How to save water at home and shrink your carbon footprint
When we talk about energy efficiency at home, we mostly focus on electronic appliances or LED light bulbs. But there’s another major factor affecting our household carbon footprint: It’s water use. Here’s how you can reduce it easily and effectively.
On average, European households use 144 liters of water per person per day. But how is this connected to your carbon footprint, you may ask? Let’s take a step back.
Energy consumption is the largest slice of the global greenhouse gas emissions pie chart, with a whopping 73.2%. While the largest chunk of this slice is made up by transport and industries, almost 20% of today’s energy consumption occurs in households and offices. When we do our laundry, wash the dishes, take a shower or a bath, we’re heating significant amounts of water, which generates greenhouse gas emissions.
How to cut water use and your carbon footprint
Wash your clothes at lower temperatures and consider air-drying. A load of laundry washed at 60 °C (or 130 °F) and dried in a tumble dryer generates more than 3kg of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to just 0.6kg for the same load washed at 30 °C (or 90 °F) and line dried. And it will save you money, too!
Use a dishwasher if you can. It’s estimated that using a dishwasher can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from washing up by 72% compared to hand washing. Try to avoid pre-rinsing dishes and running a dishwasher that is only half full, as this is far less efficient.
No dishwasher at home? Then simply use water sparingly and wash at mild temperatures. Also, using a bowl for washing up, rather than keeping the tap running, could save you about 666kg of CO2 a year, which is about the same as a return flight from London to Oslo. Leaving dishes to soak before washing is also a great idea to cut water waste.
Reducing a ten minute shower to just five minutes can save 47 liters of water each time. Also, installing low flow shower heads usually results in half the water use. It’s a small investment, but it’s certainly worth it in the long run.
Switching to water efficient appliances or fixtures saves between 20 and 35% more water. For example, if just 1% of American households replaced an old toilet with a water efficient one, the whole country would save more than 38 million kilowatt-hours of electricity— enough to supply more than 43,000 households for a month.
And finally, don’t forget to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Seriously, it makes a huge difference! You can save more than 700 liters of water every month and around 9,000 in a year if you don’t let the water run. Easy and effective.
The bigger picture
Cutting your water use at home is extremely easy and it comes with huge benefits for the climate (as well as your electricity bill). With a few smart changes in your daily life — when you shower, do the laundry, or the washing up — you can further reduce your carbon footprint and minimize water waste. Also, let’s not forget climate change is increasing the frequency of droughts and threatening water availability: Making sure we treat water as a precious resource and do our best to preserve it has never been so important.