Happy World Water Day, fellow conservationists! Over at CLC, we're taking time out of our day to reflect on the importance of the 1% of fresh water that is accessible to us. While many people are focusing on the need to develop water infrastructure in economically developing countries (which is great!), we want to remind our followers that small changes in our lifestyles can have a big impact on curbing water waste! With issues arising throughout the country, like lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, and over 7,000 miles of Indiana rivers and streams being impaired by untreated or improperly treated waste water, it has never been more important to make those changes now. Here's a list of CLC tested and approved steps to reducing your water footprint.
Step 1. Change your diet
Become a Vegetarian!
Simple alterations to our diets can have lasting effects on our water consumption. Prioritizing a vegetarian diet can make the biggest impact, as meat products are by far the biggest perpetrators of water consumption. For example, the Water Footprint Network published research that shows the “global average water footprint” of 1 kilogram of beef is 15,400 liters of water. (2) Meat focused diets are also a huge source of greenhouse gases. Every American enjoying one meat-free meal per week would have the same effect as removing 8 million cars off U.S. roads! (3) If a meat-free diet is out of the question you can still watch your water consumption (and carbon footprint) by choosing less water intensive meat products, such as pork or chicken, which require 6,000 liters and 4,430 liters of water respectively. (2)
Eat Locally Produced Whole Foods!
Processed foods are direct and indirect contributors to water waste. Directly, it takes water to create the food item. It takes 125 liters of water to produce one apple, but 1140 liters of water to produce 1 liters of apple juice. (2) Indirectly, it takes water to produce the packaging and then even more water to transport the product to you. A diet focused on whole foods is not only good for you, it’s good for the earth. It is also important to focus on buying food from local vendors when possible in order to cut down on the water used to transport that tomato across state lines. Instead of choosing that mango that was shipped from South America, go with fruits produced in your own state.
Limit water intensive foods!
Focusing once or twice a week to opt for an item with a smaller water footprint is a small, painless step with a big impact. Are you an avid coffee drinker like me? One average it takes about 130 liters of water to create a single cup of coffee. A standard cup of tea requires only 30 liters. (2) If you switch from coffee to tea twice a week, you’d reduce your water footprint by about 200 liters per week! Similarly a consumer could opt for soy milk instead of cow’s milk, which require 297 and 1050 liters of water respectively to produce 1 liters. (5)
Step 2. Ban plastic from your life
While it has its time and place, us CLCers loathe plastic. We wish more people recognized the importance of limiting the use of plastic. This applies especially to single use plastic like straws, plastic-ware, to-go containers, and plastic shopping bags. That plastic water bottle may seem innocent, but twice as much water is used to create the bottle than is contained in the bottle itself. One pound of plastic requires 22 gallons of water during production! (2) When you think about all the plastic used in everyday life, the wasted water really adds up.
Take reusable containers for leftovers when you go out to eat! Invest in reusable straws and portable silverware. Use cloth shopping bags when you go to the store and if you forget them simply ask for paper instead of plastic. Making this change may be painful at first, but you (and the earth!) will be happier and healthier in the long run.
Step 3. Create a low-flush toilet
According to the EPA, toilets are responsible for up to 30% of the indoor water consumption of the average American home. Older model commodes can use up to 6 gallons per flush while newer ones have reduced water usage to 1.28 gallons or less.(4) Penny pinchers can reduce their toilet’s water waste easily by purchasing an adjustable flapper or a tank bag. An adjustable flapper can be manipulated to allow as much or as little water as desired to pass through the tank. A tank bag filled with water will displace the water inside of the toilet’s tank, which reduces the amount of water used during the flush cycle. This small change can save up to .8 gallons of water for every bag installed, depending on the size and amount of bags used. Those of us who are in the market to upgrade their toilet should look for models with the “WaterSense” label. This indication shows that this model meets EPA standards on performance and efficiency. Opting for a “WaterSense” approved toilet can save the average household 13,000 gallons per year. (4)
Step 4. The Third ‘R’
Re-use! An easy habit we can all get behind is purchasing gently used items instead of buying new. A simple cotton shirt comes at a cost of 2,700 liters of water to be exact. (6) A pair of leather boots sets us back 14,503 liters of water and the production of a smartphone uses 12,760 liters. (6) First, we should reduce our consumption, but to never buy anything again is unrealistic! The next time we find ourselves in need of something it would be easy and wise to see if a second-hand option is available.
Step 5. Opt for a clothesline.
One load of washing in the average machine uses 40 gallons of water and the average dryer uses 5 times more energy than the washer. (1) Since water is a necessity in the production of energy, wasted energy is wasted water. A clothesline or drying rack is a great alternative, especially in the coming summer months! During the winter, dry clothing items for 15 minutes and then hang them on drying racks inside your house to complete the process.
Imagine the impact we could have if everyone made small changes like these! Help us get the word out by sharing these info graphics:
Do you have tips for living a more water conscientious lifestyle? Send them to us here!
1 The Impact of a Cotton T-shirt: How Smart Choices Can Make a Difference in Our Water and Energy Footprint
2 The Water Footprint Calculator
3 Fighting Global Warming with Food: Low Carbon Choices for Dinner
4 United States Environmental Protection Agency
5 The Water Footprint of Soy Milk and Soy Burger and Equivalent Animal Products
6 Mind your step: The Land and Water Footprints of Everyday Products