This is the first article of a series titled, Conservation Starts at Home. Stay tuned for more!
During my first week of college at Bowling Green State University in the 1980’s, I kept hearing a strange noise in the dormitory. A continual low rumble. Then I realized it was the sound of the showers running 24 hours a day. The water never seemed to be shut off. Sometimes there was no one even using the facilities, just that someone had left the shower or the sink running.
Why was this sound so strange to me? I grew up in a home right here in NW Ohio that had to have its water supply hauled to the house and put into a holding cistern, 2,000 gallons at a time. Literally, every drop we used counted, both in supply and in dollars.
So the rule in our house was that everyone took what the Navy called a “Sea Shower”, for when out to sea the freshwater supply was extremely limited. This means you turn the shower water on just long enough to get wet, and then turn the water off while you do the soap, shampoo and shaving. Then you turn the water back on just long enough to rinse off.
I thought it was the same way for everyone until that ear-opening experience at college. At first, being able to let the water run the entire time of the shower seemed like an appealing luxury. But if you added up the amount of water, multiplied by all of the dormitories, it was a mind-boggling amount.
I grew up recycling, conserving, re-using, and reducing – partly because it was the 1970’s when Earth Day celebrations started and partly because my father was very frugal. But since it was always that way at our house, and we were still able to have otherwise normal lives, it never seemed a burden at all. I still continue most of those practices today.
My worst offender is my kitchen faucet which is the busiest faucet in the house. A half-gallon of cold water comes out first, and multiplied throughout the day could add up to 5 gallons or more. That is water that had to be treated, cleaned and shipped to the house. That water is not used, but dumped into the wastewater system to get treated and cleaned again before being released back into our local natural water system. For the mathematically-inclined, multiply that amount by every household in the County.
I now keep a pitcher at my kitchen faucet to collect that cold water and then use it to water plants, water pets, save it to drink later, boil pasta with it, etc. Once you have made a habit of your new conservation practice, try adding another. Little steps add up to big journeys!
There are many different conservation practices that anyone can incorporate into their life and home. From creating a rain garden or pollinator habitat, to reducing fertilizer and pesticide, to starting a worm bin or compost pile, or simply reducing/re-using/recycling, everyone can do something.
Stay tuned for future articles in this series on tips, ideas and in-depth looks at conservation practices you can do at home, or contact our office for more information.
Author: Jamie Kochensparger
Education & Outreach Director
Lucas SWCD staff