Simple Steps Series – An Easy Step to Conserve Water


It’s the first Monday of the month, and I’m starting a new feature here at Live Renewed, the Simple Steps Series. I know that for some people the idea of going green just seems really overwhelming.  We been talking a lot about making changes, and overcoming obstacles, but sometimes you just want a really simple, really easy, no thought required kind of step that will make a difference but really not take a lot of time and energy on your part.

So, on the first Monday of each month, I will share a Simple Step.  Something quick, easy, and pretty much painless that you can do to go a little “greener”. And since we’re also all about saving money while we save the planet, you can bet that the Simple Steps will help you save in that area too.

Really, I wanted to name this series the Quick, Easy, Painless Steps to Live more Frugally Green, but I figured that was just a little bit too long.  So, Simple Steps it is.

Okay, I hope that you are ready for our first Simple Step, because it is a good one! At least I think so.

If it’s yellow, let it mellow.  If it’s brown, flush it down.

Yep, that’s right, we’re talking about flushing the toilet! :)

I first came across this saying when at a college friend’s cabin in Northern Wisconsin.  I guess they had a sensitive septic system, and they were really generous and always allowing lots of people to stay at their home away from home.  So, there was a sign in each of the bathrooms as a reminder not to flush the toilet, except in necessary situations.

After spending a great long weekend at that cabin in college, I never really thought of the saying again, until we moved into this house, and 1. We had to start paying for water because our old house had a well and septic system and this house has city water, and 2. I started being more concerned with conserving water than I had been previously in my life.

As you may remember, cutting back on our family’s water usage is the current obstacle that we are trying to overcome. So, I thought this Simple Step fit in well with what we are currently working on around our house, and I wanted to share it with you.

Basically, it works just the way it sounds, and the outcome is that your flush the toilet much less during the day than you would if you flushed each time you use the bathroom.

Consider these facts:

-Americans are flushing 4.8 billion gallons of  clean, drinkable water down the toilet EVERY SINGLE DAY. Read it again, 4.8 BILLION gallons.

-Most newer toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush.  You can look on the toilet by the brand imprint or under the lid to see what the gpf (gallons per flush) is for yours. When you combine the number of average flushes per day, the toilet is the home’s biggest water user waster.

-If you flush your toilet only ONCE less per day, you will save the equivalent amount of water that the average person in Africa uses ALL DAY long for all of their drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning needs.

When I read that the average toilet (including mine, I checked) uses 1.6 gallons of water per flush, it kind of shocked me.  I mean, I know that toilets use a lot of water, but then I imagined it this way:  I thought about what it would be like to pour a gallon and a half of milk down the drain every time I flushed the toilet.  Wow! That is A LOT of milk, I thought. What a waste that would be to pour perfectly good milk down the drain.

Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing with our water when we flush the toilet. Would it really be an inconvenience for you to flush the toilet less often?

Okay, I’m done trying to convince you that this is a Simple Step that you should take, beginning today.  But, I am also trying to set you up a little for a great and unique giveaway that I have coming up later in the month that’s related to… you guessed it, water!

Obviously, this is a tip that I only use at my own home, when it’s just our family at home.  If we are having guests, or we are guests at someone’s home, or out in public, I do not follow this rule.  But at our house, if it’s yellow, we let it mellow!

Take a Simple Step: Do you think you could flush your toilet once less per day?  How about several times less per day? Could you follow the if it’s yellow, let it mellow rule at your house?

Visit We are That Family for more Works For Me Wednesday

Photo by A6U571N


  1. says

    We were doing this for years until it came time to toilet-train our child. Since his preschool was teaching to flush after every use, and that certainly is good manners in a public restroom, and also he’s got an astonishing bladder capacity for his size so wasn’t flushing really often, we decided to follow the “flush every time” rule for a while. It’s been 3 years, so maybe now we could start conserving again!

    We never were letting ALL the yellow mellow, though, because of odor problems. We were following the rule that was on billboards in Oklahoma when I was a kid: “Flush after 2 #1’s or 1 #2.” :-) More specifically, if you can tell the toilet was used before you, flush when you’re done, and always flush poop. Also blood. (Not only does blood freak out other people, it also stains the toilet if left standing.)

  2. Barbara says

    I do this all the time! My kids (they are teenagers, what do they know? lol) think it’s awful, but as often as I go these days, it IS such a waste of water! I try to make sure I flush when we have company though. I’ll have to work on getting my girls to ‘let it mellow’!!

  3. Kika says

    With our very low-flush toilet this kind of grosses me out. There is so little water in the bowl that the urine is strong (in color and odor) so no, I don’t do this. Plus, I always wonder about the stuff in the bowl splashing up when we use the toilet.

    • Carolyn says

      Maybe try a different dual flush kit to eliminat the smell. Even with the standard flusher and more water amount, they say that the spray from flushing can go up to 6 feet. So close the lid before you flush.

  4. says

    Hi! I literally just stumbled across your blog at kitchen stewardship and am really enjoying it. My husband and I are currently living in China and I have been so inspired by the simplicity and ‘greenness’ with which people live their lives here. One thing I am excited to do when we go back to America is make our toilets into dual flush toilets. We have them in China and they make so much sense. You have two buttons. One releases a small amount of water for #1 and the other releases more water for #2. The kits to make your toilet ‘dual flush’ can be inexpensive and an relatively simple DIY project.

    I’m really looking forward to reading more from you!

    • Emily says

      Thanks Samantha! I would love to hear more about how people in other countries conserve resources! I think sometimes people living in places where resources are more scarce than here learn to conserve in such creative ways, out of necessity. Sometimes the availability of resources here in America just makes it way too easy for us to be wasteful!

  5. Carolyn says

    How about installing a low flush mechanisim on your toilet. We did this and noticed a big difference on our water bill. It was easy to install and our 3 young boys find it easy to use as well. It has button #1 for #1 and button #2 for #2 (this one uses the most water and gets it done. This month we are adding one to the other 2 toilets in our house. Now if we could solve the problem of lights being on in the kids rooms, we will be living much more green.

  6. Carol says

    I moved into my house in November. I knew my taxes were high but my water bill has a recurring minimum charge every month of $35, whether I use the water or not. This was totally unexpected and unbudgeted. I live alone so I felt this was rediculious(sp). In my other house it was $20 a month. So, here it started out at $55 a month. I save my bath water and got a sand pail for $1 at Michael’s. Two bucketfuls flushes well. Unless it’s brown or smells I flush about every 3rd time. I cut it to about $44 a month. Not enough. Now I am saving my rinse water from laundry to wash the next load (kind of like the old “suds savers”) Hoping to cut another $4 a month. Time will tell.


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