go back to the old way of doing things, but if this works, I'll save water (about twenty gallons per laundry load), I'll save time, and I'll save money.
Ultimately, however, I'll save our septic system ... and in a sustainable lifestyle, the goal is to preserve what we have for as long as we can.
My current crazy scheme seems to fall within that goal.
Practicing Gratitude Exercise of the Day: I am thankful that Deus Ex Machina works so close and that, one day a week, we get to have a "date" when I take lunch to him while the girls are in classes. Today lunch was Yankee Pot Roast (made with road crossing impaired deer) and baked hubbard squash (from the Farmer's Market last fall ;) with chopped nuts and maple syrup - oh, yum! The pot roast was so tender it just flaked with a fork, and the squash ...! Deus Ex Machina is not a big fan of squash, but he like it.