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August 12, 2011


It's our last week of the No Impact Project! This week was Reduce Water Use week! For tips on how you can reduce your water impact take a look at our other blogs this week!

This week Maria reduced her shower time to 5 minutes. This was nothing new since her travels abroad in Australia included limiting shower time to 4 minutes max. In many other countries it is not strange to have rules limiting shower time. "In some of my friends' host houses they had timers in the shower to remind users to not shower over 4 minutes. After a while, you get used to it, and find that 4 or 5 minutes is plenty of time to get clean."

Aaron feels very strongly about water conservation and offers some interesting quick facts on water use that is usually passed over:

Something commonly ignored in water conservation is the consumptive nature of consumer products For example, a pair of jeans requires over 10,000 liters of water to grow and process the cotton and then manufacture the product itself. A modest-sized steak will consume almost 5,000. Even something as insignificant-seeming as a tea bag consumes about 90 liters of water. Taking short showers might make you feel fuzzy inside, but if you want the most water conservation for your effort, data shows that the larger impact can be had by changing your buying habits.

What I did to reduce my water consumption this week is that I drank only water. This sounds stupid, but according to data, this has a MUCH greater environmental impact than any domestic change I could have made.

So let's talk about some common drinks, and how much water it takes to produce them.

1 liter of soda: 250 liters of water
1 liter of milk: 1000 liters of water
1 liter of coffee: 1100 liters of water
1 liter of beer: 300 liters of water
1 liter of wine: 720 liters of water
(Data derived from here)

To give this some context, the average American uses 300-400 liters of water per day in domestic use. Millions of Americans brew a pot of coffee every morning. And get this: that pot of coffee is THREE TIMES more consumptive of water than all the showering, washing flushing and hosing that person will do for the rest of the day.

A five minute shower uses around 40 liters of water. A can of coke uses more than double that. So which would you rather give up? Two showers, or one can of coke? Which do you think is the more effective way to reduce your water footprint?

Here's an extremely simplified estimation of four drinks I consume regularly in a normal week. By not drinking them this week, here is an approximation of how much water I saved:
5 Cups of coffee forgone: 5500 liters of water saved
3 Cups of tea forgone: 270 liters of water saved
3 Liters of soda forgone: 750 liters of water saved
2 Liters of milk forgone: 2000 liters of water saved

The total water I saved is 8,520 liters in one week. The average domestic American water use is under 3,000 liters per week.

So let me be clear. By giving up coffee, milk, soda and tea, and replacing them with regular tap water, I saved nearly TRIPLE the water that I would have by giving up ALL my domestic water use.

So if I stopped showering, didn't wash my clothes or dishes and didn't water the lawn for 20 days, this would have the same impact as me giving up unnecessary drinks for 7 days. Let that sink in. Which option do you think gives you more environmental benefit for your effort? To me the decision is obvious. I'll give up coffee before showers any day.

Thanks for following USEE's No Impact Summer, make sure to check out our other weeks including No Trash Week, No Consumption Week, Reduce Electricity Week, and Eat Local Week. We hope our trials will inspire you to try some no impact actions of your own!

1 comment:

environmental awareness training said...

I think we all need to have some kind of "actually doing it" for conserving water. Honestly, sometimes I forget on to save water.