I’ve read a few articles recently about how clean water will become the most valuable commodity on the planet in years to come. With the population set to expand beyond sustainability we will see countries, which even now suffer from lack of water, fighting over this precious element. Those living in more advanced countries will experience a shift in attitudes as the price and availability of water soars.
I’ve just been to the kitchen to make a cheese sandwich (I’ll get to that issue shortly) and on my way I noticed a staggering amount of resources being wasted. I live in a household of 5 people and none of us take the slightest bit of notice about a dripping tap, especially when the drip doesn’t make enough noise to draw our attention to it, but rather the trickle slips unnoticed down the side of the sink. Not only was the tap in the toilet running silently, wasting gallons of water over the course of a day, but the tap in the kitchen sink was flowing also!
There was no one in the living room but the TV was on, as were the main overhead light and 2 side lights! It’s daylight and the curtains are drawn. I haven’t watched TV today so I know it wasn’t me. I know that’s not really an excuse but it just shows how so many of us don’t or can’t understand how something simple like a light bulb left on for hours equates to wasted money, wasted recourses and ultimately a drain on the planet.
Our house is pretty normal. Bedrooms, living room, bathrooms, kitchen etc. Here’s a quick list of items that unnecessarily consume energy each day, these are averages, obviously there will be more wasteful days than others. It should be noted all our light bulbs are ESLB – energy saving light bulbs.
- 1 Strip light on all day. 3 ESLB on most of the day.
- Microwave digital clock – must use some power up, right?
- Washing machine digital display.
- Electrical extension lead – little red power light that tells us it is working, like we need to know that! Can’t we just plug stuff in and if it works, well, then we know.
- Coffee machine – little red light that says: “I’m on and ready to brew!”
- Main ESLB – usually on most of day.
- Phone – Answering machine lights blinking away.
- 2 Main over head lights – ESLB’s.
- 2 Side lights – ESLB’s.
- 2 Electrical extension leads – again, that little red light.
- Large LCD TV on standby – I grow weary of turning it off but I do every time I go in there.
- PS3 – on with the little green light flashing merrily away and fan whirring inside.
- BT Vision Box – When it’s on there is a green light. When it’s off there is an orange light. But it’s still on! Okay, the hard drive might not be quite so active but there is still power running through it.
Kid Bedroom 1:
- Laptop – plugged into the mains, in a constant state of charge.
- 2 Lights – ESLB’s.
- TV on standby.
- Music system on standby.
Kid Bedroom 2 – The worst offender for never turning stuff off!
- 1-2 Lights – ESLB’s.
- Medium sized LCD TV – either on for most of the day or on standby.
- XBox – rarely switched off.
- Laptop & LCD screen plugged into it – switched off at night, though sometimes I look in to find Kid 2 fast asleep bathed in blue light from TV, Laptop and extra screen!
- Laptop – plugged in on charge all day.
- 2 Electrical extension leads – yay, more little red lights.
- At least 1 – 2 running/dripping taps.
- Minimum of 2 lights on all the time.
That’s a whole lot of waste!
Before you ask this doesn’t mean someone is home all day long, it is just forgetfulness. I went to one of those energy saving hints n tips websites once and found we could cut our annual energy bill by a 1/4! We made an effort. For a while. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that we slipped back into our habits of not giving a shit if we left a light on all day.
It’s only a few pennies, Jeez, why are you so angry?
So I left my XBox, TV and laptop on all night, probably only cost like…what? £1?
In the movie The Book of Eli, the main character, Eli, was asked what the world was like before the big catastrophe that ended civilisation. He responded with: “People had more than they needed.” I agree. There’s no way anyone actually needs all that crap I’ve just listed. I’m not an eco-crusader or a “don’t be mean, go green” evangelist, but it does make me feel sick to think of the junk we surround ourselves with.
Take strawberries for instance.
Strawberries are so tasty. It’s not just the English who love them. Europe seems addicted to the yummy red tasty delights. I read an article last week about how the majority of strawberries eaten in Europe, something like 90%, are grown in Spain.
That’s a lot of strawberries!
They look so sweet and innocent in their little plastic tub don’t they? Sometimes you can pick up a pack at your supermarket for around £2, not much for a tasty fresh treat is it?
Want to see where they come from?
Getting back to my point about wasting water.
Such is the demand for strawberries that Spain is risking ruining its own ecosystems through its demand for water to grow them. There are places in Spain where you can drive for mile after mile and see nothing but fields of greenhouses like the image above. Okay, so there are also orange groves and vineyards too, all sucking up the water just so we can eat oranges and sip wine at an affordable price.
