Ways to Reduce Your Water [and Carbon] Footprint
Curious what your water footprint is right now? Check it out here. Once you finish, input your email and every three months they’ll remind you to come back and see how you’ve improved. They also give you tips on how to reduce each area.
Adopt a Plant-Based Diet
Most of our water footprint, and therefore carbon footprint, is comprised of food production – specifically animal agriculture.
The meat industry uses the most water of all food production. Let me explain why:
When you grow corn for human consumption, there’s the water to grow the corn, harvest it, and transport it.
When you grow corn for animal consumption for human consumption, there’s the water to grow the corn, harvest it, transport it, and feed it to the animals. THEN, there’s the water used to raise the livestock, transport them, slaughter them, butcher them, and transport the meat.
Additionally, in terms of dairy – cow’s milk has the highest water footprint of all milk. The most environmentally and socially responsible milk [from my own research] is oat milk. It also happens to be the tastiest in my opinion.
By reducing animal agriculture, you significantly reduce your water and carbon footprint.
Buy Only Secondhand or Sustainable Fashion
One of the worst industries out there? The fast fashion industry. It’s horrible for our carbon footprint, for inhumane working conditions, environmental destruction, and animal abuse.
Decrease Everyday Water Usage
This is an important step and something to be very aware of; however, please know there is a lot of greenwashing I feel. There’s a hell of a lot of focus on decreasing your shower time, for instance.
I agree that, yes, you should. But, here’s an example to put things into perspective. The same amount of water it takes to produce one single pound of beef would be the same water you would use to take 135 showers.
So, yes, please reduce your shower time, but know there are ways to decrease your water footprint more efficiently and dramatically.
That being said, here are some great ways to decrease everyday water usage that won’t even affect you:
- Upgrade your toilet if you’re in a position to do so. High-efficiency toilets use significantly less water. However, I would suggest perhaps waiting until you need to replace it as you’re just creating more waste. It’s all a Catch-22 situation. Better yet, get a composting toilet!
- Say ‘Goodbye!’ to the idea of a perfect curated lawn. The “American lawn” is one of the most ridiculous and wasteful things – grass is the single most irrigated crop in the entire country. Instead of using a ton of water to grow and maintain the perfect grass, turn your front lawn into a vegetable garden or a bunch of indigenous plants for bees and butterflies!
- Collect rainwater to water your gardens and even indoor houseplants!
- Don’t leave the water running. Brushing your teeth, washing your hands, washing dishes? Turn off the water while you’re actually brushing or washing. No need to leave it on.
- Only wash dishes and laundry when you have a full load. Running them before that is just wasteful. I know you can set the load size on the washer, but you can’t on a dishwasher so it uses the same amount of water anyway and I’m not convinced washers use less water depending on the setting.
- Eat locally and seasonally. Attempt to purchase your produce from farmers’ markets or CSA’s. In-season produce requires less water, fertilizers, and pesticides. The transportation of fruits and vegetables produced locally involves less GHG emissions, as the distance to the supermarket shelves is much shorter and needs less energy for refrigeration. Additionally, you’re supporting local businesses.
- Eat more produce, in general. Whether local and in-season or not, produce and fresh foods are going to take less water for production than processed foods. And, they’re healthier for you!
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Attempt to significantly reduce purchasing new items. Anything that is produced uses water. While decreased water usage, reducing, reusing, and recycling also reduces waste and saves money.
Eliminate Single-Use Plastic Including Bottled Water
It takes at least twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount of water contained in the bottle.
Bottled water is either purified water which is just tap water that is filtered – something you can do at home – or spring water. This water is sourced from springs across the country.
Bottled water companies have gone in and depleted water sources and then charged us a tremendous amount of money to buy back that water in plastic.