You’ve probably heard about a carbon footprint — the number of greenhouse gases an individual, action, or entity produces. But did you know that there’s also something called a water footprint? As you can probably guess, it refers to how much water those same entities or actions use. What a lot of people don’t know is that generating electricity can leave a heavy water footprint.
Now more than ever, American consumers want to be responsible and support companies, organizations, and initiatives that participate in and push for environmentally responsible practices. Clean air, unpolluted water, climate change reversal, and renewable energy adoption are all important concerns for Americans, according to research from the Pew Research Center, and many are eager to save and conserve in their own lives.
Does Saving Water Save Energy?
Responsible water use is an essential component of any environmentally friendly way of life, and it has the added benefit of saving electricity. When water is available from the faucet on-demand, it’s easy to forget about the massive process involved in getting it there. It has to be treated, pumped, filtered, delivered, and more — all of which require electricity. The state of California looked at this a few years ago and found that supplying municipal water accounted for nearly 20 percent of the state’s electricity use.
So when you consider that creating electricity requires water, and making water accessible requires electricity, and water itself is a natural resource to be used responsibly in its own right, it’s easy to see the value and importance in only using what you need.
Ways to Save Water and Electricity
Using less water and electricity offers a lot of upsides for you, your community, and the environment at large. None of us can do it alone, and we can only do it together. Below, we identified some of the most effective habits you can put into practice that will save water, electricity, and money on your monthly electric and water bills. Not to mention reduce your own water footprint.
Invest in Efficient Appliances
Buy ENERGY STAR and Watersense appliances. They’re typically better by double-digit percentages at both water and electricity efficiency than their non-rated counterparts. And make sure to use your devices in an efficient manner, such as waiting until the dishwasher is full of dishes to run the load.
Do the Laundry When the Load Is Full
In the average household, laundry accounts for roughly 15% of household water usage and around 5% of the electric bill. To save on both, only run full loads and wash your clothes in cold water when you can, since heating the water requires about 90% more electricity. And skipping the dryer and hanging your clothes to air dry is another way to save.
Optimize Your Bathrooms
You can tune up your bathroom by upgrading to eco-friendly, low-flush toilets that use far less water than standard models. It’s also a good idea to take more showers than baths. The average bath uses roughly 36 gallons of water, whereas a five-minute shower uses only a fraction of that amount. When you brush your teeth, turn off the water faucet except when rinsing. Resist the temptation to let it run the entire time you’re brushing.
Hands Off the Thermostat!
As winter approaches and the weather turns cool, keep the thermostat adjustments to a minimum. When you need to warm up, find a sweater instead. And if you haven’t already, consider investing in a programmable thermostat. Many of them have built-in, automatic energy-saving features that can make it so they pay for themselves in no time.
Use Renewable Energy At Home
If a complete solar panel system is in your budget and in line with your desires, go for it! But even if it’s not, you can still participate in green energy by switching to a plan or retail electricity provider that offers solar, wind, and other green energy packages.
Use Hot Water Sparingly
Next to heating and cooling the air in your home, heating water is the most energy-demanding task in the average home. That’s not to say you have to switch to ice-cold showers, but use hot water only when you need to. In addition to purchasing efficient appliances, consider installing low-flow faucets, showerheads, and sprinkler systems in your home and yard.
Other Impactful Ways to Save Water & Electricity
As long as you’re already on a roll and in the frame of mind for saving, here are a few other complementary strategies you can implement at home to improve the efficiency of your water and electricity usage.
Optimize your water heater. There are two ways to do this — set it at the highest comfortable setting, which is usually no more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and insulate it.
Repair water leaks. The EPA warns that a single leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water every day.
Water your outdoor plants earlier in the day so the water can better reach the roots instead of evaporating in the sun.
Turn down the refrigerator — it’s responsible for nearly 15% of the average home’s electric bill. Set it to 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and forget it.
Switch from incandescent bulbs to LED. That alone can improve energy efficiency by about 30%.
And turn off the lights when you’re not around. Better yet, turn off everything when not in use. Power strips can accommodate multiple devices and have the added benefit of reducing “vampire” electricity.
Add insulation to your home, if needed. We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but creating heat is energy-intensive and… well, you get the idea. Go in the attic and make sure that insulation is adequate and installed correctly. If it’s not, pick up a few rolls and fill the gaps, or hire a qualified technician to take care of it.
And as long as we’re talking about heating and cooling, regularly replace the filters on your HVAC system. Some filters last longer than others, so check the packaging for replacement instructions and make it a regular chore. Many people put filters on auto-ship and have them delivered regularly to ensure clockwork-like replacement.
Close the gaps and repair any air leaks that exist in windows, door gaps, or exterior siding. Walk around your house, inside and out, and inspect every nook and cranny. Repair gaps with new weatherstripping, expanding foam, or whatever material is appropriate for the situation.
Save Water, Save Electricity — and Save Money
Much like many of our resources, water and electricity are inextricably linked. Both provide tremendous value to our lives and livelihoods, and there are environmental considerations tied to the responsible management of both.
Choosing to save both water and electricity by having smart, sensible (and easy!) habits in your own life can save electricity, and that can help you save a little money. Who doesn’t love that? Take a look at your own home and see where you have an opportunity to optimize your water and electricity use. Knock out a few easy wins and start tracking your changes — all you have to do is compare the monthly bills. You might discover you’re leaving money on the table every month that would be more fun and beneficial to use elsewhere.