Sunday, January 24, 2010

* Throwing Baby Out with the Bathwater

My personal waste of water is an abomination worthy of a Scarlet A, especially at the kitchen sink. Some times it is self-contradictory: Imagine the water wasted to wash out plastic bottles and containers, for example, so they will be accepted by the recycling center. The conservation of one is annulled by the waste of the other.

When I went on a tour of Nathaniel Hawthorne's house in Salem, Massachessetts a few years back one of the things they showed visitors (in addition to the secret staircase behind the fireplace where fugitive slaves were hidden) was the garden where the recycled bathwater wound up.

This was the early 1800's after all and there was no running water. If a family took a bath once a week or month, they all shared the same water, hauled in from the well. They shared in sequence of course (it was Puritan times after all): from father (first) to baby (last).

By the time the water got to baby it was so dirty from a family of four or five or seven members, that there was a real danger baby would disappear in the dirty water and get thrown out on the garden at the end of the cycle, hence the expression "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!"

We need to go back to that kind of recycling. Not shared bathwater, but recycled sink water.

Unfortunately, grey-water recycling systems are more expensive than just dumping baby and bathwater on the garden. They also have warnings not to spray the water since inhalation can be dangerous. And no one has determined the long-term effects on the quality of soil so saturated--to say nothing of the health of birds and other living creatures.

The gardens at the House of Seven Gables looked pretty good to me. But greywater probably hasn't been used there for a hundred years.

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