6 Tips to Save Water in the Kitchen

September 28, 2010 By Celeste LeCompte

Whether you live in an apartment, a condo, or a house, the kitchen can be an easy place to help trim your household’s water use.

Sinks, dishwashers, and garbage disposals give you plenty of options for how you can stop wasting one of our planet’s most valuable resources, whether you’re building new, renovating an old space, or just making do with what you’ve got.

1

Give your faucet a tune-up.

You use your faucets everyday for everything getting a cold glass of drinking water to washing dishes to scrubbing soil off those fresh farmers market carrots.

First, turn the spigot off when it’s not in use. Then, make sure your faucets are as efficient as you are. Install an aerator ($2 to $30) to boost water pressure while cutting overall water volume.

Fix or replace leaky faucets — even if the leaks are small. If your faucet is dripping at a rate of one drop per second you will waste 2,700 gallons of water per year. Recent studies show that leaks (not just in the kitchen) use up to 6 times as much water as a dishwasher in the average home.

  • Summary: These are quick, inexpensive fixes that can save water and money fast.
  • Grade: A+
2

Compost, or at least avoid using the garbage disposal.

Garbage disposals are a popular way of getting rid of food waste in the kitchen, but they require a lot of water to operate properly. 

Composting food waste not only reduces the amount of water you use in your kitchen, but using compost can also improve the ability of soil to hold water, reducing the amount of water gardens or farms need for irrigation. It’s a two-for-one solution! If you’re remodeling, choose an under-counter compost bin to help reduce odor and organize your space.  (See this blog post on GreenHomeGuide for compost ideas.)  

Can’t compost where you live? Use the disposal sparingly, and only use it with items that won’t clog the drain.

  • Summary: Whether you compost at home or through a city program, this is a low- or no-cost solution that can save you 100 or more gallons of water a year, not including irrigation benefits.
  • Grade: A
3

Do your dishes efficiently.

The age-old debate about whether dishwashers or hand washing saves more water doesn’t have a cut-and-dried answer; it all depends on your hand-washing method, the machine’s efficiency, and which cycle you’re using. No mater which method you use, there are a few ways to squeeze water savings out of the process.

Hand washers, you don’t run the water while you brush your teeth; don’t run the water while you scrub your dishes. Fill the sink (or a basin in the sink) with hot water and soap. Wash glasses and utensils first, working your way up to the dirtiest items, like greasy pots and pans. Rinse your dishes in batches, and set them out to air dry.

Dishwasher lovers, don’t rinse dishes first; scrape food waste into the compost (or trash, if you must). Be sure to fill your dishwasher completely before running it, and choose the appropriate cycle — light, normal, or pots and pans, e.g. — to limit water-wasting soak cycles. If you’re replacing your dishwasher, choose the right size and opt for energy- and water-efficient models. More tips on choosing a right-sized dishwasher are available here.

  • Summary: Basic behavior changes definitely worth making, but you’re unlikely to see a noticeable impact on your water bill unless you’re a big water hog today. But with no cost necessary, why wait to make the changes?
  • Grade: A-
4

Add a recirculating pump to cut wait time for hot water.

Tired of waiting for your water to get hot? It may be time to install what’s called a recirculating pump ($250+).

Located under the sink, hot water recirculating pumps capture not-yet-hot water from the pipes and push it back to the water heater. One type, the on-demand recirculating pump, starts the process when you turn on the tap. That means no water comes out of the faucet until it’s the proper temperature. The second type, a continuously circulating pump, is always at the ready with hot water when you turn on the tap. Both solutions save water, but the former option saves more energy, if you’re willing to wait.

  • Summary: These systems aren’t cheap, and insulated pipes and good plumbing design can keep down wait times for hot water, as well. But if your faucets are running not-quite-hot water down the drain at 1-2 gallons a minute, the savings add up fast.
  • Grade: B+
5

Make your water do double duty with a greywater system.

With some relatively inexpensive plumbing projects, a little handyman know-how (or the right green plumbing contractor), and a switch to natural soaps and detergents, “greywater” can be a great solution for reducing water use in the home, starting in the kitchen.

Greywater is water that’s been used, but hasn’t come in contact with feces. After all, some of water you’re using in your kitchen can find a second use elsewhere, such as irrigating lawns and landscaping. Our experts (and the folks at Greywater Action) have plenty of tips (here) for deciding what kind of setup is right for you, and what kind of rules your state has about how you can use greywater around the home.

  • Summary: A well-designed system can eliminate as much as 30% of household water use, but those savings don’t always come cheap. The more water you use in your home and on your lawn, the more likely this solution is right for you.
  • Grade:  C
6

Choose reusable (and reused) goods.

Manufacturing is typically one of the biggest contributors to a product’s water use over its entire life span. That’s true for everything from materials used in renovating your kitchen to the tools you use for everyday meal-making. When possible, choose reclaimed materials, second-hand fixtures, and durable materials to reduce the impact of your kitchen-construction choices.

Likewise, washing and reusing cloth towels, dishes and flatware uses less water than is needed to manufacture the ongoing supply of paper towels, plastic cups and plates, and the countless other disposable products on the market today. When in doubt, choose reusable products over disposable ones. (Bonus points if you choose second-hand dishes to stock your cupboard!)

  • Summary: You won’t see a lot of the water savings in your home, but rest assured, you’re making a difference. Plus, for daily choices, reusable goods save you money every time you use them.
  • Grade: Extra Credit!

 

 

(Image by Flickr member wakachan, licensed under Creative Commons)

Celeste LeCompte

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