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The 12 Days of Christmas: Water Edition

COMMUNITY CENTERClean Water & WaterwaysDec 13, 2017Sarah Crawford

Author: Sarah Crawford

Deck the halls with . . . dual-flush toilets?

Water supports every living thing on Earth and the water we use now is all we’ll ever have, so “wow” all of your friends and family with gifts that conserve water, protect water and encourage us all to value water. Here are twelve unique gift ideas that give back to our public water systems.

Day 1: Kitchen Sink Strainer
It’s the perfect stocking stuffer for everyone on your list and you can find them for less than $5 apiece at your local hardware or grocery store. Many people don’t realize that the sewer system was not designed to deal with their leftovers, but you can keep your loved ones clog-free in 2018 now that they are catching all those food scraps and throwing them in the trash instead of sending them down the drain. I have one in my sink, and my sink is amazing. This is perfect for those who have their plumber on speed-dial, or for anyone with a kitchen sink.

Day 2: Reusable Water Bottles
Take back the tap for the New Year!  It’s refreshing, convenient, and you can fill 1,500 glasses of tap water for what it costs to make one plastic bottle. Don’t be duped. Bottled water is often just regular municipal tap water, but it’s held to lower quality standards.  Whether your choice is BPA-free plastic, glass, stainless or any combination thereof, reusable water bottles come in every color, design or theme imaginable. So if grandma can’t get enough of her favorite web-slinging superhero, a reusable Spiderman water bottle will be just the thing to keep her “spidey senses” kickin’.

Day 3: Reusable Straws
Kids love straws. I’m not really sure why, but they do. Adults also have a hard time giving them up. We use more than 500 million plastic straws in the U.S. every day. But let’s be real; we don’t need disposable straws.  They become trash and are one of the top polluters on our beaches and can be harmful to animals too. Show others how to live with less plastic by gifting a reusable straw. My kids love stainless steel straws I have at home. Get one for every stocking. It’s the perfect way to tell someone you don’t suck.

Day 4: Microbead-Free Products
Speaking of plastic, microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that end up in our waterways where they become marine debris (AKA litter) and can end up in our food chain. They start out in different forms, sometimes as microbeads in personal care products like toothpaste and face scrubs. Even microplastics washed down the drain can make it out in the environment because most wastewater treatment plants are not designed to capture super tiny beads and fibers. Here are a few DIY recipes for body butter, scrubs, and even toothpaste. Or if you are not the DIY-type, use a guide like or avoid products containing Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). Perfect for the beauty guru who thinks she knows everything (but she doesn’t).

Vases I made with plumbing supplies.

Day 5: Sewer-Inspired Crafts
Upcycling is in, but don’t be boring – expand your horizons beyond pallets! Gift something that nobody else will have and craft with INFRASTRUCTURE. Over 1.5 million people in Hampton Roads are served by public water systems every day. As a region, our daily water use is approximately 135 million gallons, and that requires a vast amount of infrastructure — more than 6,500 miles of water distribution pipeline and 5,800 miles of sanitary sewer lines. Because they are out of sight, we often take them for granted. But not this holiday season, because when your loved ones unwrap their pipeline-inspired planter or vase, there will be no denying the unseen network of pipes and equipment under their feet. Get crafting with plumbing supplies to let someone know, “I see you. You matter.”

Behold my compost bin! Classic with a contemporary twist.

Day 6: Fashionable Compost Bin
Back to the kitchen one more time where function meets fashion. A compost bin is a great way to accessorize a kitchen, and when it’s right by the sink, it makes it easy for people to keep food scraps out of their pipes. How do you know if someone composts?  Don’t worry, you’ll know. Composters love to talk about composting. Just check out this blog, and this one and this one. We can’t stop, and we don’t want to hide our love of composting under the sink. It should make a statement or at least compliment the décor in a way that says, “Look at me, it’s so easy to be this amazing.” This gift is also for your hipster friend on a clean-eating kick. It’s a shame not to compost when you are eating so many fruits and veggies (plus, composting is so not mainstream).

Day 7: Bathroom Bin
While we are on the topic of bins, let’s move into one of the most important rooms in the house, the bathroom. We will be here for the last six days of Christmas, because it is just that important. This is another place where function and fashion can go hand in hand. A bathroom should always have a trash can. No exceptions. Do your friends a solid and get them one with a lid. If you have dogs or kids, you already know why, but just trust me that bathroom bins should ALWAYS have a lid. The only things that should ever go into a toilet are the 3 Ps:  pee, poo, and (toilet) paper. That’s it. Everything else goes in the bin. Even products like wet wipes that are labeled as “flushable” should not be flushed. Because fatbergs. Don’t give a fatberg. Give the gift of responsible flushing. This one is for everyone.

Day 8: Medication Disposal Pack
A coworker just told me about this medication disposal pack and I love it for so many reasons. For starters, so many people out there think it is OK to flush unused medication. NOT OK. Medications get into our  waterways through treated wastewater because conventional treatment plants just aren’t designed for their removal. They can also pose a public harm when hap-hazardously thrown in the garbage (drug abusers, kids and animals can get to them), so that sweet bathroom bin you gifted for Day 7 is not going to cut it this time. There are a few other ways to properly dispose of medication but this is one of the easiest. Get this for everyone who remembers the D.A.R.E. program and wants to keep fish off drugs.

My toilet with LED lighting. It’s a crowd pleaser.

Day 9: Toilet Night Lights
A glowing toilet is a fun way to remind people to only flush the 3 Ps (see Day 7). They will clearly see the difference between the toilet and the trashcan, even if they stumble into the bathroom in the dark after one too many eggnogs.  It’s also a nice way to say thank you to your toilet. One in three people worldwide don’t have a toilet, and something that does so much to protect our health and waterways deserves a little bling. I got one for my kids, but my husband seemed to enjoy it the most. It’s definitely for kids of all ages. It also pairs well with our Day 2 gift idea, since the well-hydrated will be in need of more bathroom breaks.

Day 10:  Shower Plug
Shedding happens. And it happens in your shower. I just ordered a Tubshroom to catch hair and keep my drain from clogging (according the product description, it’s the hero I need in my bathroom), but there are plenty to choose from out there. Apparently this one also works for pet hair, so feel free to bathe your furry friends with abandon. It’s also great for the person in your household who always gets stuck with the dirty job of drain maintenance.

Always funny.

Day 11: Poop Emojis
The poop emoji is funny. It just is. And you can find it on everything from phone chargers to clothing to holiday decorations. I just searched for it on Amazon and got 32,383 results. Don’t fight it. This one doesn’t directly protect our water sources, but poop emojis make it easy to talk about poop, and that could lead to a conversation about wastewater treatment or the global water and sanitation crisis. So basically, poop emojis create clean water advocates. Also, this would be perfect for that co-worker who really needs to lighten up.

 Day 12: Dual-Flush Toilet
I wasn’t kidding. We are going out with a bang on our final day with the dual-flush toilet. I would not recommend this one as a hostess or teacher gift. This is for that special someone. Yes, it can handle Number 2, but why waste water if all you need is a Number-1- sized flush? So many people out there think, “Why do I need a new toilet when my old one works just fine?”  Well, it doesn’t work fine. It guzzles water and your hard-earned money that you could be using to buy socks with poop emojis on them. This one says, “You’ve been flushing wrong for all these years, but I still love you.” Give someone the option of Number 1 this year; it gives back with every flush. So there you have it, folks. Water you waiting for? Go shop like you love water. You might just help someone make Santa’s Nice List next year.

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