Going Green by Using Greywater
When people hear “gray,” they usually think of losing their youthful hair color. Luckily, that’s not what’s going on here.
When you think about it, everyday household chores are using up a lot of precious water. Between laundry, doing the dishes, water for baths, flushing toilets, garbage disposal, and other appliances like dehumidifiers, the average American is using 50-100 gallons of water per day. That’s a lot, considering fresh water is such a scarce resource.
But did you know you can actually reuse some of this water? Greywater is defined as “wastewater generated from domestic activities.” It’s leftover from baths, showers, washing machines, and the sink.
Reusing greywater is a great way to give back to the environment. If you’re putting this water back into the environment, that’s less usable water you are wasting or putting into sewage systems.
However, as you can imagine, you can’t use water that people have bathed in or have had their clothes washed in for everything. Anything for human consumption you can pretty much cross out, but you can use it to water certain plants.
Important greywater safety tips:
Apply directly to the soil. Do not use a sprinkler or water the above ground portions of plants with greywater.
You are what you eat. So don’t eat plants watered with greywater, especially root vegetables that are eaten raw / uncooked. You should avoid watering fruits and vegetables you plan to eat with it.
Don’t water acidic-thriving plants. Gardeners will be familiar with this term: some plants prefer alkaline soil, while others thrive in soil with high acidity. Greywater is alkaline, so only water alkaline plants with it. A few common acidic plants are holly, spruce, pine, oak and birch trees. Some alkaline plants are sage, sunflower, peonies, maple trees except for Japanese, cherry and beech. Your alkaline plants will be feeling the love, but make sure you are only using greywater on more established plants.
Spread the love. Apply greywater so it is dispersed over a large area and make sure there is no runoff. Also throw a little normal water into the mix to prevent salt buildup.
Careful with the chemicals. Greywater can be dangerous to human and plants if not handled properly, so make sure you know what is in the water you are trying to reuse. Flush it if it has gasoline, detergent or bleach products in it.
If greywater sounds a bit complicated, here are other simple tips for saving water:
Get a dehumidifier that can make you a glass of water. Certain dehumidifiers known as AWGs (Atmospheric water generators) are able to suck the excess moisture in the air and make safe drinking water out of it. How cool would it be to just stick one of these outside in the mostly annoyingly humid place possible and get almost free water?
Look for higher efficiency appliances. There’s been a recent push for more water-efficient appliances. Any reduction in water usage tends to make up for the initial investment pretty quickly, and some city governments also offer incentives for choosing more efficient home products.
Reuse more than just clothes. Water from a typical gentle load on an automatic washer can often safely be reused for one more load. Obviously, cloth diapers do not fall under “gentle” cleaning use.
Go “low-flow.” Using a shower head and valves that restrict water flow in your home can reduce your water usage up to 50%. If you want a lower water bill, this may be well worth the investment.
One hospital in Oregon has saved $50,000 a year by switching to showers, faucets and toilets that save more water. While a typical household probably won’t save quite this much (we can all dream, can’t we?), going light on water could be a smart decision for your home indeed. Not to mention the sense of self fulfillment you will experience knowing you did the right thing by preserving the earth for future generations to enjoy.
Hope this helps you think more about the water you use every day and how more of it (and money spent on water bills) can be saved!