When something’s scarce, we have to think about it more

A couple of weeks ago we switched off our website for Earth Hour.

Around the world millions of people and businesses turned their lights off together as a symbol of the need to do something for the planet.

Turning our site off was a small gesture, but doing it made me think about things that are scarce.

The news in the last few weeks has been full of stories about petrol and panic and queues and fire and accidents.

Whether you use a car or not, a petrol shortage has to make us all think a little bit more about that resource.

Right now as the way things stand, we’re not really able to cope with a petrol shortage. Petrol stations everywhere run out, and journeys and activities and deliveries get cancelled.

As a society we need to build up more resilience to this kind of thing happening. Already a lot more people I know are taking the train.]

But actually over the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking more about water than petrol. It may be because I don’t own a car, (I belong to a car club instead). It may be because a hosepipe ban just came into force.

It seems you’re thinking about water too. I’ve been overhearing people discuss the best way to save extra bits of water, like the cold water that comes out of the hot tap before the water is hot enough.

And we’ve been selling an awful lot of hand siphon pumps. They’re used to pump grey water from the bath into a water butt.

We’ve just got hold of a bath waste water diverter as well.

The way this water shortage is making us all think about things differently is interesting. When things are scarce, we have to come up with inventive solutions.

And that’s the best part of my job.


Water saving and the hosepipe ban

We’ve been selling an awful lot of hand pump water siphons, in the last week, after a mention in the Telegraph, and widespread concern about the hosepipe ban which came into force in the South and East of the UK today.


Watering Can by Pete Reed via Flickr
Time to get the watering cans out! Thanks to Pete Reed via Flickr for this great image.


The last two years have been the driest on record, and it’s obvious that we need to rethink how we use water, and build up some resilience to possible water shortages.

In the garden you can plan for a dryer future by choosing different plants which don’t need so much water, like lavender, echinacea and ornamental grasses.


Image of lavender and a bee, by mhall209 via Flickr
Lavender is great for dry conditions, and bees love it. Thanks to mhall209 via Flickr for this great image.


There are other tricks too; like using bark chips to retain moisture, watering in the evening, and using various techniques to get the water down to the roots, rather than spreading it over the surface where it will evaporate.

Water that comes out of the tap is treated to make sure it is safe to drink, but we also use it to flush our toilets and water our gardens. No one would empty bottles of mineral water over the garden, but watering plants, grass, shrubs and trees with fresh tap water almost amounts to the same thing. (Fruit, herbs and veg are a different matter; anything you are going to eat should be watered with fresh water only).

If you’ve heard of reusing grey water, but are not sure where to start, then a good place to start is by re-using water from the bath.

Here are some tips for reusing grey water around the home on your garden, without major alterations to your plumbing.

In the bathroom:

  • Put a bucket under the shower to catch the first bit of water that always comes out cold
  • Use a hand water siphon to extract water from the bath
  • Use biodegradable soaps, shampoos and bath products to ensure bath water can be reused in your garden

In the kitchen:

  • Wash veg in a bowl and reuse the water in the garden
  • Keep a bottle of water in the fridge so it is cold when you want it, so you don’t run the tap
  • Keep a bowl in the sink to catch water from the hot tap that comes out cold at first
  • Keep a watering can in the kitchen and pour in any odd bits of water, like half finished glasses of water

Have you got any tips for reusing water around the house? Let me know in the comments.