As you may or may not know, fresh water is not an infinite, renewable resource. There's only so much of it and we aren't making any more. That's why it's so important not to waste water. This life-giving resource needs to be conserved and valued. The good news is there are plenty of ways to reduce water consumption—one of the biggest ways being your diet. Here are five ways to reduce your water footprint ASAP.
Eat A Plant-Based Diet
I’m fully aware not everyone can or should go vegan, but at the least, you should consider eating a more plant-based diet. Not only is it healthier for you, but it’s also a great way to cut back on water waste. In fact, it’s probably the most efficient way to reduce your water footprint on this list. That’s because what we eat takes a lot of water to produce. You may be surprised to learn that animal products are the biggest source of water waste. Sure, plants take up a lot of water to grow, too (in fact, it takes about 1 gallon of water for one almond to grow), but animal products are by far the biggest culprit.
Producing just one pound of beef takes an estimated 1,581 gallons of water. That’s roughly as much as the average American uses in 100 showers. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s a lot of water—all for a small amount of meat. You might be wondering how that’s even possible, but I assure you it makes sense: cattle need water to drink, and water to be washed with. Not just that…cattle also need food, and in order to grow that food, a lot of water and land has to be used. So, ultimately, cattle wind up consuming lots of water. Plus, they’re bigger animals, which means they need more food and water compared to smaller animals. This explains why a chicken’s water footprint is significantly less than a cow’s (though still higher than plants’).
The sad truth is agriculture makes up approximately 80 percent of the U.S.’s consumptive water use and over 90 percent in many western states. Consumptive water refers to water that is used but doesn’t go directly back into a system (like via a river or pond, for example). This means we are adamantly wasting water in the name of agriculture.
So, what is the most sure-fire way to reduce your water footprint? Stop eating meat. Even if you can’t stop eating meat altogether, you can at least reduce it a lot. Perhaps limit it to once or twice a week, instead of every night. Only eat it at dinner time, never for breakfast or lunch. You can also cut out animal byproducts too, for further impact.
Another way to help reduce your water footprint is to stop eating so many processed foods. They require a lot more water to make than whole foods. Think about it: Processed foods already have a water footprint from the food itself, plus the additional water needed to process and package it. Not to mention processed foods are of course bad for your health with all those nasty additives. They also tend to come packaged in plastic packaging, only further adding to their waste factor.
Do yourself a favor and stick to whole foods and create a more plant-based diet. This will certainly make you healthier, as well as reduce your overall water footprint. Plus, you’ll save a buck! Meat and animal byproducts tend to be pretty expensive compared to fresh vegetables and fruits.
Fix Leaks In Your Home
A lot of unnecessary water can be wasted by a dripping faucet. If you notice your faucet dripping, stick a glass jar under it to catch the water and assess how long it takes to fill up. Obviously don’t waste the water you catch—use it to wash dishes or water your plants—but it’s important to see how wasteful leaks truly are. We think just because it’s a drop per second it’s not that big of a deal, but all those drops add up. As soon as you notice a leak, make sure to get it fixed. Call a plumber, or see if there’s a handyman in your friend group or family who can repair it. Obviously, if you yourself are handy, get right to it.
So many items in our home can break and start to leak. Sometimes those leaks may not always be obvious right away, either. It’s good to check your pipes every once in a while just to make sure nothing is an issue. Also, sometimes washing machines can leak and overflow. Make sure to get these items repaired right away when need be. To prevent this from happening to begin with, be sure you only invest in high quality products and appliances you’ve done a lot of research on. Sometimes you’ll have to replace an item that can no longer be repaired, so make sure to do your research on what the best, most efficient, water-saving replacement would be.
Also, if you notice any leaks while out and about, perhaps in a public restroom or a friend’s house, be sure to notify someone right away. Sometimes staff members or loved ones are unaware of the problem which is why they aren’t doing anything about it. As soon as you let them know, they’ll at least be notified and more likely to fix it quicker, resulting in much less wasted water.
Wash Your Clothes Less
I know it’s tempting to throw your clothes into the hamper the second you take them off, but don’t. After one wear, your shirt isn’t dirty, I promise (well, unless you spilled something besides water on it, that is). I typically throw my shirts in the hamper after using them three times. This means I’m not constantly doing laundry. I wait a lot longer to wash jeans too, unless something gets spilled on them (around six wears, and then I wash them). Of course, I don’t apply this rule to undergarments. Those get washed after one use for hygienic purposes.
