A lot of businesses, households and campuses have recently adopted water conservation plans to save money and protect the environment, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Those of us in the developed world use inordinate amounts of water for personal use, and most of it isn’t used efficiently. With each extra utensil used or toilet flushed, water is wasted, and you can imagine how much water that adds up to on a college campus. Here are 101 ways to conserve water in college, whether you’re a student, college president or professor.
In the Dorms
From laundry to showering, here are ways you and your roommates can save water every day.
- Take a home water audit: Print out this audit so that you and your roommate can evaluate your current water usage, and then trim it down.
- Turn water off when brushing your teeth: And while shaving or even washing your face. Turn it on when it’s time to rinse.
- Check for leaks: Report them to maintenance ASAP to avoid mildew and mold, and of course, water waste.
- Take shorter showers: Americans use 1.2 trillions of gallons of water taking showers each year. Spend shower time cleaning yourself, not just standing there zoning out.
- Only wash clothes when you have a full load: This shouldn’t be too hard for students who wait until the last minute to do laundry. Just make sure you have a full load, or else you’re wasting water and energy on a half load.
- Put rocks in your toilet: Placing pebbles in your tank restricts the amount of water that fills the bowl back up, using less water per flush.
- Test your toilet for leaks: Put a drop of food coloring into the tank. If the color bleeds into the toilet bowl without flushing, there’s a leak you need to report.
- Turn water pressure down when adjusting temperature: Instead of blasting the shower while you wait for it to get hot, turn the water down during the adjustment process.
- Flush sparingly if you’re in a single: If you’ve got a lot of suitemates or just a bathroom down the hall, you’ll have to flush every time out of courtesy and personal hygiene. But if you’re in a single, wait until you have to do the Number 2 to flush.
- Shower with a buddy: Waste less water from showering by doing it with a buddy. Just make sure you’re not in there too long.
- Don’t use the toilet for arbitrary flushes: Throw cigarette butts and bugs in the trash, instead of sacrificing the 5-7 gallons of water it takes to flush.
- Wash clothes in cold water: This saves energy and water.
- Turn off water while you wash your hair: If you need a longer shower, turn off water while you let shampoo or conditioner soak in.
- Wash your face in the shower: Since the water’s already on, wash your face in the shower instead of turning the faucet on at your sink.
- Flush toilets with shower water: Keep a bucket in the shower with you, and use the collected water to flush toilets.
- Take fewer showers: You’ll need to bathe every day, but if you plan on working out, schedule your shower for after exercise instead of doubling up.
- Use a low-flow shower head: Ask residential life about a new system, or put one in yourself if you’re in an apartment.
- Combine laundry with a buddy: If you use utility sized laundry machines at a laundry mat and can’t fill it yourself, ask a buddy to put his or her clothes in, too, and you can split the cost.
- Reuse towels: Don’t throw towels into the laundry after only using them once: they’re still clean.
- Wear your jeans again: Here’s another excuse to be lazy: you can wear your jeans a few times before washing them, too.
- Don’t separate your laundry too specifically: When you use cold water, your colors aren’t as likely to bleed. Just remember that the first couple of times you wash a colored item, be more careful about separating from your whites.
Dining Hall and Kitchen
Whether you’re making your food choices in the dining hall or in your own apartment kitchen, be smart about water with these tips.
- Run the dishwasher when it’s full: If you run out of spoons, wash those by hand before running the dishwasher if it isn’t full.
- Use the garbage disposal sparingly: Running it wastes water each time.
- Water plants with dropped ice cubes: Putting them in pet water dishes is a good idea, too.
- Use one glass per day to drink from: If you’re just drinking water, use the same glass all day to reduce the need for washing.
- Use a pitcher of water to cool it in the refrigerator: Now you won’t have to let the faucet run to cool the water, or even use ice.
- Fill up the sink when you wash dishes: A good alternative to just letting the water run.
- Fill up one plate only: Use as few plates and utensils as possible to cut down on dish washing later. Do you really need a separate plate for your mashed potatoes?
