The challenge this week asked us to take a “Water Footprint Calculator” developed by National Geographic. I highly recommend taking this survey — I was surprised at the information learned including:
- It takes 880 gallons of water to produce a gallon of milk
- 1 cup of coffee takes 55 gallons of water to make (we drink a lot of coffee!)
Here are the numbers for our household:
Part of why we use less water than the U.S. Average is that we live in an area with very mild climate and we do not have a typical lawn (though our neighbors do, and one in particular has installed a “fake” or plastic lawn — see photos here).
So…it takes very little water to maintain the trees and shrubs where we now live, and we also save on energy bills because no one needs an air conditioner in this area.
We are older and do not need or buy as many “stuff” as most. And again, because of the mild climate, our clothing do not need to be washed as often as say, if we lived in the Philippines or a hot climate where clothing would be drenched in sweat every few hours and must be washed frequently.
The area we can continue to improve upon to reduce our water footprint is our diets and to eat less meat. Though we eat a lot of chicken, I do want to eventually transition more to a mostly vegetarian diet. Cutting out beef and pork completely (which my younger sister has done) and some form of meat is still a challenge because
- Jeff grew up in the Midwest and although he is a great cook and we eat a variety of styles of food, his basic go to meal consists of a plate with a “meat”, potatoes, and vegetables.
- Pork is a big part of my Philippine culture and celebrations — as with many Pacific / island nations — and I’m not quite there yet in terms of completely cutting that out of my diet (see post “My Germany and Philippine Connection” and you will get an idea, since a Filipino party is not a real party without our “lechon”.
The bottom line is there are always areas to improve on, in our household’s water footprint.
I recently met two women who go above and beyond most in their water saving efforts, and I add their ideas for this blog post.
This is Marilyn — a water saving heroine.
She is a retired teacher and lives in Bakersfield (Southern California) where there are water restrictions in place because of California’s continuing — and severe drought conditions.
She told me that when she takes a shower, she puts a bucket under the tub/faucet to capture water that otherwise would go down the drain, while she waits for the water temperature to warm to her liking. She also uses her washing machine “grey water” to water her garden.
She has been able to reduce her water use and bill by 50% with these new habits!
This is Amalia — she lives in Marina (Monterey County, California) and is also a water saving heroine.
She is mindful about saving all the water she can, including using the grey water from washing her dishes to water her plants.
She is originally from the Philippines and does something that some Filipinos still practice — in the Philippines — and that most Filipino-Americans would not think to do here in the U.S.
She uses a “tabo” (pronounced as“TAH-boh”) to bathe.
So what the heck is a tabo, you ask? Technically, a sort of water dipper and tool for taking a tropical shower!
The modern tabos are made with plastic and has a handle. Traditional ones were made of hollowed bamboos with a handles, or large coconut shells.
The tabo is also used for bathroom hygiene and cleaning, and is pretty much a fixture in bathrooms in the Philippines — in private homes as well as in public places (work places, restaurant bathrooms, etc.).
Using a tabo to bathe is actually akin to an old-fashioned “military shower” where you rinse, shut off the shower water, lather, shampoo, etc., then turn the shower on again to rinse off.
Except that instead of the shower, the tabo is used with a big bucket (called a “balde”) or other larger container of water. Same idea, you dip the tabo in the bucket, pour the water over your head and body to rinse…then soap, lather, shampoo, then do a final rinse. It saves A LOT of water.
Amalia is super dedicated to saving resources not for herself but as she put it “for my children, and their children…and those living here on earth after I am gone”. She says she often gets into disagreements with her sister and family members about her eco-habits, and they don’t understand why she takes a Filipino style bath, telling her “you are in America now, why are you still using a tabo?”….yet she proudly sticks to her water-saving practices.
While I admire Amalia’s dedication to water conservation, I’m now quite fond of the American style shower. Though she has inspired me to check to see if the shower heads we have use the absolute least amount of gallons per minute! Always room for improvement, right? 🙂
NOTE: For this post, my explanation of the tabo is for its use as a “tropical shower”. In the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia, a tabo is part of the culture — and specifically, the bathroom culture (and may be controversial or disgusting to non-Filipinos). So if you really are curious, there is a comprehensive Wikipedia article about the Filipino use of the tabo, its history, and includes mention of a Filipino who was fired from his job in Australia for using a tabo. Click here to read…
Berkeley, California-based Ecology Center’s Guide to Greywater-Compatible Cleaning Products: Wastewater that is discharged to the greywater system ends up in the garden soil and can either be beneficial or harmful to soil, water systems, and plant life. A common problem with improper use of greywater systems is salt build up in the soil…
My post last year about California’s drought emergency as it relates to showers and crop production
Which method uses less water — Bath vs. Shower? Question answered by Umbra at Grist.org