How to recycle your water

Filed in Blog by on October 15, 2010 26 Comments
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Mrs Green says "Save your vegetable water!"

Mrs Green says "Save your vegetable water!"

In honour of blog action day I’m going to share a tiny tip with you.

It’s a no-brainer tip and I hope most of you will roll your eyes because you’re doing it anyway.

But for those of you who aren’t, perhaps this will give you one more habit to add to your increasing repertoire of  eco friendly deliciousness.

Blog Action Day this year is all about water.

Ya know, that stuff that falls freely from the sky in this country, while other areas of the world haven’t seen rainfall for years.

While you and I flush our pee with potable drinking water, there are women walking 5 miles to gather water for their families every day.

While you and I fill paddling pools with it; just for fun, there are children dying from water-related illnesses every minute of every day.

While you and I leave the tap  running when we brush our teeth, there are farmers having their livelihoods ruined due to lack of rainfall.

While you and I curse another grey, rainy day, there are people who dance naked in the rain because they know it brings life and sustenance.

So today I’m taking you into my kitchen to watch me prepare lunch.

On the hob you’ll see a saucepan; in it are chopped vegetables and just enough water to come half way up the side of the largest veggies.

This means they are part boiled, part steamed.

When they are cooked I strain them, but the water doesn’t go down the sink, it gets saved.

This same vegetable water is used to cook rice on another day.

To be honest, I started this for health reasons; it seemed crazy to be throwing that nutrient-rich water down the drain when it could be nourishing my body.

But the more I got into this new habit, the more I realised it was a winner for me AND the environment.

It’s nothing new; I distinctly remember Grandma and Granddad Green using the vegetable water to make gravy on a Sunday. It would appear that once we’ve finished rebelling against our parents, some things from our childhood have a habit of creeping into our adult life 😉

What about you? What tiny step could you take to preserve water in honour of Blog Action Day?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (26)

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  1. Kelly says:

    I dothat all the time lol. Sometimes the dogs get the water in their food as well. Im a bg fan of steamer pans you can stack so that you boil something like rice or potatoes and steam soem veg at the same time.
    One thig I would love to do is to set up the toilet to flush on grey water. If the house could be set up with a holding tank to coellect bathwater etc but my house is nt set up that way and I htink pumping it electricly is defeating the object 😛

  2. helen says:

    I don’t save the water for cooking again at a later time as mine is too starchy, gravy or houseplant water. Its easy to use gray water for flushing, resort to strip washing and tip the water directly into the cistern, just uses 5 litres.

  3. ...paul says:

    Just following your link back from comment on my blog. It’s one of the many good things, along with raising awareness over important issues, about things like the Blog Action Day — seeing blogs you might not normally see.

    We do sometimes use the veggie water for gravy at the same meal; but never thought of saving it for cooking rice. It’s a good idea, and would save the cost of the stock cube we usually add to the water for cooking rice in! d’oh!

  4. LJayne says:

    I use vegetable water on a Sunday to make gravy 🙂
    But you’re right, I could do more on other days.

  5. Sarah says:

    Washing up water is often used to water plants here – especially houseplants, but often the garden too. My loofah was grown on mostly washing up water. My Mum and Granny swore that washing up water helps plants flower better and kept pests at bay too with the detergent in it.

  6. Attila says:

    I use veg water for gravy, to make stock with bones and to make soup, but I never thought to use it to cook rice; great idea, thanks. We got a water meter about a year ago and nearly halved our bills. Our shower room is next to the kitchen and we save washing up water/waste water in a bucket to flush the loo. We also save the first bit of water that comes out of the shower. We have a dehumidifier and the water from that goes on plants/down the loo as needed. I also try to wash veg in a bowl and save the water for plants/loo. If it rains a lot, I save extra rainwater in extra containers, even using it to flush the loo rather than just let it go down the drain. I use less detergent in the washing machine so it doesn’t need the extra rinse cycle.

  7. Michelle says:

    That is an excellent tip! I really hadn’t thought of saving my cooking water to be used again for cooking another dish – that’s awesome! I’ll definitely give that a try.

    We always do our best to conserve water around our home (we live in CA, and are always in a drought), and try to reuse what we can by saving it and pouring it on our plants. Of course we really limit what comes out of the faucet by doing simple things like turning the tap off when brushing our teeth and wash our hands, that sort of thing.

