While Earth is the blue planet, less than 3% of our water is fresh, and only 0.5% of that is readily accessible, making it a limited resource that we need to conserve. As populations continue to grow and landscapes are altered from climate change, availability of fresh water is a growing concern, with over half the world’s population experiencing water scarcity throughout the year and 25% of the world’s population without access to clean drinking water. As consumers we impact the availability of water directly, through physical use in our homes, as well as indirectly, which is typically more significant, through our purchases and actions.
In line with Protiviti’s commitment to our communities and our focus on sustainability, we’re sharing tips and tricks to help YOU integrate sustainable actions into your everyday life. This is the second post in our sustainable summer series. Check out our first post in the series here and stay tuned throughout the summer for easy ways to make a positive impact in your community.
Here are five simple tips for curbing your water use and helping to ensure this resource remains available:
- Water Conscious Food Choices: 70% of water use globally is for agriculture. For plant-based agriculture, this use includes things like watering crops, cleaning equipment, rinsing produce, and food processing. For livestock, this water use has a longer chain, as it includes the water used to grow the crops that provide feed for the animals and the water required to transform these crops into animal feed, as well as drinking water for the animals, water used in cleaning purposes, etc. Avoiding or minimizing your consumption of water-intensive commodities, such as meat, wheat, and rice, can help significantly reduce your indirect water footprint. Sticking to whole, unprocessed foods will also have a lower water footprint as you are avoiding the water needed during the manufacturing process. Also, being aware of how different alternatives stack up, is useful for making conscious decisions at the grocery store, for example, choosing oat milk over almond milk or dairy milk as a more water conscious choice. Additionally, avoid foods where increased fertilizers or pesticides were used, as these runoff into water sources and have adverse health and ecological impacts.
- Managing the Water Footprint of your Closet: The garment and textile industry is the second largest water user worldwide. Within this industry, the main use of water is from the cultivation of materials like cotton or production of synthetic fibers, and additional water use comes from the manufacturing process and laundering. According to the UN, it takes around 7,500 liters or 1,981 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans. This same amount would supply drinking water to one person for approximately 7 years. Consider these metrics when standing in your closet; you’ll be shocked by the water usage that went into all the clothes you own. The key way to reduce your footprint here is by buying less, purchasing secondhand, and avoiding “fast fashion” retailers. If you need to purchase new, opt for companies that are transparent on their entire water footprint, with some companies even beginning to include this detail at the product level. Additionally, you can extend the life your clothes and reduce your direct water footprint by only washing when necessary, as opposed to after each wear, only washing when there is a full load, and using cold water to preserve the fabric.
- The Smart Shower: According to the Water Research Foundation, the second highest residential indoor water use is from showering and bathing (20%). Showering is preferable to bathing as it typically uses less water and installing a water efficient shower head or aerator can help reduce the amount of water without sacrificing the quality of your shower. Also, limiting your shower time, with under 5 minutes being ideal, and turning off the water while shampooing and lathering will save gallons of water and money in the long run.
- Stop the Unnecessary Faucet Flowing: Behaviors like letting the water run while you brush your teeth, wash your face, or rinse dishes really adds up. It rivals the amount of water usage from showering and bathing, as 19% of residential indoor water use. This water use can largely be avoided by using the faucet in short bursts or by partially filling the sink, and not allowing water to run continuously during these common activities.
- Limiting Outdoor Water Use: Residential outdoor water use is highly variable by location. As an example, in the US, approximately 30% of household water goes to outdoor use, with regions like the US Southwest using up to 60% of their water outdoors. Of this water use, estimates suggest that 50% is lost due to inefficient watering methods. Ditch the water intensive lawn and opt for native vegetation that is accustomed to the natural rainfall that occurs in your location. This switch is also a great way to provide habitat to native animals and pollinators in your area.
If you don’t want to part with your lawn, avoid watering when it isn’t needed (if grass springs back when you step on it, it doesn’t need water), and avoid watering when the sun is out to reduce evaporation. Installing a rain tank to catch excess rainfall for use in drier months is also an easy and low-cost way to preserve the water resources in your area.
For more information about sustainability efforts across our enterprise, visit Protiviti’s Environmental, Social & Governance page. Additionally, you can visit our first post in this series, focused on energy efficiency, here.
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