Did you see Colgate’s Save Water commercial earlier this year? In its debut Super Bowl ad, the company implored viewers not to brush their teeth with the water running. The ad tactfully showed what other people could be doing with the water during that time—someone washing a piece of fruit, a hand reaching out to fill a container with water, a little girl thirstily getting a drink with both hands.
According to the ad, up to four gallons of water are wasted each time you brush with the water running, and some people don’t even have that much water to use in a week. It certainly puts wasteful water usage into clear perspective with a message that rings loud and clear.
Shutting off the faucet when you brush your teeth is just one example of how you can conserve water. The truth is that water conservation can be much easier than you’d expect, and there are many, many ways to go about it. Here are 10 ways to reduce your water footprint.
1. Make subtle changes to your routine. In addition to turning off the water when brushing your teeth, you can save up to 150 gal. of water per month simply by shortening your shower time by a minute or two. Use a timer on your phone to keep yourself on track. Similarly, if you find yourself having to wait for hot water, place a bucket in the shower to collect some of the cold water so you can use it to water your plants.
2. Keep your drinking water in the fridge. Rather than running the faucet to get cool water for a drink, keep a bottle or pitcher stocked in the fridge. Your drink will be colder and you will save gallons of water from running down the drain in the long run.
3. Fix leaky faucets and running toilets. It may seem like a slow drip, but those drips add up to gallons faster than you might realize. To diagnose a silent toilet leak, place food coloring in your toilet tank and wait to see if the color makes it into the bowl. If you see color seeping in, it’s time for a fix.
4. Install faucet aerators and water-saving showerheads. Today’s bathroom fixtures make it easier than ever to save gallons without even changing your routine. Replace dated fixtures with water-efficient models to save water all year long.
5. Wait for a full load. Delay running your dishwasher and your washing machine until it has reached full capacity. This helps limit the total number of times you run the machine, saving gallons as you wash, rinse and repeat.
6. Set up a rainwater collection system for your gutter or downspout. You might be surprised how much water you can conserve by simply collecting what Mother Nature gives us. Rainwater collected from roof runoff can be ideal for watering houseplants and flowers. However, the roof tends to amass contaminants—think bird droppings and roof shingle fragments. Therefore, runoff may contain high levels of pathogens as well as zinc and lead, making the water potentially unsafe for consumption. Avoid watering edible plants with rainwater collected from the roof, focusing instead on watering just the ornamental varieties.
7. Create a freestanding rain barrel to repurpose rainwater. Harvested rainwater that hasn’t come in contact with the rooftop can be a better choice for your edible crops. A brief search online reveals plenty of creative rain-collecting contraptions you can either buy or build yourself with a small investment of time and money. Don’t forget to add a rain saucer, which extends the surface area of your collection unit and allows you to capture even more rainwater for your thirsty plants.
8. Start composting. Rather than running your garbage disposal, set aside your fruit and vegetable waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich enhancement for your gardening soil. The garbage disposal consumes water as it grinds and flushes away kitchen waste products, but composting eliminates that water use and turns the refuse into something valuable.
9. Recycle water from your home. Unfinished water from drinking glasses, water from pots when steaming or boiling foods (once cooled), and even old water when you refresh your pet’s dish, can be useful in watering your household plants, flowers and seedlings.
10. Teach your entire family to save water, too. Keen attention to water conservation can be a wonderful focus for the entire family, even for very young children. Imagine how quickly those saved gallons will multiply when you encourage those around you to make these simple little lifestyle changes in the interest of water conservation.