Water: we need it, we use it, we take it for granted, and we waste a lot of it. One of the ways I have often noticed myself being wasteful, even before taking this course, was how often I leave the tap running while brushing my teeth. I would catch myself after thinking about the tasks I had for that day or next, and quickly shut them off but only after a full minute or two of wasting water. As with snacking, it would be creating sustainable habits that would eventually become subconscious acts and make a real difference for longer than a month.
For the first week, it was a matter of taking the time to be aware of what I was doing and forming patterns. I would unscrew the cap, squeeze a small pearl sized amount of toothpaste on my brush, turn on the tap for a few seconds and then turn off the tap. One of the things I was unnecessarily was wet my brush before putting the toothpaste on, and then I would leave the tap running while I squeezed the toothpaste on my brush and wet it again. It was a small and yet significant step to cut out of my routine. I would also turn on the tap to rinse the sink out every time I cleared my mouth and had to train myself to leave it until I was done brushing my teeth as a whole. I wont fib and say that I automatically improved and kept up the habit; it took work and it still takes work, but I did improve. I find myself being much more conscious when brushing my teeth.
Thinking critically about how I use water also challenged me to reconsider how I use water in other areas of my life such as washing the dishes, taking showers and doing the laundry. If I was going to change how I used water when I brushed my teeth, it wouldn’t sense to continue to waste water otherwise. I would have to change my water usage completely. Often when I shower I will take a good 15-20 minutes while I leisurely think about my day and witty come-backs I should have used ten years ago. I cut back my time to 6 minutes (1 minute to shampoo and lather, 30 seconds to rinse, 30 seconds for conditioner, 1 minute to thoroughly wash my body and face, and 3 minutes to leisurely wash out the conditioner while I daydream) and set an alarm on my phone so I would know when I had to get out. I could have used a lower temperature of water, but you have to leave a girl some pleasures. When it came to doing the dishes, my habits were different dependent on where I was based. In Edinburgh, I had a dishwasher so it would just involve waiting until it was absolutely full before putting it on and hand washing any dishes I needed immediately. Sadly (for me, not for the environment), I do not have a dishwasher in Vancouver, so it was how I did my hand-washing that had to change. I live with a roommate so I was hesitant to leave unwashed dishes in the sink, and I definitely didn’t want to leave them overnight. However, I communicated with them and starting leaving dishes starting at breakfast through to dinner (in a neat pile) and washed them using a small basin of soapy water at the end of the day. This way I used nearly the same amount of water to clean all my dishes opposed to one bowl at a time. My roommate seems to be on board with this and will often do the same thing. The last item to change was my washing. Instead of doing a small wash every few days, I changed to doing one large wash at the end of the week. To be honest with you, I don’t often separate my colours or dedicates so it wasn’t to hard to change this habit. I used cold water instead of warm or hot. These three changes were relatively simple and effective, and will be easy habits to continue after the month of February.
Thinking about how we use water and how we can make changes in our daily lives is just as simple as it sounds. In the West, we often take for granted the clean and accessible water that comes from our taps. Being more mindful as a society can help ensure that that our habits are sustainable. Despite how it may seem, fresh water is not a renewable resource and water scarcity is a problem in different areas around the globe.