“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” ~ Jacques Cousteau, French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water
We all know water is important. We’re told to drink at least 8 glasses a day to maintain good health, and let’s face it – nothing is more refreshing than a glass of ice-cold water on a warm, sunny day. But have you ever stopped to think about where all the freshwater we require comes from? Or how much is available? Or polluted?
Water is the most vital resource on earth and life wouldn’t exist without it. Water not only feeds, cleanses, and supports every aspect of life, but every form of life as well. Luckily, it’s an infinite resource, right? Wrong! When you turn on your faucet, you expect water to come streaming out, but we have a finite amount of freshwater resources on our planet. In fact, though considered a renewable resource, we extract and pollute water faster than it is able to replenish.
The stress on our fresh water supplies is intensified by uncertainties of climate change; extreme weather patterns including droughts, floods and storms. Water quality issues due to industry pollution, urbanization, and chemical runoff from agriculture intensify these realities. Water covers 70% of our planet, but only 3.5% is fresh water and 70% is inaccessible in ice caps and glaciers, leaving less than 2% of freshwater resources available for human use. Over one billion people already lack access to clean water and 4 billion live with water scarcity. By 2025, it is predicted that two-thirds of the world may live with water scarcity. Our partner Numi Organic Tea is working to change this for their turmeric tea farmers in Madagascar with the program Together for H2OPE. This year, the Numi Foundation is building 22 wells to deliver clean drinking water to over 3500 people in their farming community.
The average American uses about 751,777 gallons of water per year, which comprises their “water footprint.” Similar to a carbon footprint, a water footprint is the amount of water that someone uses over a given span of time. Most of that usage is virtual/hidden, or used indirectly to provide goods and services, such as food and electricity. For example, you might only have an 8 ounce glass of water with your factory-farmed burger, but to raise the cow and grow the feed for the burger, your virtual water footprint is elevated to 660 gallons of water. The amount of water it takes to make your food is eye opening, for example a pound of cheese takes 382 gallons of water and a cup of coffee requires 840 liters to produce (for more examples, check out today’s Good Read here from our partner at Grace Communications).
But the indirect nature of water use means that you can do more than just take shorter showers to conserve this valuable resource. There are many actions that you can take as an individual and as a part of a larger community. Your challenge today is to learn about your water footprint and opt for personal changes, but also use your knowledge to start a ripple of behavior change on your campus and throughout your networks.
Every person on earth needs and deserves clean water, and as use increases with a dwindling supply, the pressure for sustainable management of this resource is on us. This means engaging in water conscious practices and conserving wherever we can. Our hidden water footprint makes up 96% of our total water use. Knowing your baseline will make it easier to reduce your footprint in the future.
So how much water do you use every day? Directly? Indirectly?
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Virtual water use makes up the majority of our water footprint, which means it’s the water put in before the goods reach you. You will be surprised just how much that adds up to. Everything from growing the food you eat to your favorite pair of jeans requires water for production. Many of these products, goods, and services may have a heavier burden than you think.
Take this time to discover the amount of water to make items that you use every day.
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Have you ever used an exfoliating scrub or toothpaste? Chances are, it contained plastic microbeads. These tiny round beads look innocuous—but they’re actually pretty evil. One tube of facial scrub can contain more than 330,000 plastic microbeads, which are then washed down the drain to pollute our lakes, rivers and oceans. In the United States, we release 8 billion plastic microbeads into the environment each day. That’s nearly 3 trillion each year. It’s no wonder a recent study found that one-quarter of all fish sold in California markets had microplastics and fibers in their guts.
Thanks to our partner 5 Gyres, beginning in 2017, it will be illegal for companies to manufacture products that contain plastic microbeads, and by 2018 the sale of these products will also be prohibited. Read this excerpt from the 5 Gyres website to learn about their campaign and become inspired to take action:
In 2016, 5 Gyres launched the #beadfree Community Action pledge campaign to discourage the use of plastic microbeads, which diverted 16 billion microbeads from oceans and lakes in 2016—in just three months! Unfortunately, the story doesn’t stop there. At the current rate, more than 7.3 trillion microbeads will enter the marine environment before the Microbead-Free Waters Act becomes effective in 2018.
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