GO GREEN TIP #115
How To Save Water: 15 Simple Conservation Tips
The woes of the world’s fresh water supply are proving increasingly problematic. Aquifers are drying up. Due to rising temperatures, snowpack is failing to provide enough sustainable surface supply. Municipal water sources have moved beyond questionable to full-on toxic. Because we all depend on H20 to live, learning how to save water has never been more important.
In short, we need to pool our efforts and begin working to combat water waste. Wherever we may live, if we think of water conservation as a choice rather than a necessity, we’re likely consuming far more than the average global citizen. And while we might not be able to fix the water issues plaguing the planet at large, we can each do our part to maintain this vital resource.
Whether water conservation is new to you or something that you are hoping to delve into deeper, here are some simple tips on how to save water that everyone can use…
How to Save Water in the Bathroom
The bathroom accounts for nearly half of the water the average U.S. household uses. Of that, the toilet accounts for nearly 1/3. The real tragedy is that we are often flushing clean, fresh, and potable water every time we go. It needn’t be that way.
Baby Steps for Beginners: One of the easiest ways to waste less water in the toilet is to use it only for toilet business. Get out of the habit of flushing tissues used to blow your nose or wipe the seat. For anything that isn’t specifically bathroom business, use the wastebasket or simply don’t flush. “Letting the yellow mellow” does help, too.
Getting into the Flow: A major issue with many toilets is that they are outdated. Modern high efficiency toilets use less than one-and-a-half gallons per flush, whereas older models use to seven gallons. If you have an old model, either consider replacing it or bank the tank, adding bricks or bottles filled with sand so that the amount of water needed to refill it after each flush is less.
Expert Environmentalist: The most pious of porcelain accoutrements would be the composting toilet, which not only drastically reduces water use (to nothing or almost nothing, depending on the model), but also creates something useful out of our…compostable materials.
How to Save Water on Your Lawn
The lawn is the bathroom of outdoor water use, comprising about 1/3 of all residential consumption. That’s about 9 billion gallons a day to grow grass, just so that we can then cut it. While a nice green lawn is pleasant to look at, is it really worth so much?
Baby Steps for Beginners: If watering the lawn seems like a necessity, then do so more efficiently. If it has rained, there should be no need to water, so turn off the timer. Otherwise, you should always water early in the morning or late in the evening, when the sun won’t soak up the water. And make sure the sprinkler isn’t hitting areas that don’t need watering, like the driveway.
Getting into the Flow: Guttering is fairly common these days, yet most people direct that rainwater into drainage areas rather than utilizing it. Instead, we direct ours into rain barrels from which we can then water our lawns and gardens. It’s amazing that we pay to water our lawns, when the stuff falls on our roof and courses through our gutters for free.
Expert Environmentalist: Those who wish to combat lawn care on the highest level can completely replace their grass with an edible garden or a drought-tolerant lawn. An edible garden should be heavily mulched to conserve more water, and will produce food for the household. This further decreases our water use by not relying on large-scale agriculture. For those not into gardening, simply replace the grass with trees, rock gardens, or drought-resistant plants.
How to Save Water When Cleaning
Certain modern innovations shouldn’t be sacrificed: Showers make our world smell better, and brushing teeth has proven useful in keeping our choppers healthy into later life. Unfortunately, many of us have picked bad habits when it comes to our personal hygiene…
Baby Steps for Beginners: Start by turning off the water when you’re not using it. That means no running water while you brush your teeth, shave (just rinse the razor with water in the basin), soap up in the shower, wash dishes, and so on. Instead of tolerating leaky links, hole-y hoses, and drippy faucets, learn to check taps regularly and repair these water-wasting elements.
Getting into the Flow: Green technology companies, long aware of our desire to save water, have created some effective and inexpensive solutions. Low-flow faucets and shower heads reduce the amount of water used in sinks and showers by 50% or more. Now, we need to take the reins and replace our old spigots with something better!
Expert Environmentalist: Along the same lines as rainwater catchments, most households in North America are underutilizing what could be a completely free resource. A greywater system reroutes our salvageable water waste, using it instead of clean water when greywater would work just as well, such as in flushing toilets and irrigating the lawn.
How to Save Water in Your Appliances
Modern convenience has proven to be more of a detriment to the planet than appliance inventors likely realized they ever would be. The two commonly-used appliances that waste the most water are washing machines and dishwashers. But there are ways we can make things a little better…
Baby Steps for Beginners: Many of us have the bad habit of using dishwashers and washing machines every time we clean a couple of dishes or a few articles of clothing. This is extremely wasteful: We can conserve a considerable amount of water either by waiting until there is a full load or washing a couple of items by hand here and there.
Getting into the Flow: Getting the way we use dishwashers and washing machines straightened out would be a huge victory. The next step would be eliminating our compulsion to use things like high-pressure sprayers to wash the driveway and keeping a closer eye on our hot water heaters, which tend to get leaky over time and waste both energy and water.
Expert Environmentalist: Prematurely replacing our appliances might not be the greenest (or most affordable) thing of us to do. But doing so in a timely manner, and spending a few extra dollars for the most environmentally-friendly options (look for the Energy Star label) could save the world a tremendous amount of water and cut down on your electricity bill!
How to Save Water When Cooking
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that we use a lot of water in the kitchen, and that cooking constitutes the vast majority of our kitchen time. Unfortunately, some common cooking habits aren’t so environmentally friendly. Luckily, that can be easily remedied!
Baby Steps for Beginners: When we look at how often we dump perfectly usable water down the drain, the need to be more mindful is readily apparent. When we strain our pasta, we could save that water for taking care of houseplants. When we boil vegetables, the water would be perfect for making a flavorful soup stock: Just combine it with veggie scraps and freeze it for later. When we wash fresh produce, we could use the water to clean dishes or mop the kitchen floor.
Getting into the Flow: Composting at home is among the simplest, greenest habits we can adopt in the kitchen. It reduces our waste while producing something else we desperate need—good soil. It also conserves water by having us scrape dishes clean before washing it, as well as not using fresh water to run the garbage disposal. Composting conserves waste across the board!
Expert Environmentalist: Our rampant consumption of factory-farmed meat and mono-cropped staple foods is perhaps one of the world’s worst water offenses in the kitchen. It takes a lot of water-intensive crops to feed the animals raised for human consumption. These animals drink even more water than those crops needed to grow, and then they produce feces that is contaminating the world’s fresh water supply. Switching to a largely locally grown, plant-based diet (with free-range meat for those not ready to go vegan) helps keep our cooking much more water-conscious.
It’s easy to discount any one of these efforts individually as being an insignificant drop in the bucket of what needs to be done to save the world’s dwindling fresh water supply. But when each of us learns how to save water and starts putting simple tips like these into practice, collectively we are talking about saving BILLIONS of gallons of water every day. That’s a meaningful impact! –Jonathan Engels
Jonathon Engels is a traveler, writer & teacher who’s been living abroad as an expat since 2005. He’s worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited many others in between. He’s currently on a slow travel trip from Central America to Patagonia, volunteering his way throughout the journey. He’s a regular contributor to One Green Planet as well as Permaculture News, which focus on helping to keep the world green and clean. He’s also the founder of The NGO List, a compilation of grassroots NGOs seeking international volunteers. His work can be found at Jonathon Engels: A Life Abroad, and his current whereabouts and goings-on are available on his personal blog.
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