The fifth chapter of Earth Saver sees Clare and her Mum introduce new rules to use the washing machine, as well as start to think about dumping the dryer.
It’s two days later, the weekend in fact, and Dad’s finally fitting our new energy efficient bulbs. Mum forgot to buy them on the way back home from school – twice. Not her fault though, apparently she has a big divorce case to deal with that’s driving her up the wall at the moment.
All the bulbs that can be replaced have been, and we even popped into Ikea yesterday and took a look at the solar lamps they sell. Mum was so impressed she’s bought one each for her and Dad’s desks, and she gave me my allowance early so I could get one too – hooray! No more history papers written in the semi-dim of my wind-up torch. Dad has also bought a new solar powered light to put by the front door so we don’t have to use the outdoor electric lights. It turns on as soon as it senses movement in front of the door.
So everything’s coming along nicely. Until I walked into the utility room today to find Daisy had decided to put one T-shirt and a pair of jeans in the washing machine for a complete wash cycle, on their own and at fifty degrees!
“Daisy!” I cry, finding her in the living-room playing a dance game.
“What?” she asks, not looking up from the screen.
“Why did you only put two things the washing machine?”
“Because that’s all I needed to wash. I’m wearing those tonight.”
“But it’s wasting water”, I point out, “Do you know an average person in England uses 150 litres of water a day?” She probably uses about 300 litres, the way she goes through water. Who needs to shower everyday before school, and then take a bath before going out?
Daisy looks at me like I’ve gone crazy.
“You’re quoting figures now? That’s sad.”
I ignore her, and continue.
“Look, why didn’t you just toss in some of Ben’s stuff?”
“I’m not touching anything Ben wears at the moment. He has a serious smell problem.”
She has a point, you’d need a radioactive suit to deal with most of Ben’s clothes.
“Fine…” I sigh, “But I’m telling Mum…”
Who has just appeared in the doorway, I notice.
“Daisy?” Mum says, “What do you think you’re doing, washing just one outfit?!”
Daisy groans and stops mid dance move. I just smile, whilst Daisy gets a lecture from Mum too. Minus the well researched statistics.
However, it turns out Mum’s wish to conserve energy isn’t just down to saving the planet. There’s something going on with water meters.
“Goodness knows how much water we use at the moment”, Mum cries. “But I bet it won’t become cheaper if our water company decides to switch us to a meter.”
“If you want a good estimate”, I tell her, “We could go on the Energy Saving Trust website. They have a calculator so you can find out. It also tells you how much energy and carbon our household uses a year.”
“Alright”, Mum nods, “And in future Daisy, full loads, okay?”
“Sure, yeah”, Daisy says and restarts her game.
I join Mum in her office and watch as she uses the calculator on the website. At the end she nearly screams.
“19,000 litres per year! 130 litres per day per person? Is that right?” she cries.
“It’s below average”, I shrug.
“It says here that if we were on a meter that would be £651 a year!”
“Oh, Mum, I think that little symbol means we’re using 2, 377 baths of water a year.”
“Right!” Mum cries, typing furiously. “What do we do to save water?”
“Well, baths waste a lot of water.” I point out.
“Of course. Simple”, Mum says, opening up a document and starting to type, “Right, new house rules. Number one, no baths.”
“What will we do with the bath though, if we stop using it?” Mum shrugs.
“I don’t know. Perhaps we can start making wine in it. What else?”
“Well, there’s loads of simple stuff, like turning off the tap whilst brushing your teeth or shaving. But I bet you and Dad already do that.”
Mum looks sheepishly at me as she types it onto the list.
“Okay”, I say spinning on Mum’s spare office chair, “Always put full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine. Use a water butt to collect rainwater…”
“Ah…we have one of those at the allotment. We were going to collect rainwater in it and water the veg.”
“What veg?” I ask, thinking of the three manky tomatoes we had this summer.
“Exactly”, Mum says, “We can bring it back here and use it to water the flowers. Maybe we can even wash the cars with it!”
“Do you think Dad would really do that?” I ask.
“Hmmm…” Mum says, “I suppose he does like to use the hose on the car, though.”
I am suddenly struck by an idea. Or rather two or three.
“You know there are other ways we can save loads of water, and no-one would notice”, I say with a grin, “At least, not much.”
“How do you mean?” Mum asks, intrigued.
“By reducing the amount of water that comes out of the shower, tap and toilet.”
“If you’re suggesting we replace our taps, shower and toilet…” Mum cries.
“No, you don’t have to replace anything!” I say, “You can buy aerators you can fit to your taps and shower heads. For example there is a shower head called the Eco Camel that has air mixed in with the water that’s meant to save you 70% of your water when you use it.”
“70%?” Mum says, “Now that does sound like a money saver!”
“Then”, I continue, “There’s these special bags you can buy to put in the top bit of the toilet to reduce the amount of litres released with each flush. But it depends on when the toilet was made.”
“Hold on, hold on”, Mum says furiously typing, “Right, aerators for taps…” She clicks the mouse with a confident snap, and then winks at me.
“At this rate we’ll be completely eco-friendly and carbon neutral by Christmas!” She grins.
“Trust me Mum”, I reply seriously, “Water and lighting are only the tip of the iceberg…”
It’s Daisy’s birthday, and as usual she wants a party. So Clare starts researching eco-parties and birthday gifts.