The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Conserve Water!

Posted by thearrow on April 22, 2008

You got the message, ok? 🙂

It’s Earth Day today, so what better occasion to write my promised water post?

I think water, just like food, is sacred and each of us should do everything s/he can to conserve it. I know agriculture and industry are the biggest consumers, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for us to do nothing. Households account for 8% of water consumption (here is the source of my number) and I’m sure a big part of it is just wasted.

So the least we could do is cut the waste. That is, restrict our water use to what’s essential. Sure, the line between (absolute) needs and (superficial) wants is different for each of us. Besides a few more concrete pointers below, I only have a common-sense guidance for this: ask yourself honestly if the way you’re using a resource is reasonable or just waste. I’m sure you’ll have the right answer more often than not.

People use waste water and other resources in quantities way bigger than justified by any rational reason to increase their own comfort and — my pet theory — to add something to their perceived social status. It’s one thing to wash a lot of dishes in a dishpan in the same water and quite another to lavishly let the faucet run at full capacity while you use a drop once in a while. The former makes you feel you’re a maid in the 19th century; the latter makes you feel spoiled as if the whole Earth is your personal property.

I’ve seen this many times both in people’s homes and at work and it drives me nuts every time. At work especially people don’t have very dirty dishes. Most of us bring food in plastic containers and there are no cooking pans to clean. Well, everyone I’ve seen (ab)uses water as if there’s no tomorrow. Once in a while someone leaves the faucet on (at full capacity, of course) and then leaves the kitchen to do something else. Meanwhile, the water is running…

The same thing happens at the bathroom. I’ve seen people who will turn the faucet on (did I mention full capacity?), then take their time to wash their hands (always using more soap than necessary), then take their time to grab some paper towels (always 2-3 towels when one is just fine), then wipe their hands, and only then turn the faucet off using the paper towels, so that they don’t touch the faucet handles directly. I bet the ratio of water used to water wasted is something like 1 to 50. Gallons and gallons go down the drain because of this perceived need for enhanced comfort.

Speaking of the bathroom, the main culprit for water waste is the toilet. A friend of mine went at great lengths to find a dual-flush toilet in the U.S. Speaks volumes about how much folks think about conservation here, but I’ve seen outrageous things happen in Romania, too, so no one is exempt.

Below are a few ways I cut the waste. You are welcome to add your own.

1. Use just a trickle of water while you’re washing dishes and only just a bit more when rinsing them. Even better, wash them in a dishpan (in Romanian, lighean) to get rid of the grease, then rinse them under running water. I use rubber gloves to make the whole thing less unpleasant.

2. To pollute less, don’t use more detergent than necessary. A dishpan can help here, too.

3. Use hand-sanitizing gel if you don’t need a serious hand wash. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist in Romania yet but someone should introduce it on the market :). When things are going to get serious about water, we’re going to use a lot more of this stuff. I should buy some shares in the companies that produce it 🙂

4. Use grey water. In other words, reuse water for different purposes around your household. The only example I have in mind is to clean floors with water I’ve used to wash clothes if I washed them in a pan. But I live in a small apartment, so I’m sure there are other things you can do if you live in a house.

5. Shower instead of taking baths. And, of course, don’t let the water run while in the bathtub (insert nudge to virtual friend who confessed to this sin). Personally, I wish bathrooms were warmer places. Mine doesn’t have its own heating unit, so I’m forced to let the water run while I lather just so I don’t freeze…

6. Flush your toilet less often if you just pee. I know this will sound gross to most of you and it’s probably not doable if you have kids or even just a partner. Maybe it can work if you use separate toilets. I live by myself and I don’t have to worry about that for now. So if you, too, live by yourselves, you can try :).

Of course, I would prefer composting toilets any time but I’m renting, so I can’t install one. Again, this is something that doesn’t exist in Romania, unfortunately.

My technology wish for water conservation is a sensor that will cut the water off when you don’t need it and turn it back on at a previously set temperature when you get your hands back under the faucet/shower.

But before my toilet-related and other wishes come true, we could all try points 1-6 :).

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