Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Water water everywhere?

The car is without question one of the top contributors to GHG emissions. Advances are being made with hybrid cars – cars that also use batteries in addition to fuel – to make them more reliable and affordable. For many of us though, purchasing a hybrid is still a few years away. I’ll write about the future of hybrid and alternative transportation later. As I mentioned, right now I’m focusing on reducing waste.

Last week I encouraged car drivers to stop idling for the health of their engines, people and the planet. This week, I will delve into other ways to help the fuel economy of your car, which will help reduce pollutions and GHG emissions.

I will also get into the business of reducing water waste.

Wonderful People Doing Fabulous Things
Nature Knows Best - Architect William McDonough

TO Do This Week

A Very Precious Commodity
What can be more natural, more bountiful than water? According to David Suzuki:

• 97 percent of the planet’s water is the ocean and not the type of thing anyone should be drinking.
• 90 percent of the water that is salt-free is locked away in glaciers or is deep underground.
• .0001 percent of the planet’s water is most readily assessable – these are stream channels.
• A person in an industrialized country uses between 350 and 1000 litres of water daily. A person living in rural Kenya uses two to five litres per day.

Here’s another interesting tidbit. According to the Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, home water use accounts for only five percent of total water consumption. The vast majority of it goes to agriculture – irrigation and livestock, as well as other industries, such as oil. This of course touches on food consumption, transportation, plastics, synthetic clothing, among other things. More on that later.

With such a low percentage of home water consumption, does it really matter that we conserve water at home? It does, if anything to make us conscious of how precious it really is. There is a looming water crisis, exasperated by a warming planet and growing population. It is predicted that future wars will be fought over water, not oil.

What about GHG emissions associated with home water heating? The average American is responsible for two tonnes of GHG emissions every year for the privilege of hot water in their home. There are steps you can take to increase efficiency, such as securing good insulation and using an efficient boiler. But this might be beyond your control or a future investment (again, I’ll touch on that later). Here are few simple things that we can do around the house to reduce water waste and heat:

• Invest in a low-flow shower head and faucets. My parents have a low-flow shower head and as a result have cut their water usage and heat from showers by 50%. They’re not that expensive and range in price from $5 - $50. If you own your own home, you will see the savings within months. I’m going to get one this weekend.
• If you take more baths than showers, try reversing the ratio.
• This one’s a toughie - slightly reduce the heat when you take a shower. Oh it’s hard. I’m trying to do this. Just think, for every 15 liters of hot water, a kilogram of GHG is emitted. I’m not suggesting lukewarm, but try avoiding hot enough to put you in a trance until the hot water disappears on its own accord.
• Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.
• If you’re letting the water run just to heat up the water, try reducing the amount that runs.
• Heat up only the water you need. This goes for all you tea drinkers.
• Try not flushing the toilet so often. We don’t, and it’s ok. It really is. An older model toilet uses up to 22 litres (6 gallons) per flush. The newer ones use only 6 litres (1.6 gallons) per flush (however, sometimes it takes two flushes to get rid of your business with the newer toilets).

It’s Better to be a Turtle than a Hare
It’s difficult to keep to the speed limit isn’t it? The average speed seems to be at least 10 km over the posted limit. There’s a reason why there’s a limit, aside from trying to prevent people from killing themselves. The faster you go, the more pollution your car generates. And it’s terrible for you fuel economy to boot.

Try this week to keep to the limit. If you are daring, drive below the limit. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can always wear a fedora and sink down low in the driver’s seat. If you commute 20 km, five days a week, and keep 10 km below the limit, you will make your tank of gas last about a week longer, this according to Dave Reay of Climate Change Begins at Home. Try it and see if it works. If it does, let me know!

Next week, we’ll look at other tips to help improve your fuel efficiency and help the environment – like putting air in your tires.

The Sacred Balance, by David Suzuki with Amanda McConnell
Climate Change Begins at Home, by Dave Reay
The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, by Michael Brower and Warren Leon (Union of Concerned Scientists)
Earth Easy

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