By Christina Catanese
This weekend was one of major holiday prep for me. I did laundry. I cleaned the house. I baked. I washed dishes. I cooked. I washed more dishes. I did some holiday arts and crafts. I had some friends over for dinner. I washed even more dishes. I did even more laundry washing the towels and sheets used by early holiday guests that had come and gone. Around the third round of washing dishes (incidentally, my least favorite household task), I realized that most of the things I was doing involved using a whole lot of water.
‘Tis the season to be doing a lot of entertaining, and that can involve more water use than usual. Here are some tips for conserving water and energy this holiday season:
While you’re eating:
- Don’t run the tap when washing dishes. Plugging the drain, filling the sink with soapy water, and scrubbing and rinsing from there can reduce how much water you use cleaning all those holiday pots, pans, and dishes.
- Most dishwashers will clean your plates just fine if you just scrape off food scraps and put them right in the dishwasher. So you don’t need to double down on your water use by rinsing dishes in the sink before putting them in the dishwasher.
- Speaking of food scraps, food waste tends to spike in the holiday season. This impacts our water resources indirectly – all the water and resources put into the growing, manufacturing, and selling of our food goes to waste if the food ends up in a landfill. Learn more about how you can reduce food waste. You can also add certain food scraps to a compost pile if you have one instead of using a garbage disposal, which uses water and adds the mashed up food to the wastewater stream to be treated.
- To reduce the number of loads of dishes you have to do, make sure that your dishwasher is fully loaded every time you run it. Use the water saving settings if your appliance has them.
- Save water and the energy used by your hot water heater by thawing foods in the microwave or overnight in the fridge, instead of running hot water over them.
- The amount of water wasted while you let it run until it’s cool can really add up. To have nice cool water for your holiday meals, fill a pitcher with water a few hours before and store it in the fridge until dinner time.
While you’re cleaning:
- Save water (and make that pile of laundry disappear a little faster) by only washing and drying full loads every time, and using the appropriate setting on your machine to the size of the load you’re washing.
- Using cold water whenever possible can reduce the energy needed to wash your clothes, as well as your energy bills.
While you’re shopping:
- If you’re anything like me, you’re doing some last-minute, crazed holiday shopping and could use some inspiration for gift ideas. Water-efficient appliances can make great gifts! Faucet aerators are small and reasonably priced – perfect for a stocking stuffer! Water-efficient showerheads, too.
- A rain barrel could also be a great gift to help your loved ones conserve water during the summer months, although you’ll need a pretty big stocking for that one, and it might not fit down the chimney.
- Looking for a bigger ticket item and long-term investment? Check out Water Sense for efficient toilets and other appliances, and Energy Star for efficient washing machines and dishwashers.
How are you saving water this holiday season? Tell us in the comments section.
About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.