How to be sustainable with water

You care about your impact on the environment, and you want to do your best to live according to your values.

So you’re looking for ways to be sustainable with water.

As it’s a resource we use in so many of our daily tasks, from hygiene to cooking and even entertainment, there are many steps we can take to reduce our environmental impact.

Here are 10 simple and practical ways you can reduce and recycle your water consumption.

1) Turn the tap off 

This is by far one of the easiest way to be sustainable with water.

Do you turn the tap off when you’re not actively using water while brushing your teeth or washing the dishes? 

If not, this is a great place to start. 

The same thing goes for when you’re showering. You probably don’t need to have the water one while you’re lathering on soap or shampoo.

While you’re being mindful of turning the tap off, you can also be conscious of the intensity of the stream that you turn on. Do you need to turn the water on at full force, or is a lighter stream enough? 

This too can add up to help you save a lot of water in the long run.

2) Fix leaks

Leaks not only waste a significant amount of water, but they can also lead to water damage, mold growth, and high water bills. None of this sounds very appealing — so address them in a timely manner.

When you turn off the shower or faucet, check to see if it doesn’t continue dripping. Also check around any pipes that are visible from the washing machine or dishwasher. 

The garden hose is another pesky source of leakage. Not to mention toilets after they flush. 

There are of course other places where you could have leaks that run up a high bill — and toll on the environment.

Next time you have a plumber over, ask them if they could check for any leaks, or give you some advice for how to improve your water efficiency. 

Fixing leaks can also help conserve water resources. With water becoming an increasingly scarce commodity in many parts of the world, reducing water waste through fixing leaks can 

3) Install water-efficient fixtures

Nowadays, there are many options for water-efficient appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers with an “eco mode”. 

These are great ways to be sustainable with water — and that’s only the beginning. 

Additions to faucets can help control the amount of water, and you’ve probably seen the dual button on toilets, to flush #1 or #2 with an appropriate amount of water.

But recently, I’ve also come across a very interesting solution on Instagram.

There is a way you can collect water from taking a shower or other major uses and reuse it for flushing the toilet too. 

I mean, it’s not like that water has to be clean anyways, right? What a clever idea!

It may take an investment to have a fixture like this installed in your home, but the savings that will result from it will surely pay off manyfold in the long run. 

4) Use other ways to clean

Some of us were brought up to think that anything should be cleaned with water. 

But often there can be much more sustainable ways to clean.

For example, you might not need to mop the floor every time you clean the apartment. Perhaps once every few weeks is enough, and you can use a broom to sweep the other times instead. 

When you clean surfaces, use a spray bottle to help control the amount of water you use and distribute it evenly. 

Dusting the house more frequently can also help avoid a huge buildup of dirt that needs to be removed with water. 

5) Collect rainwater

If you have private access to an outdoor area, such as a backyard or a balcony, put a bucket or two there to collect water when it rains.

Though not suitable for every purpose, there is one very clever application that can help you save a lot of water: flushing the toilet!

I know a family that has a huge backyard and uses almost exclusively rainwater for flushing. Whenever a bucket becomes full, they take it to the bathroom and use a smaller container to take just enough water needed for a small or a large flush.

This is one of my personal favorite ways of saving water as it is absolutely free, and takes very little extra effort on your part. Yet, the savings can be immense. 

6) Reuse water while cooking

Earlier, we talked about recycling water from the shower to flush the toilet.

Well, what about reusing the water from boiling meat or vegetables for other components of cooking, such as water for your sauce?

I actually learned this from one of my friends. Whenever he cooks pasta, right before draining it he always takes several ladles and fills a container with some water.

Then he uses that water whenever he needs to add more liquid to whatever he is frying in the pan, or to thin out a sauce.

You may not be able to reuse all the water, or for every purpose, but hey, every little bit counts!

7) Don’t use excessive amounts of water

Many of us have heard at one point or another that we should take shorter showers. Whether it’s because a sibling wants to do their makeup or a parent is nagging you as usual, it’s true that this is a great way to be more sustainable with water.

Taking shorter showers is the first thing you could look at. This not only saves water, it can also help you get ready faster in the morning and get a more productive start to your day.

But there are many other instances when we can use less water. For example, if you wash the dishes by hand you could do so immediately after eating. This prevents the food from drying up on the place, therefore coming off much more easily and with less water.

If food does dry up, let it soak with a bit of water first, to let the bits of food soften and come off by themselves.

When cooking, you can also use just enough water to cover the pasta, eggs, or whatever else you need to boil. 

8) Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when full

Using dishwashers rather than washing dishes by hand can be a good way to save water, especially if they have an eco mode. 

But what good does it do if you run it with just a couple dishes inside each time? Even if you’re just washing two cups and a spoon, it takes the same amount of water as if you had a load full.

Wait until your dishwasher or washing machine are full before you run them, so you make the most use of the water it requires. 

If you live alone or don’t have enough dishes to wait until they all get dirty, this might be a little trickier to do, but there are still solutions.

I once heard of two neighbors that both lived alone, but cared for saving water. So they agreed to pool their dishes and clothes and wash their loads together, at alternating apartments. 

I realize though that this kind of arrangement is quite special and hard to come by. Another solution could be to buy some more dishes so that you are able to go a little longer before you need to turn the dishwasher on.

But if not, you can still wash them by hand and just be mindful of how much water you use, as mentioned earlier.

9) Be mindful of your watering methods

If you love the environment, you probably also love plants. But wait… plants need water too!

We can’t possibly fault them for this, and I think we can all agree that plants are one of the best ways to use water.

But there are still ways to be more or less sustainable. For one thing, make sure you get a hose that doesn’t waste water through leaks or spraying it all around instead of at the location that needs to be watered.

If you have an irrigation system set on a timer, check to make sure that it’s working properly.

And if you love plants but don’t have a particular preference for which ones, you could also consider focusing on drought-resistant plants. 

10) Use a pool cover

If you’ve got a pool, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that that’s a very significant use of water.

Hey, I’m not judging — I like pools as much as the next person! And I’m sure you already take care to not empty and refill it unnecessarily.

In addition, you can be sustainable with water in your pool by using a pool cover.

This helps reduce water loss — as the water isn’t directly exposed to sunlight, it doesn’t evaporate as quickly. The amount you save can be very significant especially during hot and dry periods. 

In addition to this, using a pool cover also helps you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat your pool, as the cover helps retain heat in the water. 

Final thoughts

Now you have 10 great ways to start being more sustainable with water.

I hope this helps you take positive action in your daily life in order to reduce your environmental footprint and live according to your values of having a positive impact on the planet.

Do you have other tips for how to be sustainable with water? Help others like you be better and share them with us in the comments below!

Silvia Adamyova

Silvia Adamyova

Born in Slovakia, raised in Canada, with a translation degree from University of Ottawa and an editing certificate from Simon Fraser University. Now based back in Slovakia (if you’re wondering why - have you seen Canadian winters?). Full-time freelance English teacher, translator, editor, and copywriter. Part-time avid reader, self-development junkie, and cake addict. I hope my writing inspires you in some way — if it does, find me on LinkedIn or Instagram and let me know!

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