Tip #1: Soft Flush Toilet

At some point in our lives, we have all heard the “if it’s yellow leave it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down,” phrase and subsequently wrinkled our nose in disgust. We know we should but, bottom line, not flushing is gross to many of us.

Also bottom line: toilet flushing wastes a serious amount of water.

45% of water use in the average American home happens in the bathroom, and 27% just by toilets. New toilets can only use 1.6 gallons per flush, but older toilets (think: old houses that college students live in…) can flush 3, 5, even up to 7 gallons of water per flush.

Now, in your head, set out 3-5 gallons of water on a table. That is likely used each time you flush. Not only is that wasteful in terms of water, but also in terms of money.

But alas, we have a super simple tip for you: the home-remedy for hard flushing toilets, and you don’t even need to leave your house. You save a ton of money (and the Earth!) by simply putting heavy jars in your toilet tank.

Step one: obtain a few old jars or tupperware.

Step two: fill old jars with rocks or sand or paper weights or coins.

Step three: place jars in toilet tank.

And viola! Now you can save half a gallon per flush.This doesn’t seem like much, until you multiply it by the amount of people in your household and how often each of you use the toilet a day. If you have 2 roommates, and each of you use the home toilet 3 times a day, that’s 810 gallons a month that you can cut down to 675. The New York Times says that you can save 350 gallons of water a month for a household of 5.

The reason this works is this: every time you flush, your toilet tank is emptied into the bowl, then the tank is refilled until the stopper closes  and the water becomes stagnant. If you put something with volume in the tank, the water fills up to the same height in the tank, the stopper closes at the same time, but there is less volume to fill up, and thus less water to flush with.

So there’ s your very first sustainable tip from Footprint!

It’s so easy, and you save money, so why wouldn’t you want to?

Hitting for the (Up)Cycle

Okay, so we’re going to go out on a limb and assume that you have a basic understanding of what recycling is. But what about its cooler cousin, upcycling, and its ugly stepsister, downcycling?

Ahem.

Upcycling is a form of recycling in which the recycled materials are used to make something new. Instead of being broken down into less valuable materials, upcycled objects are repurposed as other, more practical things.

For instance: let’s say you have a two-liter bottle lying around. You could put it in the recycling bin, where it’ll go to a recycling plant and get broken down into its base materials and made into a lesser-quality product –– in other words, you could downcycle it. Or, you could upcycle it by converting your empty Coke bottle into a bird feeder, a planter, or even a toilet water saver contraption! 

Cool, huh?

We think so, too.

Now, about this “downcycling” stuff:

When things get downcycled, they’re broken down and made into new things –– for instance, plastics are made into other plastics. Sounds great, right? In the short run, it’s great: you’re keeping materials out of landfills. But in the long run, the resulting recycled materials are of lesser quality. Things can only be downcycled so many times before they can’t be downcycled any more, and they become useless and end up in –– you guessed it –– the dump.

Downcycling also requires more resources than upcycling –– think about all the energy it takes to break down those materials. Kind of defeats the purpose, huh?

Don’t get all down in the dumps (haha) yet, though. Here are some simple ways to become an upcycling pro:

Got an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll? Use it as a seed starter pot to grow your own garden! 

Empty bottles lying around? Make them into lanterns, vases, or even planters!

Not sure what to do with last weekend’s aftermath? Here are some ideas for upcylcing tin cans and plastic cups (wash ‘em out first, though…).

Ultimately, the goal of upcycling –– or any type of recycling, for that matter –– is to lessen our impact on the environment to preserve our limited natural resources. The more we reduce, reuse and (up)cycle, the better care we can take of the planet.

So give cast-off materials new life and help save the Earth in the process –– new, handmade things today for a more sustainable tomorrow.