Water conservation. Sure, I'd heard the phrase. It's just that I never thought about it — not while I was plucking my eyebrows while waiting for the shower water to heat up, and not while I let gallons and gallons of clean water wash down the drain while I brushed my teeth.
I certainly didn't think about it when I flushed down the toilet a few stray hairs that fell out while brushing my hair while blow-drying it. And, of course, I didn't give it much thought when I triple-rinsed all of our clothes because — gasp — what if all of my (non-green) laundry detergent didn't wash out during the first two rinse cycles?! Oh, the horror.
We are much more wasteful with water than I ever imagined.
Did you know the average American uses 1,190 gallons of water per day according to H2O Conserve? That's a bunch of water! That takes into account absolutely everything we do, from driving our cars to running our dishwashers. Still, it's an average — and it's a lot!
I'm not proud of my old water-wasteful ways, but I was sadly naive and, if I'm honest, selfish. Some people change their water habits because they make a conscious effort to go green. I did it for a different reason.
"The average American uses 1,190 gallons of water per day."
We traveled to Vietnam to adopt our first child and I realized exactly how lucky we are to have clean water everywhere we go. A year later, when we traveled to Ethiopia, I truly understood the gift that is clean water. Once you see children scooping filthy water out of a small ditch on the side of the road, presumably to drink, you can't really feel good about yourself if you go home and let hundreds of gallons of it sail straight down the drain.
Until I saw what happens to people when they have no clean water, I obviously didn't have enough of an appreciation for it.
What you can do
There's a lot you can do to stop wasting water. Start by thinking about some of your daily habits that are easy to change. And change them!
- Turn the water off while you brush your teeth.
- Only let the shower water run until it's warm. Don't wander away or get distracted. (And definitely don't pluck your eyebrows!) Stand by the shower so you can jump in as soon as it's hot.
- Invest in high efficiency appliances, especially your washing machine and dishwasher.
- Run your dishwasher for the shortest cycle that still cleans the dishes and only run it when it's full.
- Turn off the water while you scrub your hands.
- Don't flush unnecessary things down the toilet.
- Compost your food waste instead of running the disposal.
- Don't run water while washing dishes.
- Don't run half-full loads of laundry, or at least adjust the water level accordingly.
- If you have a patio or deck, sweep it, don't spray it.
- Collect rainwater for watering your grass and garden.
- If you have a high-efficiency washing machine, try washing your clothes on the lowest setting. They'll probably still come out just as clean.
Do you have any simple tips for using less water? Share them in the comments section below.
More on water conservation
Water conservation: Get the facts
Energy-efficient green home plans
How to save water in the bathroom