Wednesday, October 11, 2006

IMPRINT: A Green Bathroom

We all do something in the bathroom that is rarely if ever the topic of discussion amongst friends, colleagues, family or even acquaintances. I am talking about consuming large amounts of fresh water on a daily basis and generating needless waste.

Conserving water is something of great importance. If all the water on the earth could be collected and condensed into a bucket, the fresh water available to people (from lakes, rivers and ground water) would only fill a teaspoon. Sadly, our fresh water reserves are not expandable and must be shared among an ever growing global population.

The bathroom, specifically the toilet and shower are the leading sources of water use in the average North American house. We all must take do our part to reduce our daily water consumption. If your landlord has yet to install a low flow or duel flushing toilet, you can make one yourself by filling a 2 litre plastic bottle with sand and placing it in the tank of the toilet. This will only allow the tank to fill up so much, saving water every time you flush. Also, to check if your toilet is leaking add a little food coloring to the tank. If you see colour in the bowl between flushes, you know there’s a leak. A worn tank ball or defective toilet tank valve can silently leak hundreds of litres of water per day.

Another way to save water is to not take baths, but to take short showers instead. A filled bathtub holds about 260 litres of water where a 5-minute shower only uses 45 to 95 litres of water depending on the shower head. Sharing your shower time with a partner is also an effective way to maximise water efficiency ;). And of course, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth is very important. According to global water use reports put out by UNESCO, this simple act can save almost 19 litres of water, that’s twice the amount the average person in rural Kenya uses (only 10 litres/day).

But leaky pipes aren’t the only environmental culprit in the bathroom. There is more garbage that is coming out of your bathroom than you may think. We all have to work together to cut down our waste levels throughout the entire house. The Al Gore endorsed site claims that you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide per year if you cut down your garbage by just 10%.

How can you do this? Be a smart consumer and buy products that generate less waste. Each year over 3 billion plastic disposable razors are added to the landfills in Canada. Gentlemen, please avoid the urge to give into the excellent Schick Quattro marketing and instead opts for a heavy duty, long lasting straight edge razor like our grandfathers did. Also using traditional shaving soap with a brush is much better than aerosol gel/cream cans. And ladies, there is one huge difference we could all make if we stopped using maxi pads and tampons, but I will save this discussion for another day. Purchase your shampoo, body wash, mouth wash, whatever, in the largest container you can find. You’ll save money buying in larger quantities and contribute fewer containers to the recycle/trash bin per week. Speaking of recycling, to ensure all house hold goods make it into the proper receptacle, it’s a good idea to have a small recycle bin right in the bathroom for toilet paper rolls, toothpaste boxes, recyclable plastic and empty aerosol cans.

Now, I hope after reading this you will finally make that complaint to your landlord about that leaky faucet. It’s really worth it. The American Water Works Association states that fixing the slow steady dripping tap could save 14 560 litres of water per year. But that still is not enough. The change needed requires more than physical modification and upgrades; it has to be a behavioural adjustment as well. We all must become more mindful of our daily habits our actions have on the earth. Examine your kitchen, your bedroom and office for excess waste and polluting sources. Despite what some people say, the smallest of actions do make a difference.

There are two posts on this blog with some links to some interesting and informative sites. Please check the posts out: Water Scarcity and How to reduce your impact in your home.

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