    Thanks for sharing your tip with us!

    Peace 😉

  8. Hi Mrs Green, thanks for dropping by my blog. Never tried using the veg water in rice, and great comments, veg water actually IS vegetable stock! Well, I don’t remember paying attention to water meters growing up, but where I am from, when it came to having a bath, this was done by keeping water in a bucket (not filling a bathtub) and “showering” it over with a jug to rinse off the soap from my body. I can have a great hot bucket shower with just 5 litres of water and it was cleaner than sitting in a bath as I was not sitting in my own soap scum. What else, laundry was mostly done by hand, so when I was done using water, the plants would drink up.

    It’s awesome that you once threw away enough to fill just 1 bin… in the entire year! My dad loved fishing, and we kept earth worms in the back yard so carrots, potatoes, cabbage leftovers were great for those juicy worms.

  9. Karen says:

    I keep 2 washing up bowls at the base of my shower. They catch most of the water . I stand with my feet in them. I think it also helps to keep my feet soft. The water is used to flush the toilet. During the summer it is used on the garden. Good exercise carrying the bowls downstairs.

  10. Just Gai says:

    I’ve head of this trick before but never put it into practice. Maybe your blog will inspire me to give it a go. I’m full of admiration for those who have commented above. Well done and thanks for passing on your tips.

  11. What a fantastic idea! Thank you so much for this informative, eye-opening post. I’m going to share this with my tweeps and friends in the hopes that we’ll all be a little more conscious of every precious drop.

    Really glad we connected via SITS and thank you so much for stopping by my blog at

    Looking forward to continuing to follow your awesome advice on eliminating wasteful living!

  12. Poppy says:

    Great idea Mrs G. I’m not much good at planning meals, but I will try to remember this tip and plan it in 🙂

  13. What a great idea! If I cooked more I’d totally try this technique. Maybe I will though, cook some veggies and rice this next week!

    Curious, since you are thinking about conserving water, what do you think of cloth diapers? Think the water used to wash so often is worth less trash in landfills?

    Just thought I’d pick your brain! 😀

    PS: Found ya from SITS!

  14. Ben says:

    As I was thinking about saving water, I bought a round washing up bowl yesterday because my kitchen sink is large and takes a lot of water to fill up to a good depth for washing plates. As it roughly halves the water used, and we wash up about eight times a day, I’m expecting it to save about 50-60 litres of water a day.

  15. Jane says:

    Love the idea of veg water in rice (already use it in gravy and soup). Still need to sort out water butt (thanks Mr Green for input). Have hippos in the loo cisterns. Remember syphoning off water from baths to water the garden during a drought and the big discussion over who was brave enough to syphon off other people’s bath water (especially little brother’s). Learnt abroad to always water garden if necessary in evening so that plants didn’t get burnt and less water evaporated into atmosphere. At present working on soap in washing machine reduction experiment.

  16. Jane says:

    Warning on the water front. New plumbing systems can lead to changes in the way you use your water best and a need to act faster when something goes wrong and you have a leak. Make sure everyone knows where the all the taps are for turning off gas, electricity and water – and make sure the stopcock tap is not turned on so hard that no-one can turn it to turn it off! You can lose an awful lot more water now in a small amount of time.

  17. Matt says:

    good idea with the veggie water, but you didn’t say how to save the water for later or another day?

    I know probably most people would know how to do that, but there are some people that don’t know how to do that.

    I am guessing that you would let the water cool, then put it in the frig for later cooking with, but not 100% certain.

    I am not trying to sound mean or anything, but some people never got told or taught how to do that or other things, so when they found out about this idea or others. they would like to give that a try, but not sure how and they might be afraid of asking, because others might think they are dumb or something for not knowing or being taught.

    for me the simplest way is the best way for me to learn or do anything. we don’t really need these complex ways of doing stuff, the simplest way works and gets the job done.

    thanks for understand and i will keep this in mind

  18. Poppy says:


    I like this idea Ben. We also have a large rectangular bowl that uses quite a bit of water, but I will keep a look out for a smaller bowl to cut down on the amount of water we use.

