When it’s raining or snowing outside, it’s easy to forget why water conservation is so important and that our everyday choices make a difference.
The truth is though that freshwater makes up a very small fraction of all the water on our planet. While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Even then, just 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only 0.007 percent of the planet’s water is available to fuel and feed its 6.8 billion people. – National Geographic
With that being said, the average American still directly* uses 100 to 175 gallons of water per day compared to the average family in African who uses 5 gallons per day. Approximately one-sixth of the world’s population, 1.1 billion people, do not have access to safe drinking water. Of those 1.1 billion people, millions die each year from water contamination related diseases.**
The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. — water.org
Living in a first world country, it’s often hard to understand the impact of this crisis as we go about our everyday lives, but the choices we make do matter. Thankfully there are a number of simple steps you can take during your daily routine to reduce your consumption both for the benefit of the planet and your pocketbook. I’ll start you out with three!
* The amount hat is indirectly used (through the products we buy and food we eat) is much higher.
**Facts from blueplanetnetwork.org
1. A shower of savings
Enjoying a conservation shower is a simple way to save water in your everyday life.
What you’ll need:
A bucket and a washcloth.
(Don’t worry – I’m not going to tell you take a sponge bath.)
1. Procure a bucket. You may be able to get one for free from a painter, carpenter or a restaurant. Pretty much anywhere or anyone that uses large quantities of product is bound to have a free bucket lying around. The key is finding a bucket that fits under your faucet. If you can’t get one for free, you can always buy a bucket from your local department or hardware store.
2. As you run the faucet to heat up your shower, simply place the bucket under the faucet and catch the excess (you’ll be surprised by how much you get.)
3. You can leave the bucket there to catch extra during your shower. After your shower, you can use the water to:
- Water plants
- Mop the floor
- Clean the bathroom
- Pour into top-loading washing machines to cut down on the amount used during a wash.
- Flush the toilet
- Whatever else you can think of!
To further make your shower a conservation success, only turn on the water when you need to.
- Turn it on to get wet.
- Turn it off to soap up.
- Back on to rinse off and you’re done!
If you don’t think this method is worth it, simply plug up the bathtub drain and let the water collect as you use your normal method of showering. By the end of the shower, you’ll be standing in 25-50 gallons of proof. Depending on the flow of your shower-head, the average ten-minute shower uses between twenty five to fifty gallons (2.5-5 gallons per minute)!
As far as baths go, here are the facts: The average bathtub holds over 40 gallons, so in one bath you could use the amount of fresh water that some families get for 8 days!
Here’s a bonus tip to make your shower even more conservation-friendly:
The washcloth method!
This method saves on water and laundry.
1. After you finish showering, grab a dry washcloth and use it to dry your body. You’ll be shocked at how much of the water comes off. If you’re soaking wet, you can always cup your hand and scoop the excess off first and wring out your hair as well.
2. After you’re finished with the washcloth, you can wrap a full size or hand towel around your clean body for comfort, or simply air-dry the rest of the way.
This way, instead of having to wash a bulky towel every day or every couple of days, you simply have small washcloths!
NB: Even if you use a full-sized towel for your final dry, these can simply be aired on the line outside (or somewhere inside) and re-used again and again.
2.The Grunge Method.
Volunteers at the Gentle World Vegan Education Center have perfected this method of dish washing, over a number of years. And trust me, these people are dish washing experts! With a crew of anywhere from 6 to 35 people, and through owning and operating a restaurant, they’ve seen their share of dirty dishes. This method not only saves water, but once you have it down, it saves time, detergent, and wear & tear on your dish sponge and sink.
What you’ll need:
Two dish basins, or two large mixing bowls (stainless steel or plastic).
A good bristled scrub brush (bristles shouldn’t be too firm; softer is better).
1. Place your first dish basin in the sink, underneath the faucet. Start by rinsing the food off a couple of dirty dishes, catching the water in the dish basin as you go (use the scrub brush to help you, turning the water off after each dish.) Once you have four inches or so of gritty water, turn off the faucet. Move this basin to the side, if you have space. This is now your grunge basin.
2. Use the water in your grunge basin to scrub the food off the remaining dishes. This way, the grunge, or bits of food, end up in the water you’ve already dirtied and not in the sink, or on your sponge, and you don’t have to keep running the water.
3. After you have a stack of de-grunged dishes, soap them up using a sponge with dish detergent (this is best diluted, rather than full-strength), and set them in your second basin (if there is more than one person doing this you can do step 3 & 4 at the same time as 1 & 2.)
4. Once your second basin is relatively full of soapy dishes, rinse them off over the clean basin, saving the soapy water. This will also help pre-rinse the dishes still in the basin.
5. After you have finished rinsing the dishes in the clean basin, you can either continue to use the grunge to clean more dishes, or if it’s a bit too gookey you can dump the grunge out (we usually pour ours into a bucket that goes out to the garden or to feed nearby plants). After you have dumped your grunge water, transfer the soapy water into your grunge bucket and continue the dish-washing process.
You’ll be amazed how much water, time and soap this process saves, and how much easier your sink is to clean at the end of it!
NB: If you continue catching your rinse water in the basin as you do dishes throughout the day, you’ll find that you always have grunge water ready for the first step.
That drip, drip, drip that’s keeping you awake at night is telling you two things. 1. It’s time to clean out the gutters. 2. You’re letting a precious resource simply run off your roof!
If you live in an apartment, this step might be difficult for you, but if you have a deck to put a bucket on, or own/rent a house then you’ve got a water rich resource on your hands.
What you’ll need:
A bucket, barrel or catchment.
1. Procure a bucket, barrel or catchment, depending on what you can find to reuse or, if necessary, purchase.
2. Place your water-saving device under the gutter spout or create a way to funnel water during the rain/snow.
You’ll be shocked how quickly these containers will fill even during a light rain. After they are full, you can use this to:
- Water plants
- Pour into top loading washing machines to cut down on the amount of water used.
- Mop the floor (if clean enough)
- Flush the toilet
- And more!
1. If the water from your roof is contaminated with little bits and pieces of plant debris and roof particles, try straining it using a piece of material or stockings. Old pantyhose can be stretched over the top of a bucket to create a DIY straining system.
2. If you let your catchment water sit for a few hours, you’ll find that a lot of the particles simply settle to the bottom. When you pour the water through your strainer, a good deal of the debris will remain at the bottom of the original bucket, and can simply be poured into a nearby plant.
While these hints will help you reduce the amount of water you directly use, there are still many hidden sources of water usage ingrained in our lives. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear, there is an impact.
“To feed and water farmed animals takes enormous amounts of water. To produce just one pound of meat requires on average 2500 gallons of water; a gallon of cows’ milk ‐‐ 750 gallons of water. By simply making Vegan choices, you can save over 1.3 million gallons of water every year! That’s so much water that being Vegan you could leave your shower on 24 hours a day 365 days a year and *still* you couldn’t waste as much water as someone consuming an animal‐based diet.”
*From the video: A Life Connected: Vegan
I’m obviously not encouraging you to let the shower run year round after becoming vegan, but the point is this: Our daily choices make a difference and we all have a chance to start conserving now while there is still clean water flowing from the tap!