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Save water to reduce carbon: The relationship between your water and carbon footprint

Yep, that word. Carbon. It’s the ‘buzziest’ buzzword in recent years. Thousands of businesses and nations are fixated on reducing carbon emissions – including our own. It’s been positioned as the most important thing to do, but did you know that you can reduce carbon by reducing water. While carbon is discussed as one thing, it comes in plenty of forms. It is for this reason, it’s created in many ways too. 

You see, carbon footprints are attached to everything. From every breath you take, to the emissions coming from aeroplanes. This includes your water supply. Although water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O); you can still reduce carbon impacts by reducing your water consumption. We’ll show you how… 

It’s about the process of water 

Recently on our blog, we’ve been talking about our water supply and the impacts of wastewater. The entire modern-day water cycle, like everything else, is having its own carbon impact. We hear you asking, “but how can something that contains no carbon whatsoever reduce my carbon impact?”. Let’s break it down. 

For every drop of water you use, there’s an entire process before it. It’s said that every drop of water on the Earth has passed through another living being – namely dinosaurs. We’re not sure how much we believe it, we’re not exactly professionals in the history of water and dinosaurs. But we know that water never ‘disappears’ – it merely changes state from solid to liquid to gas. So, this process has to have some sort of carbon impact; the same way everything on the planet does. Especially since we’ve modernised it in recent years. 

Collecting water, filtering it, cleaning it, and transporting it into homes. As well as cleaning and redistributing it on the way out of them is where most carbon-related impacts occur. While industries try to create efficient methods of supplying and removing water from homes – it’s important that we’re doing what we can at our end too. So, here’s how you can reduce your carbon impact, by reducing your water consumption. 

How to reduce carbon by reducing water 

When you know more about the processes that go on behind our water supply, you quickly realise that reducing your water consumption has a direct impact on your carbon creation. Ultimately, we need to analyse our everyday actions and see where we can reduce our water consumption the most. Let’s start somewhere obvious. 

Reduce carbon with your bath/shower 

There’s been a lot of talk about showers always being a better solution for reducing water consumption. But you might be surprised. A lot of different elements come into play. How you get your supply, how it’s heated, and of course the volume of water. If you’re someone who likes to take a long shower of 20 minutes or more, and your plumbing isn’t very eco-friendly, you might use less water by having a modest bath. A generous bath heated by a gas efficient boiler is 1kg of CO2e, a modest one heated by solar energy is just 200g CO2e. 

Power showers are every thick-long-haired person’s essential, but the speed at which they pump out water might be raising your water consumption and CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) to an alarming rate. Take a look at the following stats, and determine if your supply is eco-friendly enough then question – are you spending too long in your shower? 

  • 15 minutes in an 11kw electric power shower can produce 1kg CO2e 
  • 5 minutes in an 8kw electric shower can produce 250g CO2e 
  • 3 minutes in an efficient gas boiler aerated shower can produce 55g CO2e 

It’s incredible how much the CO2e rates can drop depending on what shower you use, how long you use it for and what water-saving equipment (like aerators) you have in place. To put this into context, a litre of bottled water that has travelled 600 miles by road, has the CO2e of 480g – nearly half that 15-minute shower. Here’ a challenge for you, determine where you sit on the scale and see if there are any areas you could improve on. It could be your easiest way to reduce carbon.  

Greenredeem Thames Water members can get a free aerator in the dashboard on their membership page. 

Washing up and saving carbon 

Another large area where we use a lot of water – and can save it – is when we’re cleaning. Another common predicament for a lot of people is whether you should be washing by hand or using the dishwasher. 

Dishwashers have a bad reputation for using a lot of water, but just like baths, they can sometimes offer a more efficient solution. It all depends on how you use it and how eco-friendly it is in the first place. For example, a full load of an eco-friendly dishwasher is more eco-friendly than hand-washing plates for 30 minutes using a running tap. Oh, the waste! Take a look at some stats to consider: 

  • By hand, sparingly in warm water uses 360g CO2e. 
  • In a dishwasher, at eco 50°C uses 470g CO2e. 
  • In a dishwasher, intensive at 65°C uses 600g CO2e. 
  • BUT BY HAND, with a lot of warm water, uses 3KG CO2e!! 

It’s important each time you wash up to consider, how much there is to clean, what settings on a dishwasher you are going to use, and if that’s the best option (meaning you can fill it). Imagine saving over 2kg of CO2e by using a dishwasher – that’s the equivalent of around 4kg of household waste being sent to landfill!

When you take a step back, you realise that reducing your water consumption isn’t necessarily a straight rulebook to follow. It all depends on what appliances you have in your home, and how you use them, that’s the best way to determine how you can reduce carbon. Remember pouring a pint of water down the sink triples its carbon footprint. It is possible to reduce carbon by reducing even the smallest amounts of water use, and water waste in your home. 

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