- Turn off the automatic ice maker: Don’t let it run continuously, and always turn it off when you go out of town.
- Make soup with water leftover from steaming veggies: You’ve already pre-flavored it!
- Bring your own reusable glasses and bottles: Don’t use disposable cups, and minimize dish washing loads for the dining hall staff. Instead, bring your own thermos or cup to fill up on water or fountain drinks.
- Stop pre-rinsing: Most newer dishwashers are strong enough to pull off little crumbs, so a shake into the garbage can is all the pre-cleaning you really need to do.
- Clean veggies in a pan of water: Much better than letting the water run.
- Consider water footprint: You’ve heard of carbon footprint, but did you know that foods have a water footprint scale, too? Lettuce and cabbage have a water footprint of 15-24 gallons, while beef’s is up to 2500-5000 gallons.
- Don’t thaw frozen foods with running water: Put it in the refrigerator over night instead.
Here are some ideas your whole school can use to conserve water on campus.
- Start campus gardens: Sustainable for many reasons, community gardens also save water and reduce pollution in the form of runoff.
- Use recycled water to water grass: It’s already a common practice on many college campuses.
- Put out mulch: Packing mulch around trees and landscaping keeps water in.
- Connect irrigation systems to weather systems: This prevents watering plants when it’s raining.
- Install shower times with red lights: Make it easier for students to take shorter showers.
- Get gyms and recreation facilities in on the conservation: Install low-flow shower heads and other water conservation systems there too.
- Insulate water pipes: When it’s cold out, insulated pipes mean you won’t have to run the water as long to get a hot shower.
- Ask for aerators in faucets: Propose that your school changes the faucets so that they have aerators, which restrict water flow.
- Winterize outdoor water faucets: Prevent leaks and breaks from freezing by appropriately protecting outdoor water faucets.
- Re-route grey water: Maintenance can re-route water from your dorm to water the lawn and plants.
- Cut out water fountains: These waste water and electricity, so encourage students to carry around their own reusable bottles instead.
- Install shower timers with red lights: Make it easier for students to take shorter showers.
- Use recycled water for fountains, too: It’ll still look pretty with recycled water.
- Install half-flush toilets: You’ve seen them catching on, so ask your college to install the half-flush toilets that use less water when, um, you need them to.
- Evaluate the watering schedule: Your campus lawn probably doesn’t need the automatic sprinklers to come on twice a day.
- Take out some laundry facilities: People will do laundry more often (even when they don’t have a full load) if the laundry room is convenient, so limit the number of laundry facilities you have on campus.
- Use drip-irrigation systems: For shrubs and large areas of low-lying plants, use drip-irrigation systems instead of big sprinklers.
- Host an awareness day: Besides Earth Day, host a campus-wide "holiday" or public awareness day that’s all about water conservation.
- Install more efficient washing machines: Front-load washers use less water.
- Streamline cooling systems: Connect cooling systems to a central water plant instead of having separate coolers for each building.
- Set up a hotline number: It’ll be easier for students and staff to report leaks anonymously and efficiently.
- Cover pools: Keep water clean and prevent evaporation with a pool cover.
- Start inspections: Drop into dorms, offices and bathrooms to perform water conservation inspections: check for leaks and evidence of water recycling, and reward those in the building who have taken responsibility for conserving water.
- Use recycled water for car washes: If your campus has a large supply of recycled water it’s able to collect, use it for sponsored car washes once a month.
- Stop using trays: Take trays away from the dining hall to cut down on washing needless dishes.
- Landscape with hard spaces: Create more space by making patios, sidewalks and plazas on campus, which don’t require watering.
- Streamline water systems in labs: Campus laboratories use a lot of water, so streamline cooling systems and regulate water flow or even water supply to these areas.
- Compost food from the dining hall: Putting large amounts of scraps down the garbage disposal wastes water.
- Drill your own wells: Duke considered drilling its own wells during a drought.
- Get rid of automatic flush toilets: Switch to manual to eliminate pointless flushing.
- Use hand sensor sinks: Water will only turn on when you’re ready to rinse.
