The average family spends about $1000 per year on water and sewer bills, but with simple changes to use water more efficiently, you could save about $380 per year. The opportunity to conserve water is great: if 1 out of every 10 U.S. households installed water-efficient accessories in their bathrooms, we would save about 93 billion gallons of water and $1.3 billion per year! When we use water more efficiently, we also help our communities.
Controlling the demand reduces the need for costly water supply infrastructure investments and additional wastewater treatment facilities. And because a considerable amount of energy is needed to deliver and treat the water we use every day, water conservation also saves energy – and money.
Five easy ways to save water:
- Fix dripping faucets: If your faucet drips at the rate of one drip per second, you are wasting more than 3,000 gallons of water each year (that’s equal to taking 180 showers!). Over time, washers on faucet handles will wear out and require replacement. You can find these parts at a minimal cost at your local hardware store and save by fixing leaks yourself.
- Fix leaky toilets: A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water every day. To find out if your toilet leaks, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the water in the bowl changes color, then there is a leak. You may need to replace internal tank parts (such as flappers or washers) or call a plumber if the problem appears more complicated.
- Shorten your shower: Try playing a song or two to stick to an 8-minute shower. Shaving off a few minutes could save 150 gallons per month.
- Turn off the tap: Whether you are brushing your teeth, washing your face, or shaving, don’t leave the tap running.
- Trade in the toilet: Toilets account for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. Older toilets (from 1992 or earlier) use 6 gallons of water each time you flush, while new efficient models use 1.28-1.6 gallons per flush. This upgrade could save $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet.
EPA’s WaterSense Label identifies the best available technologies like showerheads and toilets available to consumers to reduce water use. For more information, visit WaterSense Ideas for Homes.
Outdoor Water Use
United States households use 30 percent of their water on outdoor uses. Nationwide, that adds up to 9 billion gallons of water each day! Wise use of water outdoors helps protect the environment and saves you money. The largest outdoor water culprits are often our lawns and gardens.
Lawns are often overwatered and costly to maintain. If you have the option, choose low-maintenance ground cover plants to reduce watering needs. You can also switch to drip irrigation systems, which exceed 90 percent efficiency as opposed to sprinklers, which are only 50-70 percent efficient. In a drip irrigation system, a series of tubes slowly release water at the base of plants. To learn the basics and how to set up your own system, visit Colorado State University.
You can also reduce outdoor water use by growing native species and plants adapted to dry conditions, mulching, adding water-retaining organic matter to the soil, and installing windbreaks and fences to slow winds and reduce evapotranspiration.
Find more tips about outdoor water use at Environmental Protection Agency.
Preventing and managing waste properly is a powerful strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Waste is not just created when consumers throw items away. Waste is generated throughout the life cycle of a product, which includes resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal. Reducing, reusing, and recycling helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases generated throughout the product’s life cycle.
Waste prevention goes a long way toward protecting the environment. Moreover, buying products in bulk (with less packaging) or that are reusable can translate into a cost savings. What is good for the environment can be good for the pocketbook as well. Developing habits that prevent waste saves energy and reduces your impact on the planet.
Tips to help you reduce:
- Carry your own tote: Most plastic bags end up in landfills and the ocean – and take hundreds of years to decompose. To avoid using plastic bags carry a reusable bag for your trips to the store and takeout restaurants.
- Skip single use items: Skip throw-away flatware and plastic bottled water—choose washable silverware and reusable water bottles instead.
- Do durable: Purchase quality items that will withstand the test of time. This includes furniture, home appliances, and cookware.
- Buy in bulk: It can decrease unwanted packaging.
- Avoid pre-packaged items: Fruit and other produce are often packaged in containers or trays. Try to choose products that are not over packaged.
Did you know that 30-50 percent of food produced around the world goes to waste each year? Much of the 1.3 billion tons of wasted food usually ends up in a landfill where it creates methane, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change. People in developed countries, like the United States, waste food by letting it expire, throwing out cooking scraps, serving oversized portions, and tossing food for being discolored or blemished.
Tips to help you reduce food waste:
- Shop and cook smart: Your shopping and cooking habits matter in reducing food waste. Simply make a grocery list of what you need before going to the store and think about appropriate portion sizes. Using perishables before their expiration date and cooking only what you will eat or can store as leftovers also helps minimize spoilage. Find other food and climate-related tips at the David Suzuki Foundation.
- Compost: You can also minimize your food waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by composting. Whether it’s done in your backyard, apartment or in a large, centralized facility, composting helps keep organic material out of landfills. Composting is “natural” recycling at its best—transforming waste into a product you can use to improve your soil and decrease your impact on the environment. There are numerous techniques, including the apartment-friendly version called vermicomposting.
To get started check out Environmental Protection Agency’s composting basics.
Reusing items – by repairing, donating, or selling them – also reduces waste. Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again. Many items lose their original usefulness, but can take on a new life, like turning old clothes into rags. You’ll also save money by not buying new.
Large and reusable items sent to landfills take up valuable space and take year to break down. Instead of contributing landfilling waste, donate the item to a charity.
Tips to help you reuse items:
- Sell & shop at consignments: Selling at consignment stores or yard sales earns you spare cash and allows others to reuse your unwanted items. You’ll also save when shopping second-hand because items often cost a third-less than new items.
- Use reusables: Food utensils, disposable cups, and other throwaways contribute a large percentage to waste. Using a personal coffee mug or lunch container can help cut down throwaway waste.
Recycling has numerous environmental benefits so sorting your trash is worth the effort!
Ways recycling helps:
- Recycling can reduce the cost of waste disposal: Trash collection doesn’t come without a price tag. Garbage trucks must pay to dump their waste at a landfill. Recycling reduces landfill costs because less waste is landfilled.
- Recycling can save energy: It almost always takes less energy to make a product from recycled materials than it does to make it from new materials. In fact, recycling aluminum is 90-95 percent more energy efficient than producing aluminum from raw materials. Recycling glass requires up to 26 percent less energy than using virgin materials, Check out this graphic for more information.
- Recycling saves natural resources: Natural resources include land, plants, minerals, and water. By reusing materials more than once, we reduce demands for raw materials and avoid additional natural resource degradation.
- Recycling can reduce pollution: When waste ends up as litter, it contributes to wildlife poisoning, entanglement and death, and unsightly vistas of trash-strewn roads, waterways and parks. Plastic waste is particularly problematic. According to a 2014 study, the world’s oceans are filled with at least 260,000 tons of floating plastic particles.
- Recycling creates jobs: Recycling and waste management jobs employ close to 400,000 Americans according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014). Recycle Across America reports that if recycling levels reach 75 percent it would support 1.5 million jobs in the United States.
Learn more recycling basics and America’s material recycling rates from the Environmental Protection Agency.