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Green Living Certification
Chapter 4 - Simple Changes
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4.1 Water

Water is one of the most precious resources we have, yet most of us don't think twice about letting the water run while we wash a coffee mug, or watering our lawns in the summer. Americans, in fact, use about 130 percent more water than we did just 50 years ago.

Given that water resources are being depleted, that's a significant increase with global implications. It's not something that can be remedied without humans - all of us - trying to reduce our consumption.

On any given day, you have the ability to reduce your personal water use by many gallons of water, perhaps hundreds of gallons if you are very careful and cognizant of your use.

Let's look at some ways you can reduce your consumption and use of water.

First, when you get up in the morning, do you keep the water running while you brush your teeth? If you brush for the recommended 4 minutes, you are using 4 gallons of water.

After you brush your teeth, do you use the bathroom? It's good to remember this old saying, "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." It might seem a little crude, but it's a good rule of thumb. Of course, you don't want to let urine sit for a long period of time in the toilet, but if you flush every third time you urinate, you could save several gallons of water each day or more.

To that end, if you don't have low-flow toilets, consider installing them. Older toilets use an average of 3 gallons of water per flush, while newer toilets use about a gallon. That's a considerable savings over the course of a day, or a week or a year.

If you can't replace your toilet or toilets, but they are older, consider using a "displacement device" to help save water each time you flush. A displacement device is nothing more than something that "fools" the toilet into thinking it requires less water than it really does to "flush" through it. You can save about a gallon of water with each flush using a displacement device.

When you wash your hands after using the toilet, turn the water off while you lather your hands. Better yet, switch to hand sanitizers at least some of the time.

Most everyone knows that taking a shower saves much more water than taking a bath, but do you know how much? The average bath requires 40 gallons of water. A 5-minute shower, on the other hand, can be had for as little as 20 gallons of water.

Have you ever heard of a "power shower"? This type of shower is hard to succumb to in the winter but you shut the water off while you soap up and shampoo your hair. Turn the water back on to rinse. This saves another 10 gallons of water, cutting your 5-minute shower down to a total use of 10 gallons.

By the far the bathroom is the easiest place in which you can save water. You can choose to not flush the toilet, or to turn the water off when you brush. You can take shorter showers and choose showers over baths.

And while we waste a lot of water in the bathroom, there are two other rooms in which we waste even more: the kitchen and the laundry room.

Do you have a dishwasher older than 5 years? If so, it's using up to 13 gallons of water per cycle. If you clean a load a day in the dishwasher, that's 91 gallons of water a week, or 4,732 gallons a year! Switch to a water efficient dishwasher and you can reduce that usage to about 4 gallons per cycle, saving as much as 3,200 gallons of water a year.

When you do use the dishwasher, only run it if the load is full.

Better yet, consider not using the dishwasher. They can send pollutants into our streams and rivers, and use expensive and potentially damaging electricity. If you wash your dishes with a dishpan and by hand, you can save many gallons of water, some electricity and you'll never have to empty the dishwasher!

When you begin to think about how much water you use in a day, it really gets to be a study in inadvertent consumption, doesn't it?

What about your kitchen faucet? Do you always turn the water off while you are peeling potatoes or carrots, or do you turn the water off and only run it when you need to rinse the potato or carrot? Even better, many water watchers suggest using a bowl to clean your vegetables, just swishing them around nicely to get them clean. (Best yet, buy organic and forget worrying about pesticides on your produce. The bowl swishing, then, will seem especially appropriate.)

If you have a garbage disposal, consider not using it. They use a great deal of water and you could instead add your fruit and vegetable peels to your compost pile (which we'll discuss in the section on gardens).

Although you might not give much attention to your water use in the laundry room, you should, because in the laundry room, a lot of water goes down the drain.

But you have to have clean clothes, so what choice do you have, right? There are a few choices you have when you walk into your laundry room.

First, only run full loads. Make sure your washing machine is as full as it can possibly be. Not only do you waste water if you run a less than full load, but you also waste that precious water.

If you don't have a full load to wash, but need a particular item clean quickly, wash it by hand in a basin of water. Add a small amount of detergent and use some elbow grease to get it clean. Rinse with a small amount of water.

Finally, if you are in the market for a new washing machine, purchase an energy-efficient front-loading washer. These use less electricity, of course, but also a good deal less water. Top-loading washing machines can use as much as 40 gallons of water per load, but a front-loading machine might use only 16 gallons (most range between 16 and 24 gallons of water per load).


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Write your commentsLanguage and Content Guidelines

 By: RAYMUNDA on Apr 8, 2008
 By: Melonie on Sep 4, 2008
  While walking to the corner store in the suburbs may be difficult as mentioned on this page, I don't see the alternatives mentioned: ride a bicycle or consider an electric bike, scooter, or the like. These can be recharged for much less than the expenditure of gas and are more than adequate for small trips if you aren't facing huge hills. Obviously this might not work for those with families, but a regular bicycle with a trailer behind it for wee ones, or a child seat and windshield, would definitely work. And it turns the errand running into a healthy family outing as well.
 By: Yadira on Jan 21, 2009
  One bad bad habit that I used to have is that I cannot go to sleep without the tv on, or the radio, I got use to that since a little girl, so now I do turn it off, any ways when I am sleep I can see the tv. I guess like I said it was a bad habit.
 By: Dan on Dec 17, 2009
  world governments use more energy and pollute more than you can imagine. US government has wasted more energy buy fighting wars. 4 big ones in my life time. A troop transport ship ( one I was on )holds 690000 gallons of fuel. It feed to boilers. From SD CA to Hi to Japan we where almost out of fuel. Take that times about 250 ships (minus nuke power) x 4 wars. wow what a waste. The money spent in the last 3 wars the US could of built high speed low energy trains connecting every city in the US. Or built Geo Thermal power plants or Solar power plants. But we will never get there with the out dated government way of managing a country. Where in the 201st century using 1800s style of government.First step is to element Greed. Greed is causing a huge impact on our planet and most people think that this is normal.(Business) (Capitalism). I truly believe the only way to stop or slow down the process in destroying our planet is to follow the Venus Project. Every Human should be equal = have the same and do with out. This may work or may not. At least give it a try!! Rid of Greed and money you will see a huge change.
 By: Anthony on Mar 14, 2010
  Owning hybrid vehicles is a good idea.. however, hybrid vehicles are more expensive than normal ones.. so most people here who can afford to buy a car dont go in for a hybrid vehicle. however, I try to reduce the number of times i have to drive my car.. i usually walk it out, or ride my bicycle. I get the car out only when the entire family goes out together. Its a little inconvenient but it helps in keeping the environment clean for my 3 yr old daughter.. :)
 By: Marissa on Jul 28, 2011
  The newer low-water washing machines are wonderful. In addition to using much lower water levels for washing, they use much less energy to run.
 By: Mr.Dana on Mar 18, 2019
  "When you wash your hands after using the toilet, turn the water off while you lather your hands. Better yet, switch to hand sanitizers at least some of the time." I'm going to start doing that immediately! Great idea.

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