Blog van Thomas M. Kostigen
The average American home has 10,000 items in it. We need storage units and cabinets in just about every room to house all these things. But you would need an Olympic-size swimming pool to store all the water it takes to make what we so casually call our stuff.
In fact, if you were to release all the water in all the items in our homes, at least 200,000 gallons would gush out like in some mad scene in a disaster movie. Americans expend a lot of water spending $78.5 billion a year on furniture. Heres why: Most of the furniture we own (38 percent) is made of wood. Just 1 board foot of lumber takes about 5.4 gallons of water to make. Wood, of course, comes from trees, and last time I checked, it took water to grow trees.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 8 million tons of clothing and footwear enter the waste stream annually, and only a fraction is reused or recycled. That means, on average, you and I each throw away 54 pounds of textiles per year. Out the door with those clothes go tens of thousands of gallons of water.
But were not throwing away as much as were buying. So in addition to piling up perfectly good clothing in landfills, were also stockpiling our wardrobes. Most American women, for example, have more pairs of jeans than there are days of the week! And blue jeans are far from water lean.
Every new pair of jeans costs nearly 3,000 gallons of water to make. Given that 450 million pairs are sold annually in the United States, that comes to nearly 1.4 trillion gallons of waterthe equivalent of half of Californias entire yearly urban water demand.
Most of us in the United States take a vacation every year. More than 30 million Americans fly somewhere outside the country annually, and increasingly, we are opting to fly instead of driving domestically. And when we get to our destinations, we stay mostly in hotels or motels. Its there that we really let the water dogs out: The average luxury hotel rooms estimated water use is 475 gallons per day, which amounts to more than the average US household uses! We turn into traveling, water-sucking giants who splash about merrily, drinking, bathing, steaming, basking in hot tubs, and waiting in line at aqua parks in the desert. Yes, we are a curious lot in different senses of the word. Still, before we even leave our homes and begin acting water-crazed while on vacation, we waste loads of water in ways we may not even have thought of.
Nearly 150 million Americans attend a baseball, basketball, hockey, or football game each year.
Team and stadium owners, as well as league officials, are getting wise to different ways to save while still providing a great experience for fans.
The National Football League has a green advisory committee to help it, among others things, stop water waste. The PGA of America teamed up with Audubon International to conserve water and encourage wildlife preservation. And Major League Baseball hooked up with the Natural Resources Defense Council to create sustainable stadium operations and team practices.
Water savings is a top priority for sports professionals and enthusiasts because water is so critical to game playing, whether its to keep the field green or the athletes hydrated.
Water is big business. Just five beverage companies consume enough water over the course of a year to satisfy the daily water needs of every person on the planet. Of course, we may not be able to control how much water is put in a can of soda or a beer (less water, more alcohol, please) or the amount it takes to make paper, but we can control our own use at the workplace and even influence those who manage supplies.
It may not be our nickel that gets spent on the utility bill at work, but the gains are certainly ours when we reduce the corporate water footprint on the planet. Water prices are poised to rise due to increased water stress, and corporate growth is expected to be impeded as resources dwindle. Make no mistake, all of this comes out of our paychecks in one way or another.
photo by Beth Harper via Creative Commons.
Outdoors is where we as residents tend to use huge amounts of water. In some parts of the country, mostly out in the arid West, 70 percent or more of residential water is used for lawn irrigation.
Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Pink flamingos and fountains aside, decorative lawns that need lots of care and lots of water are scourges. It may be that suburbia is making the wells run dry. Indeed, homeowners use an average of 120 gallons of water each day for things outside.
Think about that for a second: "things outside" -- where rain should be able to do the job nicely -- if we stick with the vegetation that grows naturally in our locale, that is. Irrigation, my dear water-freak neighbor, was invented to keep our fields of food alive, not your imported turf.
I used to daydream in the shower, letting my mind fog over like the bathroom mirror fogged with steam. Then I became aware of how much water I was wasting with every extra minute I stood there. Now it’s as if I shower at the Bates Motel: I’m in and out quickly. Many of us mindlessly waste water, either because we are just fogging out or because we really don’t know any better. A home-based education on water is what we need. And here’s why: Our homes are where we use the most water in our lives. The average household in America uses about 400 gallons of water per day. That can easily be cut to less than 100 gallons by doing a few simple things. Here are some tips culled from The Green Blue Book.
It occurred to me as I was having my morning coffee that I advise readers in The Green Blue Book that it may take several cups of water to brew a cup of coffee, but it takes 37 gallons to actually make the coffee for that cup. The water it takes to grow the coffee outweighs the water it takes to make a cup, I write.
Right now I am wearing 5,178 gallons of water. It took 569 gallons to grow the cotton and manufacture the material for my t-shirt, 1,247 gallons for my sneakers, 2,866 gallons for my blue jeans, 244 gallons for my socks, and 252 gallons for my boxers.
Through what we wear, consume, and use on an annual basis each of us in the United States on average is responsible for 656,000 gallons of water. We use more than ten times as much water per day as someone in the developing world.