The problem is that because the humble strawberry market (called Red Gold by the Spanish strawberry farmers) is so lucrative more and more farmers are growing them. And this is leading to new bore holes being drilled ever deeper into the water table. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) there are over a 1,000 illegal bore holes in strawberry land.
This is leading to problems further down stream, no pun intended. The water that used to run into lakes and marches is drying up and this is having a knock on effect to certain eco-systems. The water supplied to these areas has fallen by half in the last 30 years, and that’s just from growing strawberries!
Do we really need that much fruit? And how much is thrown away? How many times have you bought fruit only to throw at least some of it away because it went bad? Not everyone can say they are perfect. I can hear your thoughts now: “No. We eat all our food. We don’t waste it in our house.” Hmm. I’ll take that with a pinch of salt if you don’t mind.
Water is used in everything.
Without water we’re screwed. It is used in everything, not just for drinking. We are often blind to its functionality because unless it comes in its traditional see through format we simply don’t take into account the vast amounts of water that goes into everything.
Check out these astonishing numbers! These are rough estimates only, the figures differ depending on what website you visit, but you get the idea. I used Google to work out conversions.
- Coffee – Needs 1,200 litres (264 gallons) of water to make just over 1 litre (1.7 pints) of coffee. So, 2-3 cups of coffee?
- Wine – Needs 1,000 litres (220 gallons) of water to make roughly 1 litre of wine.
- Apple & Orange Juice – The carton of apple juice you buy at the store needs the same amount of water to make it as wine does. Orange juice needs slightly less.
- Bread – Needs 435 litres (95 gallons) to make one loaf.
Tips on How to Save Water.
- Put a brick or other large object in the cistern of your toilet. That way you won’t waste all that water when flushing. Thinking about it, why not have a new policy: No 1’s – Flush every other. No 2’s – Flush right away.
- Use a bucket and sponge to wash your car, not a hose pipe.
- Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. A running tap can chuck 10 litres a minute down the plug hole. How stupid is that?
- Water plants in the evening instead of the day. The water in the daytime will evaporate quicker than at night.
- Don’t waste water on keeping your lawn nice and green in the day. If you must do this, do it at night.
- Don’t cut your grass too short. Leave it an inch or two longer so the roots and soil are shaded and less likely to lose water through evaporation.
- Collect rainwater in water buts fed from the roof of your home. Use this to water your plants.
- Wash clothes when you have a full machine. Some new washing machines are supposedly clever enough to figure out how much water it needs based on the weight, but why take that risk when you can have a full load and save money?
- Take a shower instead of a bath, you don’t need to be a genius to understand how much water you will save doing this.
Is education the key?
Or are we all pretty much ignorant – I’m all right Jack, I’ve got a nice hot bath, green lawn, cool drink, ice cubes etc. As far as I know they don’t teach this kind of thing in schools. There’s no lesson where a teacher informs students that leaving a light on costs X amount, that it uses up X tonnes of coal/oil/nuclear fuel each year just so we can have our homes lit up like Christmas trees at night. Ah, but school is for learning, you might say, not scaring the little kiddies about how watching their favourite cartoons is going to kill the planet. True. But education does mean some might grow up to consider not wasting energy. At least they will be able to make that informed decision instead of ignorantly throwing money and finite recourses away.
In a recent topic on the Daily Post, Whose responsibility is to change the world? My answer was simple:
“Too many people think of the world as a whole. It’s too big man, I’m only one person, what can I do? Bleh. Don’t think of the actual world but the world around you, what you see and hear, touch and smell every day. If everyone made changes in that world maybe we’d be a happier species.
My contribution? Aside from a bit of recycling? I say please and thank you. I smile and use manners. I like to think if I’m polite and friendly to everyone then that must rub off on at least one person, and so on. Pay it forward, dudes!”
If we all do that then maybe we can reduce the sheer volume of energy we waste. With such a small gesture we can encourage others to make a difference. When I see a tap trickling away I wonder how many glasses of water could have been filled what has been wasted.
And I imagine how many people, who are less fortunate that myself, could have benefited from that water. Put yourself in a dire situation where your mouth is bone dry, you are too weak to travel mile upon mile to fetch water to cook what meagre portion of rice you have to feed your family. How angry would you feel if someone pointed out that in X number of homes millions of glasses of water each day are being wasted?
I feel guilty. Do you?
Hey, this isn’t a guilt trip, and I didn’t set out to point fingers when I wrote the first line of this post, least of all at myself. But during the course of writing this I figured I can help someone by donating what I can afford to help those without that stuff we waste so easily. Think of it as paying it forward because sooner or later you might wish someone does the same for those you care about.
Click the picture below if you want to know more, or visit http://www.wateraid.org.