This is the second installment of our Be the Change Project’s tips for regenerative living. Here is the first. We’re out to restore and improve the environment while also improving our quality of life through closer connections to people, place, and purpose.
What comes up in your mind when you hear the word “greywater”? Several years ago before we lived with greywater systems at several places across the country I would have pictured some fancy system of pipes and filters, probably a storage tank, maybe even a pond with cattails and some fish. It would probably involve some expensive gizmos, maybe a pump, too, that had to be found online and was made in China. But what did I know then? Very little.
Creating and maintaining a greywater system is easy to do. Don’t let the word, “system” scare you, though, because a system is just a solution with multiple parts. Sure, a big system like health care can quickly become complex but we’re just talking about dribbling your water into your backyard. A hole in the wall, a couple pipes, and a hole in the ground (technically called a “mulch basin”) are the basics. There is a strange tendency in people to complicate systems so consider yourself warned as you start your research. And, fine, depending on your home’s foundation or your living circumstances you may need a pump or a bucket or a hose or some other stuff made in China but that’s OK. Just remember that in most cases simple is the rule and learning (read: mistakes) will happen along your journey.
Check the laws, too. I’m pretty sure every system I’ve lived with was not code-approved, God help us, but every system worked and served a higher purpose.
Having a greywater system is, to be clear, another responsibility. In terms of effort it falls somewhere between owning a cat and having a pet rock: not much but it’s there. We have to remember that we can’t expect meaningful connections to nature and place to just happen around our conventional toxic homes in cities or suburbia without some conscious input. A walk on a lovely beach and Bam! you’re in the moment with the cosmos. My backyard that backs up to a busy road with crummy condos perched above our doings? Not so much. Connection and regenerative living takes a little something. But, this responsibility is a good thing because what living with greywater does is create a positive feedback loop that impacts what we buy, what we throw “away” and how we live. One has to be a grown up and change their habits to do right by greywater. Follow along with me as I wax poetic about our own Greywater experience to see what I mean:
Since day one of BTC when we first started fixing up our wreck of a home, we’ve been routing all of our sink, shower, and wash water into a wood chip mulch basin in our backyard. Choosing greywater started a feedback loop that caused us to stop buying nasty cleaners and soaps because if we put those down the sink in an attempt to throw them “away” they would now go into our backyard. Yuck! So one choice impacts another. And if we’re not buying nasty soap then maybe we’re supporting a smaller company that makes greywater-safe soap that is also trying to be the change. Loops...
And, then, with this water in our backyard, how about we plant some berry bushes there and tomatoes in the summer and maybe earth worms show up by the thousands and help feed our chickens which give us more nutritious eggs and happier hens. And then those wood chips break down over a year or so and become mulch for our trees making better soils that support more carbon sequestration and hold water which in turn reduces our irrigation needs while providing more habitat for bugs and birds. Loops...
Next, milkweed shows up in our basin, too. Milkweed; with it’s pods of fluff that burst open and send their seeds on the wind hoping to find a spot just wet enough to take root and grow and thrive. Milkweed; on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs and which is the exclusive food for their caterpillars. Monarchs, amazing monarchs, who, over several generations in each season, migrate thousands of miles north and south and who are now threatened due to habitat loss. Monarchs which now call our yard home for their young.
And every person who tours our place learns this and, if the season is right, might even see a majestic and beautiful and bold black-orange-white monarch flitting about during that tour. And our youngest son is sure to find us everytime he sees a monarch because he too knows they’re special even though he may not realize, yet, that they’re here because we drilled a hole in our wall and ran a pipe into a pit. One choice became a system, became an example, became an inspiration that has led others to drill holes in their walls and await the milkweed and the monarch.
Make a bold and beautiful statement yourself and get that greywater going.
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