    The other thing I’m trying to encourage in my household, is doing the washing-up in one go, rather than leaving items to soak and the water to go cold so’s you need to top up again with more hot water. It’s work in progress 😉

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Kelly: Hi Kelly, great to give the nutrient – rich water to your dogs. We are considering a grey water system for the toilet too; we have a flat roof for the bathroom, but would need to strengthen it to take the weight of the water…
    @helen: thanks for your idea on reusing water to flush the toilet. I’ve heard lots of people say this but I’m wondering how you achieve that without getting water on the floor? might sound a strange question, but I just can’t figure it out!
    @…paul: Hi Paul, welcome to the site! Yep, reusing water can save on the stock cube; I’d not quite figured that one out myself! Simple tips eh 😉
    @LJayne: I think using it to make gravy is a popular choice; now it’s a matter of stepping it up during the week!
    @Sarah: I’ve heard that too – about the little bit of detergent helping the plants to thrive.
    @Attila: Sounds like you’ve really got your water usage down to a fine art – thank you for sharing all your tips 🙂
    @Michelle: Thanks Michelle; glad it was useful to you and it’s interesting that you live in a drought area whereas we are more likely to be caught in flooding.
    @afriquanwoman: Hey 🙂 So glad you popped over; welcome to the site. I loved hearing about your childhood and all the ways you were encouraged to save water – wonderful stories; thanks!
    @Karen: again, I can’t figure out how you amazing people do this without slopping water everywhere – you must think I’m the most impractical person out there but I’d love some tips!
    @Just Gai: Hi Just Gai – lovely to see you again; I hope you give this a go and find it successful 🙂
    @Amanda Broadfoot: thanks for your comment Amanda; I hope your twitter friends liked it too!
    @Poppy: lovely poppy – make sure you do because you know I’ll be checking up on you 😀 Not sure about washing up in one go – I really hear you on this from the water front; but wondering if you need more detergent or elbow grease because stuff has dried on? Hmmm, it’s not easy being green 😉
    @Baby Making Mama: Hey 🙂 Welcome to the site. The nappies issue is a biggie isn’t it? Personally I think there are ways to make cloth nappies much better for the environment than disposable – by using lower temperatures on the machine, using eco friendly detergent, line drying; that kind of thing. An awful lot of water and bleach is used in the making of disposable nappies; so I would definitely say that cloth are better overall for the environment. I have no ‘scientific’ proof for this, it’s just my hunch 🙂
    @Ben: Excellent Ben – I notice the difference it makes too; what a great idea!
    @Jane: I’m still trying to figure out the syphoning water thing from the bath – do you store it or use it like a hosepipe as it comes out? Was concerned about storing it because of bacteria breeding.
    @Matt: Thanks for your comment Matt – you make a great point and I have to hold up my hands and say I made an assumption on this! To answer your question; you are completely right – allow the water to cool and then store in the fridge. Like you say, simple is great, but I should have explained things better.

  20. Matt says:

    @Mrs Green: Thanks for taking your time to reply and for answering my question.

  21. Poppy says:

    @Mrs Green:

    So long as you go back before the water is stone cold and the the bits you should be washing off are congealed again, it’s okay to let it soak for half an hour 🙂

  22. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: Syphoned straight out of the bath to the veg garden via the bathroom window in the summer evenings. Sometimes also into a watering can or cans but that is more fiddly as you have to line them up and keep a closer eye on them. No water left hanging around.

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: thanks lovely.
    @Jane: great – thank you Jane; I’ll try it out with a few tweaks. Our veg patch is longer than a hosepipe from the house, but I could set up some pots on the patio next year, outside the bathroom window.

  24. melissa says:

    ok ive got a question? I want to start saving my waste water to use on the garden and it seems a no brainer to me but the water companies charge to take away waste water so does that mean ill save money? do I have to let them know so they dont charge for waste?
    silly question maybe

  25. Mrs Green says:

    @melissa: Hi Melissa, unfortunately I don’t think you’ll be able to get a rebate. We don’t use the kerbside collection for waste but we don’t get a discount on our council tax because of that 😉 It might be worth contacting your water company anyway, just to find out the official answer? Come back and let us know!

  26. trish says:

    hiya everybody
    I have always saved every bit of water I can. every so often my husband and I do a large batch of potatoes and vegetables and make ;-roast potatoes to freeze. mashed potatoes to freeze. .vegetables to freeze . bubble and squeak to freeze. when we have cooked the potatoes that water we use for the vegetables then all the water from the veg and potatoes I put into boxes .Oh and the waste bits from veg. outer leaves from brussel sprouts and the end of carrots and parsnips I whizz up and add to the water for gravy.

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