Monday, March 31, 2008

Earth Day 2008: Water Conservation

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed.”
~ M. Gandhi

As you may already know, Earth Day is April 22, 2008. While I despise the commercialism of most holidays, I believe Earth Day is one holiday worth celebrating. For this reason, I decided to research how much water the average person uses each day.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, estimates vary, but each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. The largest use of household water is to flush the toilet, and to take showers and/or baths. The specific figures are as follows:

Bath: 50 gallons
Shower: 2 gallons per minute
Teeth brushing: 1 gallon
Hands/face washing: 1 gallon
Face/leg shaving: 1 gallon
Dishwasher: 20 gallons/load
Dishwashing by hand: 5 gallons/load
Clothes washing (machine): 10 gallons/load
Toilet flush: 3 gallons
Glasses of water drunk: 8 oz. per glass (1/16th of a gallon)

This information is of great interest to me since we moved into Tater. Currently, Tater holds 20 gallons of potable water. The sink and shower drain into a 15 gallon gray water holding tank. The toilet drains into an equally-sized black water holding tank. If Ben and I used the average estimate of 80 gallons of water per day per person, we’d have to fill up 8 times EACH day (as well as dump 8 times each day)! For now, we fill up probably twice a week. (Keep in mind, we are often able to shower at the hotel and we each have a gym membership where we also have access to showers.) Sometimes we are lucky enough to fill up at a friend’s house or at the hotel. Otherwise, we fill up at the gas station, which takes extra time and elbow grease, both of which we can spare.

You might be wondering how we can share 40 gallons of water per week. (I know, it sounds ridiculous!) We don’t have a dishwasher, a washing machine or a bathtub. Our shower comes equipped with an on/off lever so as not to waste water while soaping up. Since the shower measures 22”x29”, there is no reason to spend much time in there. You soap up, rinse off, and get out. Shaving, for the most part, happens outside of the shower - usually with a small bowl of water, shaving cream, and a razor. We don’t leave the water running while we brush our teeth or wash dishes. We don’t drink tap water... we buy drinking water. (Anyone who has experienced California tap water understands this.) Flushing the toilet is the one place we NEVER skimp on water. Too little water in the black water tank makes for a stinky situation. The gray water tank always fills up much quicker than the black water: with the usual teeth-brushing and dish-washing, we can only manage about 4 showers before we need to empty the tank.

I once stumbled across this ancient Indian proverb and it really spoke to me:

Obviously, I don’t have children and the reason may have more to do with that proverb than anything else. I think it is every person’s responsibility to do whatever they can to protect our Earth for the sake of future generations. If the average American spent on eco-friendly products what they would normally spend on Christmas gifts each year, we would all reap the benefits. Doesn’t it make more sense to celebrate something tangible like the Earth, rather than some imaginary fat guy in a red suit? Now, get out there and start celebrating!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quiet, Please!

I've been living in San Diego for almost 6 years, sheltered in a sweet little beach community by the name of Ocean Beach (OB) - my Pot O'Gold at the end of Interstate 8 West. In all the time I lived there, the only disturbances were the usual noises heard in any neighborhood. Ben, Lola and I have been living in Tater now for about five months. In the past few weeks in particular, the noise of San Diego has grown more and more apparent to me. It seems no matter where we go (with the exception of Ocean Beach, of course), the sound most audible is the sound of Interstate 8. I am beginning to wonder how anyone can stand to live in this noisy city.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


A Tribute to the Leather Tramp

A couple weeks ago, Ben, Lola and I got a taste of the leather tramp lifestyle when we dropped Tater off for some auto repairs and the shop kept him overnight for two nights. We were lucky enough to have Mule for transportation, but we spent a good portion of two days walking around strapped with backpacks, searching for places to to spend what seemed like countless hours. We had lunch, read books and napped in Presidio Park. We watched dogs frolicking at Dog Beach while we lounged in the sand talking about life. We were lucky enough to sleep in the hotel each night. While it may sound like a relaxing respite, I feel a sort of empathy for the people who live on the streets everyday - carrying their belongings on their backs, unprotected from the elements, searching for a place to lay their head each day or night. It was one of the most tiring experiences of my life. By the time we picked up Tater on Friday afternoon, I curled up on the couch and fell into a sleep so deep I thought I'd never wake up!

Size Doesn't Matter

Many people can’t imagine how Ben and I tolerate each other living in such a tiny space and we are often asked how we are adjusting to living in Tater. I’ll admit before we moved in, we both expected the transition might be a little uncomfortable. (I think the concern had more to do with condensing our belongings, and less to do with the effect downsizing would have on our relationship). Regardless, the transition has not been difficult. Ben and I both agree that if you find a person to whom you are well-suited, you enjoy spending time together. And it doesn’t matter how small your home is. If we couldn't tolerate each other in this small space, we probably couldn’t tolerate each other in a mansion either!