This post was written in collaboration with Waterl <ss. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own and are based on my own experiences.
The way I see the world changed forever in early 2018. I was just starting to settle in my new home in Cape Town when I heard the announcement: We measured what came to be known as fear "Day zero".
The reality of a million dwellings in Cape Town without access to running water was frightening.
After years of drought, one of Africa's richest and most commercially developed cities was about to lose its most valuable resource.
We were instructed to use only gray water (this is water that has been used once, eg for showering or dishwashing) to flush the toilets.
At home, the showers had to stay for 90 seconds and the public tabs were completely closed.
Growing up in Southern California, discussing water was always an important topic, but it was more a message that you were not using it more than you touch as you need. Drought-tolerant gardens were encouraged, but no one really cares about limiting how many gallons you spent in a day.
In Cape Town, everyone was keenly aware of every fall.
Fortunately, community engagement, donations from farmers and some extremely humid winters have helped prevent Cape Town from running out of water. I learned firsthand how much you can do as a person to help conserve water and how much these efforts can affect a community.
Water is one of the most valuable resources on the planet, and although it may seem difficult for just one person to make an impact, you can really do it. Every step you take to help save water.
Let's think about how to become a more water-sensitive traveler!
Cape Town, South Africa
What is happening around the world with water
The world's population is estimated at 8 billion people. If you are one of those 8 billion who has steady access to safe water, count your blessings. There are 2.4 billion people exposed to water-borne diseases. By 2025, experts predict that two-thirds of all people will be affected by water scarcity.
Yes, you read it correctly!
It is not just in Africa. North America, Europe, Australia and every other continent on the planet have been affected. Not a nice thing, but the water crisis is real.
In Cape Town we were limited to 13 gallons (50 liters) of water per person per day. To get a feel for how much, the average American uses about 100 gallons (375 liters) daily – shower, dishwasher, wash.
This does not include water used for food production or food production – this is just water flowing through your faucet at home.
This cool calculator will calculate your estimated water consumption to give you a sense of where you are. Even if you feel you're pretty conservative, it's shocking to see how quickly 100 gallons are added.
Facing Day zero was stressful and frightening but it teaches me one important lesson: people get used to things fast. Drastically reducing my water consumption has become easier over time, and today, I still have the water savings I make on the autopilot.
Using less water is really easy when you know best practices.
Tips for greater water awareness
One of my primary goals these days is to travel greener. I have talked ecological ways of moving and conserving water play a central role. When traveling, there are so many easy ways to reduce water use.
Shower less often
Avoiding daily showers is a big one! Most people grow up thinking they have to shower everyday. But, you know, most healthcare professionals recommend showering every second day, or even just every third day?
Most of us cleanse excessively and remove the natural oils that really protect our skin.
When it comes to your hair, choose waterproof hair care – such as Waterl <ss' range of high quality hair care products! Waterl <ss Dry Conditioner to freshen up as needed. I live for their Shampoo Free Clean & Dry Conditioner and now I only need to wash my hair every 3-4 days. Products like Waterl <ss that can replace a shower are amazing for saving water either on the road or at home.
Read more about Waterl <ss Dry Shampoo and Conditioner for your next trip here!
Eco-friendly hygiene practices are always a good place to start. The first thing to know is that germs can be a good thing! Of course, you want to wash your hands after using the bathroom and it is good to get rid of a disinfectant to use after touching hotspots germs such as carriages and airplane seats, but you do not have to keep everything sterile all the time.
Over-cleansing can cause everything from dry skin to a weakened immune system. For your body and the planet, it's okay to just keep it a few times.
Reuse of towels
After showering, hang your towel to dry as full and fast as possible. This prevents the odor of bacteria and allows you to use your towel for a longer time without having to wash it.
Many hotels have a small bathroom sign on how to handle towels (they will often ask you to throw away the ones that will be washed in the bathtub or similar). Take a second to read their tips and follow the greener hotels now we recommend reusing your towel for many days at the end.
Bypass room cleaning while traveling
In general, it is advisable to skip room cleaning whenever possible. You probably don't scrub your home every day and you don't really need a hotel. If you don't really need a refresh, hang the "Do Not Disturb" symbol outside the door.
Making a Laundry
When it is time to make clothes, choose to wash the cold as often as possible. There are really laundry detergents that are formulated for this so you can get a good clean without the need for hot water.
I've talked before about how to clean clothes while traveling and have found some great water saving techniques. Unless your clothes are grossly dirty, sometimes they just need a spot cleaning or a little spritz refreshing cloth.
Shop for fabrics that use less water
Did you know that cotton for a single shirt requires 2700 liters (713 gallons) of water? And that's exactly what materials need – not the cost of transport and production.
Fortunately, there are fabrics out there that need less water.
When shopping for new clothes, take a look at the label. The choice of organic cotton, bamboo or hemp instead of conventional cotton makes a huge difference in water use. And, of course, buy carefully. Choose pieces that you really love instead of just buying everything that touches your eye.
Reduce indirect water footprint
It is obvious when we use too much water as if coming out of the tap while brushing our teeth or taking a long shower. But water also goes into producing most of the things we use and consume on a daily basis. Reducing meat consumption, buying local produce, and reducing sugar are all easy ways to make a big impact.
- Find fabrics that require less water
- Bypass room cleaning during the trip
- Skip the sprinklers and use Waterless Haircare (here's my favorite Dry Shampoo!)
- Use the Sanitizer against the wash
- Wash the machine in the cold
- Shower less often
- Reuse your towels
- Reduce indirect water footprint
What tips do you have to become more proficient in water? Please share them in the comments below!
And thank you for taking part in taking responsibility for our environment.