Ten things I can do.

We all know how perilous the situation of our planet is right now. And it’s tempting to pull the blinkers on, pull the bedcovers over our head and ignore the issues that challenge us all. But our young people are leading the way in tearing our blinkers off, while reminding us that there are things we can do. So here is a list of ten things I can do to make a difference. And I do most of them, most of the time, so that they form part of my daily routine to which I now give little thought.

As a general rule, changing the way we do things can take between six months and two years to embed itself, especially as the conditioning we receive when young tends to stick around: It’s hard to change the way we do things unless we can see an immediate reason to do so, and standing at the sink brushing my teeth, there seems to be no obvious reason why I should change the habits of a life-time.

But we can and we do, because the things we can do, make a difference.

Johannes Vermeer, ‘Young Woman with a Water Pitcher’


Water is infinite. It circulates around our planet endlessly, solid, liquid and gas. So, living in a northern, dampish climate, it can be challenging to notice the need for care.

Fresh water is precious and – to put it bluntly – I have never felt comfortable using drinking water to flush the toilet! That seems like a ridiculous laziness that sooner or later must end; until I can afford to install grey-water systems, or until I can convert my usage to a composting toilet, meantime I prioritise my use of water, without skimping on hygiene standards. And there are some really simple things we can all do to use less fresh water.

~ Put the plug in.

In the kitchen, before preparing a cooked meal, put the plug in the sink and add a small amount of water and detergent. Rinse hands and dishes as you cook. Putting in the plug helps to keep hands and surfaces clean while I cook, saves water and switching taps on and off. Since I use an ecological detergent, there is less need to rinse dishes after washing them: If the fishes don’t have the choice to get away from my suds, why should I? The solution seems to be to make fewer suds…

In the bathroom I put the plug in while washing and brushing. I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth – in fact, I use hardly any water now, when brushing. I don’t rinse after brushing either, which helps to keep the fluoride in my toothpaste working for longer. Also – I confess – I no longer spit in the sink, as this then needs to be rinsed away, but I spit into the toilet bowl, which is nearby. I figure, at some point I will flush anyway… There are lots of ways that we can stop needlessly wasting fresh water. Experiment with some and see what suits you best. 

(To be continued.)

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