Did you know that your daily five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country uses for an entire day*? In the U.S. we have such easy access to clean water that it can feel like we have an unlimited supply, and a few gallons wasted here and there may not seem like a big deal. But places like California are already feeling the effects of the global water crisis, and awareness about the need to save water is getting out there slowly but surely. The good news is that doing your part to conserve water is easy. Read on for our top tips on how to save water (it will only take you 5 minutes), and get ahead of the game today.
* United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2006). Human Development Report 2006, Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis.
1. Soak Your Dishes
Soaking your dishes before you wash them is a practice that you might have learned from your mom or dad as a way to get tough grease or baked-on food off without having to scrub like a maniac, but it’s also a great way to save water. If you have a double sink, simply fill one up about halfway and immerse your soiled dishes in there for an hour or even overnight. The water will soften any caked-on food, making it easier to wash off with less water. Those with single sinks don’t need to feel left out. Simply set aside a large pot or other container in your sink and use that as a soaking area.
2. Install Touch-Activated Sensor Faucets or Foot Pedals
A running faucet wastes about 2-3 gallons per minute, so you can imagine how much water you’re washing down the drain if you keep your tap on while you soap up your hands, or the entire time you scrub your dishes. The best way to avoid this problem is to do your dishes in two steps – scrub everything with a sponge and soap first and then turn on your tap and rinse – but that’s admittedly a bit of a pain. Luckily, there is a solution and it comes in the form of the handy motion-sensor faucets and foot pedal-activated faucets that have been hitting the market recently. These smart kitchen additions are a convenient way to control the water you’re using without having to turn on your tap using sink handles each time. They’re also more hygenic and help fight against “soapy faucet knob syndrome”.
3. Eat At Least One Vegetarian Meal a Week
If you’re wondering what eating a vegetarian meal has to do with saving water, the correlation is simple – it takes a lot more water to raise livestock than it does to grow veggies. If you consider all of the water that cows, pigs or other livestock need to sustain their lives as well as the water needed to grow food for these animals, you’ll see how all of that can add up. If you love your burgers and hot dogs, no one is telling you to give those up altogether. Simply swapping out one of your meaty meals for a vegetarian one day per week can make a difference. Replacing just four ounces of beef with pasta, rice or any other non-meat option can save more than 3,000 gallons of water, so we think it’s worth skipping that steak just once a week.
4. Shorten Your Showers
We’d be lying if we said that we didn’t enjoy a nice long shower every now and again, but if you take lengthy showers every day, you could be wasting from 5 to 7 gallons of water a minute (think about how much drinking water that amounts to). It’s great to indulge every now and again but if you want to remind yourself to keep your showers brief, why not invest in a shower radio? Just turn on some jams as soon as you step into your tub and keep track of time using the songs. Kudos if you’re able to end your shower by the time the first song is done playing but if you need two songs to finish washing your hair, no one will judge you. Get this water-powered shower radio (no batteries needed) for extra brownie points and to save even more water, install low-flow showerheads like these to use up to 30% less water than a regular showerhead.
5. Make Use of Your Greywater
While it’s not advisable for humans to drink water after it’s been used to wash produce, it’s perfectly fine to use that greywater (wastewater generated from domestic activities like laundry, bathing and rinsing fruits and vegetables) to water your plants. Next time you wash produce in your sink, just use a large bowl or pot to catch the water. Then just fill your watering can with your newly collected greywater. If you don’t have many plants, you could just as easily use this water for soaking like we mentioned in Tip #2.
6. Install Low-Flow Toilets
One of the biggest ways Americans waste water is by literally flushing it down the toilet. Toilets account for about 45% of all water use in an average American household according to the American Water Works Association. Older toilets are very inefficient and typically use about 3.5 gallons with each flush, but if you switch to a newer low-flow toilet, you can cut that number down to about 1.6 gallons per flush. In the past, homeowners were unhappy with the performance of low-flow toilets, but today’s models have plenty of flushing power in addition to being water-efficient. You can also opt for a dual-flush toilet, which lets you choose between a normal flush (for #1) and a stronger flush (for #2).
7. Fix Those Leaks
So you’ve noticed that your faucet is leaking, but how much could a couple of tiny droplets possibly add up to? A lot, it turns out. If you want to see for yourself, you can use this handy Drip Calculator, which estimates that a single leaky faucet dripping at 30 drops per minute wastes a whopping 3 gallons per day (that’s about 27 baths per year). The solution is as simple as calling a plumber or take matters into your own hands with this DIY video.
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