By Diane Kuehl
As the crises surrounding the environment and spending in the U.S. (and the world) begin to enter their crescendo – I believe we haven’t even begun to see the full force of pushback on environmental issues yet – it’s important to keep track of all facets of our carbon footprint.
Often times we don’t really look at our water consumption, though, until water conservation efforts our put into place by our communities. Even then, it’s kind of an afterthought.
But, I invite you to view the issue of water consumption in a different light. Not only does our water consumption have a direct effect on our wallets, whether it be through energy bills or water bills, but it also has a direct effect on our carbon footprint.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that by 2013, “36 states will go through water shortages because of increased water usage and inefficient water management.”
So, with all that said, here are a few ways you can manage your water better, and save your bank account and the environment at the same time.
We flush our toilets a lot. In any given day you might flush your toilet five times (probably more). Then, if you are part of a family of five like I am, that’s 25-30 flushes per day. Each flush uses about six gallons of water, which means you could be using well above 180 gallons of water per day just flushing the toilet. At 30 percent of total water usage, the toilet is by far the biggest use of water in the home.
The nice thing is, though, that high-efficiency and other eco-friendly toilets are among the most popular choices for in-home “greening”. Here are a few options you should consider for making your home a little greener.
Dual Flush Toilets: These toilets give you the option of flushing for liquid waste or solid waste. What does this mean? Well, naturally, it should take less water to flush liquid waste than to flush solid waste, so when you’ve only got a little liquid to flush, you can choose your flush option for that. When you think about how many times you actually use the toilet for solid waste, this option reduces your water consumption by over half with each flush.
Composting Toilets: These toilets are an old idea with new twists. They are usually completely dry (like an outhouse), though they do have models that use a minimal amount of water, and can help you with mulch when you decide to plant that garden in your backyard. Because the waste is not flushed, it is stored in a tank that is mixed with some type of vegetable matter, sawdust, coconut coir, or peat moss. This supports the processing, absorbing of liquids and handles that awful odor that could occur. Sometimes the toilet is fitted with a vent pipe, in addition to the sawdust to filter out the smells. While it may seem a little odd at first, it can completely eliminate your use of water in the toilet, which makes it a great, natural way to go green in the bathroom.
High-efficiency Toilets: Maybe you’ve perused the toilet section at your local home improvement store and seen WaterSense labeled toilets. This is a label the EPA has put on very eco-friendly toilets. Typically, these use about 1.3 gallons per flush (as opposed to six gallons with older toilets). The EPA has also said that this will help save around 4,000 gallons of water per year per household.
California is leading the charge in “cleaner” toilets, as they’ve mandated that any toilet sold or installed after 2014 must be a high-efficiency toilet.
If toilets are the number one use of water in the home, showers are a pretty close second, accounting for about 20 percent of the total water usage in our home.
Showers use about 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Usually, my showers take about 20-30 minutes, so that’s about 75 gallons of water per shower. Again, if you’ve got a family of five, that’s 375 gallons of water per day (this is dependent on several factors, of course). Ultra-low-flow showerheads use less than two gallons of water per minute, which cuts 70 percent of your water use, and you’ll also reduce the strain the shower puts on your water heater.
Faucets also use about 2.5 gallons of water per minute, but because we use them for shorter periods of time, the burden isn’t quite as large as the shower or toilet. This doesn’t mean they don’t use a lot of water, though.
How often do you let the water run while you’re doing dishes or want to quickly defrost that bag of shrimp? You probably do it every time, if you’re going to be honest. Again, this puts a huge burden on the hot water heater.
High-efficiency faucets use 1.5 gallons of water per minute, which not only saves on water consumption, but just like the showerheads, it will also reduce the toll on your hot water heater. I really can’t stress the effect of hot water heaters enough.
Just imagine: If fixtures like these were used throughout the U.S., the country would save three trillion (or 3,000,000,000,000) gallons of water and $18 billion per year.
If just one out of every 100 homes were to implement some of these fixtures, the U.S. would lower its greenhouse emissions by 80,000 tons.
So, c’mon! You can do it. Save some for the dolphins.
Diane Kuehl is a DiY/home improvement professional, as well as co-owner of DIY Mother. She lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids.
Showerhead photo via Shutterstock