30 ways to reduce your water consumption
The reason intellectual life can only exist on planet Earth (apart from when all we go with Elon to Mars after ruining the earth of course)
Before we get to ways we can reduce our water usage it’s really important to find out exactly why we should conserve water. Here are only five reasons cherry picked to encourage you to reduce your water consumption. Below we have 25 easy ways to reduce the use and make small efforts to change outcomes.
If you’re interested you can calculate your water footprint here.
Why should we do it?
Preserve the environment
Reducing water usage reduces the pressure energy suppliers are under to fulfil water delivery across homes, businesses, farms and communities. This will reduce pollution, energy and conserve fuel resources. In turn it will help capacity to support stretched agriculture and sanitation services to feed and clean our growing nations.
The oceans, streams and lakes are the foundation of all life on earth. 71% of the earth’s surface is water, but these are now used as dumping grounds, in turn harming everything that relies it. We need to protect our eco-systems from further damage, not just for us but for the survival of many endangered species. Creating good practice in every area in our daily lives will support the overall change we need, starting with conserving the vital mineral that keeps us alive.
Reserves for disasters
The UN have shockingly declared we have only 11 years until we are unable to reverse the damage from climate change. This will lead to endless issues, including extreme weather conditions. Regardless of this news, the need for fresh water is ever increasing due to population and industry growth. As we are not able to increase our water supply or output this is worrying given there will be a need for water if natural disasters occur more frequently due to climate change. The hydrological cycle ensures water we use will return to Earth, it’s not always returned to the same spot, or in the same quantity and quality. By reducing the amount of water we use, we can better protect against future extreme weather disasters like droughts, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.
Conserving water will save energy. Pumping water through treatment sites, central facilities to homes, offices, shops, gyms and restaurants back through sewage systems and back to treatment sites require huge amounts of energy. Studies have shown that in California alone 6.5% of all energy consumed goes towards moving water from one place to another. Saving water means using less energy which in turn reduces your carbon footprint.
Naturally using less energy equates to spending less on energy bills. By following the suggestions below communities can save thousands of litres of water each year to put towards more exciting stuff. Like sweets and puppies.
How can we do it?
There are endless ways to reduce your water consumption but here are just 25 easy tips.
Fill up the dishwasher
If you wash your dishes by hand it more water than running the dishwasher with a full load, even more so if you have a sparkly water-conserving dishwasher! For hand-washing to beat the machine, you’ll have to wash everything in under two minutes if you’re running the water constantly, or fill up the sink with only use 18 litres and wash the whole contents of a dishwasher in that – no running the tap for to rinse! If you do not have a dishwasher consider investing in a washing up bowl, wash all of your dishes in one full bowl, then empty and fill again for a ‘rinse’ bowl which you then dip the crockery in again to ‘rinse’.
Take shorter showers
One way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. This is especially advised for when you are shaving – Women waste 50bn litres of water shaving legs in shower a year. A four-minute shower uses approximately 90 to 180 litres of water. One way our E.C.O. co-founder Grace times her showers is by songs. A quick shower will be one song, if she’s washing her hair or shaving she limits it to two songs. Just don’t chose The Lord of the Rings score!
Pee in the shower
Not instead of the toilet, but if you are having a shower wait until you’re in there. This will save a whole flush which typically uses 13.6 litres per flush.
If it’s yellow let it mellow
If you are hydrated this shouldn’t make you feel as ill as it might, if you imagined a stinky yellow toilet then go and grab yourself a glass of water!!
For obvious reasons this tip can be limited. Don’t go to a friend’s house or to the communal toilets at work and let your pee sit waiting for the next poor bathroom visitor to greet it. But if you are lucky enough to have a private toilet or share with other tree huggers think about flushing ever other time to pee. Some people don’t flush in the night to avoid waking housemates up, this also reduces water consumption and could be a good idea for your house.
Cut down on baths
There is nothing better than a hot, steamy bubble bath on a Sunday. However, a bath can hold up to 80 litres. We won’t tell you to stop taking baths, but when you do ensure you really use them to their full potential. Consider washing your hair, shaving and watching a feature length film or reading a book while having a bath. If you are in the bath for less than 30 minutes consider only half filling it or having a shower instead.
Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge
The classic run your fingers under the water until it gets cold trick is bad bad bad. Store a couple of bottles of water in the fridge at all times. Or even in the freezer in the summer if you’re out for a long day. If you are filling water bottles at taps check out Bobble. Or if you’re travelling you can buy a personal water filter, which enables users to drink water safely from rivers or lakes or any available body of water – check out LifeStraw.
Wear clothes more than once
Cotton needs a lot of water, requiring up to 2,700 litres to grow enough for just one T-shirt. Fast fashion has led us to believe we can’t wear our clothes often. You’ve invested hard earned money into your purchases, wear them more than once or twice.
Only use the washing machine for full loads
Like the dishwasher, fill that baby up! With clothes washers, try to use a ‘quick’ cycle or ‘energy saver’ cycle. For partial loads, adjust water levels to match the size of the load or just wait until you have used more clothes.