Personal Gardening, Plants and Patio
If you have a garden on your balcony or a bigger plot outside your apartment, be more conscientious about water usage with these tips.
- Use "leftover" water to water plants: Any leftover water you have in a drinking glass or other container should be used to water plants, not thrown out.
- Clear off dirt and other messes with a broom, instead of hosing it down. It’ll get things just as clean and save water to boot.
- Plant during spring and fall: Considered "less water stress times," spring and fall bring more rain and moisture naturally, so you won’t have to water young plants as often.
- Water in the morning or evening: There’s less chance of evaporation due to cooler temperatures and lower wind speed at this time.
- Use the right fertilizer: Put slow-release, water-insoluble fertilizer on plants only when necessary. Many fertilizers make plants more thirsty.
- Learn how to compost: It’s a life skill you can use to save water.
- Look for native plants: Plant flowers, bushes and trees that are native to your area, as they’ll be used to the conditions and won’t need as much water.
- Make sure sprinklers are correctly situated: Watering the sidewalk is a depressing waste of water.
- Don’t water when it’s about to rain: Pay a little extra attention to the forecast to avoid water waste and killing your plants.
- Watch the soil to find out how much water you need to use: If the soil around a plant starts to pool up, you don’t need to keep watering it.
Report leaks around campus and challenge yourself to be better about water usage.
- Report open hydrants: Call maintenance if you see an opened hydrant that’s gushing water.
- Turn water faucets off tightly: After washing your hands or working in a lab, turn the faucets off tightly, and wait a few seconds to see if there are any drips.
- Report leaks: Even if it’s not in your dorm, report leaky faucets, toilets, etc. Don’t expect someone else to do it.
- Finish your water instead of dumping it out: Or at least make a point to dump the end of your water bottle into a thirsty looking plant, not the pavement or trash.
- Get a conservation buddy: Work with your roommate to keep each other accountable.
- Write down all the ways you see people wasting water: Then check to see if you’re practicing the same dirty habits yourself.
- Turn off the water while washing your hands: You don’t need the water running while you lather up.
Spreading the Word
Get others involved, too.
- Send a letter to the newspaper: Write a letter to the editor asking everyone on campus to be more conscientious about water usage.
- Host a contest: Pit dorms against each other to see who can save the most water one month. Get residential life involved to amp up prizes and evaluate water bills.
- Hang up flyers around campus: Share water conservation tip by hanging flyers in dorms and academic buildings.
- Make a YouTube video: Make a funny YouTube video showing places around campus where water is wasted, and hope it goes viral.
- Start a club: Participate in events around the city and sponsor water conservation awareness days and events on campus.
- Explain the importance of water conservation: Droughts, pollution and water shortages are all important reasons to conserve water.
- Write letters to the president or dean: Explain that going green is actually good business for your campus, as it saves money proves that you’re an Earth-friendly school.
- Make t-shirts: Sell t-shirts to spread the message across campus.
- Get professors involved: Ask professors to pitch in by reporting leaks and reusing coffee mugs.
- Join national campaigns: Sign up with the EPA’s WaterSense campaign to find out about events and literature you can share on campus.
From car washes to washing your pets, here are more ways for college students and workers to save water.
- Use a commercial car wash: Their design is more efficient, and they use recycled water.
- Wash your pets outside: If your lawn needs watering, wash your dog on the lawn to reuse the water.
- Keep a bucket on your patio to catch rain water: Use it to water plants when it’s try, or flush your toilet.
- Don’t contaminate water supplies: Don’t pour anything into water supplies, like chemicals or drugs into toilets.
- Always check your water bill: If you live in an apartment, compare water bills to make sure there’s not a huge discrepancy, which could point to a leak.
- Set goals for bringing your water bill down: Try to get your water bill lower each month: you’ll get pretty creative with conservation that way.
- Use a nozzle on the hose: When watering plants or washing your car, control water use with a nozzle.
- Use hand sanitizer, not water: When your hands aren’t really that dirty, use hand sanitizer.