by Stephen Hall
Eating more plants goes a long way when it comes to conserving water. In general, plant-based foods have a fraction of the water footprint that animal foods do, and it takes less land to feed people plants than it does to support animal agriculture on any scale. This is a great first step, for sure, but there are a myriad of other factors to consider, if we want to get serious about conserving water. One issue that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the water we drink when we travel.
Water is freely available from every tap in the western world, but water scarcity is in fact a very real and very vast problem. Sometimes this problem can be hard to see. If you live somewhere that has plenty of clean, safe water or an area that experiences flooding, it can be difficult to fully understand true water scarcity. By 2030, however, demand for water is expected to exceed viable resources by 40% and even places that flood aren’t necessarily protected from the threat of water scarcity. This is because flooding doesn’t actually replenish groundwater stock levels of water.
When we travel, it can be easy to relax on our ideals a bit, but it’s just as important to conserve water when you travel as is is when you’re at home. If you’re staying at a hotel, you can even provide feedback about their water management. After all, a lot of industry-level changes have come about because of consumer-driven initiatives.
Why Hotel Water Use Matters
Staying in a hotel is a treat for most people and can often be quite expensive. For this reason, people tend to take advantage of the luxurious bonuses that come as part of their bill. This often means showering more frequently or for longer than you would at home, as well as taking advantage of the service that allows you to change your linen daily with another set that is crisp, clean and fresh. That adds up to millions of gallons of water per year at just a single hotel.
Consumers concerned about water conservations should care about hotel water use, and so should hotel owners. Some hotels, and especially chains, are massive institutions where people tend to be less conservative with their use of water than they would be at home. Saving water may cut costs, allowing them to pass their savings on to consumers.
Here are some things that you can do as a consumer while you’re on vacation to ensure that you’re making a minimal impact on the environment, especially if you’re visiting a resort that’s in a region experiencing water scarcity.
When You’re in the Bathroom
It’s easy to overindulge in water use in the bathroom, but that doesn’t mean you have to!
Simple things, such as turning the tap off while you brush your teeth, will save a massive amount of water. If a tap is running at the reduced speed that it’s supposed to, it will still waste 12 litres (about 3 gallons) of water while you spend two minutes scrubbing your gnashers. Also opt for showers over baths and try to limit the lengths of your showers, just like you would at home.
You don’t need to check all of the taps each time you use the bathroom, but if you do spot that something is leaking, make sure that you inform someone and chase them up if need be. A leaking toilet can lose a shocking 750 litres (almost 200 gallons) of water in a single day, and a dripping tap can waste 180 showers’ worth of water in a single year.
Don’t Use More than Necessary
For the most part, having your linen and towels washed and changed every day is completely unnecessary. If possible, opt out of this service by putting the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door, or placing your towels where the maid will be able to tell that they don’t need washing to avoid excessive water consumption.
When you’re eating at the hotel or local restaurants, ask them to hold the ice. Making ice uses a lot of electricity, a huge water waster at the local level.
You can also read any literature about water consumption that your hotel supplies to understand their stance on the subject and how they aim to tackle excessive usage.
You Can Make a Difference
Although each individual hotel is responsible for controlling its what usage, when hotels work in unison, there’s potential for a larger and even more positive impact. It works in the same way with consumers; each individual is responsible for their own decisions, but together we cause a ripple effect of change.
Just as you make food choices with ethics in mind, how you use water and how much you use has a big impact on local resources, whether you’re traveling or at home.
Stephen Hall is the Managing Director of Pure Water Storage, a company that specialises in cold water, sectional and chemical storage tanks in the UK.
Hotel images via Shutterstock