Think before you wash
This applies to dishes and clothes. Dishes – can you reuse that glass you only used for water? Does it need to go in the dishwasher? Can you use that plate you used to toast later? Can you just brush off those crumbs into the bin and use it again?
Clothes – please do wash your underwear after each use. But do you need to wash those jeans? Do you need to wash that t-shirt or has it got another wear in it? One idea is to wear a t-shirt out, then wear it again to the gym or in the house while chilling or for pjs instead of washing it weekly. It will protect your clothes from getting worn and also save water.
Don’t run the tap while brushing your teeth
I think it’s highly unlikely anyone still does this, but it is worth mentioning just in case anyone has missed the boat. Turning off your tap can save 6 litres of water per minute, and if you are good and brush for the two minutes dentists advise you will save 12 litres. Quick math!
Invest in water-efficient goods
For the homeowners out there, when you need to replace household products or machines look for energy-efficient ones. You can now get water-efficient showerheads, taps, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and many other water-saving products. For more information visit the Waterwise website.
Use every drop
Learn to repurpose water. One easy way is to capture under your colander the potable water you use to rinse fruits and veggies, and use it to cook more veg or deposit it in the garden. You can also grab a bucket and to the same while you wait for tap water to heat up either in the kitchen or the shower.
Create a community within the company which focuses on conservation. You can write policies into the employee handbook and introduce rules that ensure sustainability becomes an important concept to management and integral to the company’s mission.
Avoid pouring out water from your drinking glass or bottle down the drain. If you need to refill your glass you can pour older water into the kettle to be boiled.
Don’t over fill kettles
It is easy to fill kettles up in a communal area and think ‘someone else will use it’, but it’s likely that they will add more water and reheat the water again. Only fill the kettle enough for you and those who want a hot drink.
Offices use huge amounts of energy heating and cooling rooms. If you use air conditioners try to set a regular temperature for thermostats (it is suggested 21°C for cool and 26°C for warmth). Where possible natural ventilation or electric fans rather than AC. Ensure you switch off all machines after hours.
Put signs up reminding coworkers to consider their water usage. This can be while washing dishes or washing their hands to ask the team to turn off the water while lathering and scrubbing, then turn it back on to rinse.
The UK love tea and coffee, most of which can be composted. Why not think about putting signs in the office kitchen can remind people to compost tea and coffee grinds, or even food scraps instead of using the bin. This will reduce water used by waste disposal. You can compost at home or at the office.
Water bottle use
Consider suggesting a reusable water bottle rule in the office. This will encourage people to drink tap or filtered water rather than buy single-use bottled water which requires lots of water in production and transport. It takes at least twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount of water contained in the bottle. So switch today!
Don’t use water for cleaning tasks that can be done with other tools: sweep floors instead of vacuuming them. Dry wipe surfaces rather than washing them if possible.
Use dryers and towels
Use tea towels and reusable cloths in the kitchen rather than single use kitchen paper towels. Similarly use dryers in the bathroom rather than disposable paper towels.
Consider your diet
All food has a water footprint, but some are much larger than others. Our diets can account for half of all the water we use. One of the most water-intensive foods is beef. Shifting away from animal products to a plant-based diet can shrink your water footprint significantly. Check out our food section for recipes ideas and stories from eco warriors who have made the switch.
Consumer products are an often-overlooked source of water use. Almost all production uses water at some stage. If you reduce what you buy from clothing to electronics to household goods you can dramatically decrease your water consumption.
Buy quality, reusable products
Supporting the point above, if you look after your items and invest in good quality products there will be less chance you’ll have to replace them. Think about items such as non-disposable cameras, reusable or electric razors, reusable dishes and mugs and utensils and reusable lunch boxes to start.
Take reusable bags
We all know that we should take reusable bags when shopping to limit plastic waste. But remember when you do this you are also conserving water too as it takes 22 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic.
Think about how you use items. Soap uses less water to wash off over shower gels so opt for a natural soap. White t-shirts are likely to need washing more than darker colours, this is true for towels too. Or buy re-useable napkins instead of using kitchen roll.
Buy second hand
Buy clothes from charity shops or from online platforms like eBay or Depop. It takes around 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of regular blue jeans. Think about rehousing a pre-loved pair of jeans instead.
Buy recycled items
Lots of supermarkets have recycled products from kitchen towels, toilet paper, notebooks, glassware to picnic blankets. Opt for recycled items rather than shiny, new items which have used more water to produce.
Choose sustainable shops
Be selective when you shop. Find out what your local supermarket’s investment agenda is and where their priorities lie. Read this interesting article about supermarkets becoming ‘water neutral’. This extends to clothes shopping, electrical shopping and shopping for cosmetics.
So, with 30 easy ways to reduce your water consumption we hope you are ready to tackle the challenge and be more considerate when turning on the tap. If you haven’t already check out your water footprint here. We hope you can use these tips to make small efforts to change big outcomes and help preserve the environment, support damage control and build reserves for natural disasters while saving energy and also saving you money!
Grace works for a School Improvement Partnership and is our resident ocean lover. Having worked as a scuba instructor in Indonesia she has picked up her fair share of ocean plastic. Her favourite eco product is Oliva Olive Oil Soap.