I had a dirty weekend.
I didn’t have a bath until I needed to. Correction, not bath, shower. A bath is a luxury I have long ago forgotten about. Yes, the drought calls for desperate measures. I know that the thought alone of not having a bath/shower twice a day is disturbing to many. Yet, I would be more disturbed if I opened the tap and it ran dry or there was just a trickle. Oh wait! That’s happened already.
Last year, at the pinnacle of the drought in KwaZulu-Natal, water restrictors were installed at our residential property. It changed our lives forever. If someone was in the shower, no one could open another tap. The water pressure would amount to nothing. That meant I could not wash the dishes. So it forced us to re-think how we used water. I started having shorter showers. We gathered the water that would drip from our air conditioner to water the garden and wash our cars. We stopped going to the car wash. I filled up the kettle only for the exact number of cups of tea/coffee I would be making., not the entire kettle.
I got into the habit of letting the dishes pile up. It’s been somewhat of a traditional taboo to do so but now, I do so proudly. In fact, when family or friends visit I stack up the dirty dishes to wash them later. That way I get to spend more quality time with them and wash the dishes quickly once they leave, or the next day. I’m not afraid to admit I do that. Sometimes, I fear that if I use hot water to wash dishes, my son may not have hot water to have a shower before school. We’ve had a few of those days.
Talking about dirty dishes, let me clarify my dirty weekend. I had a bath at 3pm on Saturday and at 4pm on Sunday. It was a relaxed weekend which I spent mostly indoors. I was not out at the park, pool or beach. So no perspiration on my body or sand in my toes, and no need to take a shower twice. It’s as simple as that. I would never leave the house without taking a shower, though. Never. Not even when I worked 4am shifts did I do so. I needed that shower to get my day started. But if you’re working from home, a quick shower later in the day can make a big difference. That’s what the Dirty Days campaign advocates, and more. Find out what you can make work for you and get working on it, wherever in South Africa you are.
We’ve had our fair share of drought conditions and restrictions in KwaZulu-Natal, and we are still not out of the red. The many memes mocking how dire the water situation in the Western Cape is does a lot of harm. It pushes people to say, “Hey! At least we’re not as bad as Cape Town!” But the only thing that can stop us from getting there is if we don’t change our habits and behaviour. Friends who live abroad recently visited Cape Town and were shocked that they could not take long showers or splash too much when in the pool as there would be no water to re-fill the pool. It’s a reality.
Water is not an infinite resource. Hotter days means the drying up of natural water resources and the need to save the water that we do have. The current heatwave in Gauteng, as dangerous as it is, is a reminder of that.
And if you’re thinking that all the water changing habits I have mentioned are too small to make an impact, think again. If thousands of people practice these habits, it will make a difference. I have always been environmentally conscious. I once refused to talk to my friend at school because she littered when there were bins within walking distance. It’s as simple as that. Do what you can within your means. And spread the message. When it comes to the environment, ignorance is not bliss, it’s foolishness. In the coming months, I will be sharing more on how little changes can add up.
A great place to start is with your children, nieces, nephews, friend’s children… yes, any little ones you come into contact with. If you’re a nanny, teacher or tutor, you should inculcate going green into your lessons to help shape these young minds. I think of my son, and realise that they are never too young to learn. When he was just three years old, he would tell me to stop opening the tap while brushing his teeth because there would be no water for the fish in the ocean. This, he learnt from a popular children’s television channel. Four years later, and he is still learning. He loves watching programmes about animals and nature, helping out in the garden and he is an ocean warrior of sorts. This year, I’m going to start exposing him to more programmes and online videos about conservation. It’s an innovative way to reach out to a tech-savvy generation.
But, I also know that children learn best by example. And that is where you and I play a crucial role. Children watch what we do, and pick up on our habits. That’s why we need to think twice about our own behaviour.
What about the behaviour of government officials, I hear you ask? Surely they need to lead by example. I’ll admit, there’s seemingly a culture of extravagance; a wastage of money and abuse of natural resources from the top down. But these practices too, will and have to change with time. It’s not as if Mother Nature can wave her magic wand and things will change overnight. As with all important things in life, the power lies within us to change.
So try having a dirty day, now and again. It’s not a bad thing, I promise.
I had a dirty weekend.