Washing clothes super frequently is a surefire way to waste water. Plus, it’s not even necessary. My clothes stay fresh much longer than just one wear, and if you keep them in good condition, and care for them, they won’t need a wash. That means hanging them up right away after taking them off, ironing them, and being careful while eating, by the way. As a general rule, only wash your clothes when it’s absolutely necessary. (And hang them up to dry instead of using the dryer for even more eco-friendliness!)
Another thing to consider about washing clothes is the fact synthetic fabrics release microfibers into the water. A microfiber is a tiny fragment of the type of plastic used to make synthetic fabrics. These fibers are so small, so not all of them are caught by wastewater treatment plants and instead, many are released into our environment. Pretty nasty, right? By washing your synthetic fabric garments less, you’re also polluting water less. Overall, try to buy clothes made from natural fabrics when possible, like cotton, wool, and hemp. These don’t release microfibers into water when you do actually decide to wash them.
Drink More Water
I know it might seem counterintuitive, but drinking more water actually saves water, ironically enough. That’s because other drinks actually require way more water to make. For example, drinking a bottle of cola actually consumes around two or three bathtubs full of water. That’s insane. The reason? Growing sugar cane uses a lot of water (and often water-polluting pesticides too). Let’s not forget about the water that goes into producing the plastic packaging for soda bottles, and soft drinks in general. It’s all incredibly wasteful, and should really be avoided as much as possible. In fact, cutting back on sugar in general is a great option for reducing your water footprint.
I personally drink water all day long, but I also love my tea. I typically have a cup of tea every morning. Good thing too: Tea leaves don’t require nearly as much water to grow as coffee beans. A cup of coffee takes about 140 liters of water, whereas a cup of tea takes about 34 liters. It’s still recommended to drink straight up water more than anything else, but the occasional cup of tea over coffee will definitely reduce your water footprint.
I also recommend you stop buying bottled water. Not only is it a waste of your money, but it also hurts the environment. It takes a lot of water to make the packaging for bottled water, and the plastic bottles are very wasteful. Why pay for water when you can get it straight from the tap? Just buy a pitcher, fill it up with tap water, and put it in the fridge. If you really cannot stand the taste of tap, get a pitcher with a filter and your problems will be solved.
Also, for water on-the-go, invest in a reusable water bottle. Personally, I love my stainless steel one. I just fill it up before leaving the house. While I’m out and about, I fill it up at water fountains. To filter my water, I’ve investing in compostable charcoal filters. I totally recommend them. Charcoal filters work great at getting rid of nasties you might find in tap water and purify it for drinking. No plastic water bottles needed!
Switch To Water Efficient Gadgets
Water is a huge part of the bathroom. You need it to power the shower, the toilet, and the sink. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much we use while in the bathroom, but there are definitely ways to counteract our water consumption. First, it helps to look at your shower—is it as efficient as it can be? Perhaps your shower head pumps out a lot of water at once. I recommend switching to a low pressure shower head to save water. You can also place a bucket in the shower with you to catch any excess water while you wait for the water to heat up. You can use this to water the plants later, or use it however you choose, as long as you don’t waste it.
Another thing to think about is your toilet bowl. Although most toilets look alike, the amount of water released by flushing varies depending on how old the toilet is. Generally speaking, the older the toilet, the more water it uses. Toilets built before 1982 use 5 to 7 gallons per flush. Now, toilets are designed to use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush, sometimes even less. You might want to think about replacing your toilet with a newer model if it’s old and requires that many flushes.
Also, did you know toilet paper takes a lot of water to make? It takes 37 gallons of water to make just one roll of toilet paper. Insane, right? Try to go for 100 percent recycled toilet paper, or tree-free toilet paper, whenever possible. This takes a lot less water to create than toilet paper made from virgin materials or trees. You might even want to consider installing a bidet to conserve the amount of toilet paper rolls you go through altogether.
Also, make sure all sinks are functioning properly and not having any leakage problems. As we discussed earlier, a leaky faucet is a wasteful one. Consider installing low-flow faucet aerators in your sink too. This can save gallons of water each time you use the tap. Conventional faucets flow as high as 3 gallons per minute, but low-flow faucets flow at 1.5 gallons per minute.