Earth Week 2012 Challenges: Waste Less Water

Day 7: Earth Week Challenge -- Waste Less Water

From April 16-22, HuffPost Green has invited you to take on one simple endeavor per day to reduce your impact on the planet. We can't extend a challenge without attempting it ourselves, so our team has tackled each goal as well and shared with you the highs and lows of our experiences. Check out how our team did on past challenges as we ate meatless, powered down, used reusable bottles, went paper-free, packed a lunch and wore second-hand clothes.

FINAL CHALLENGE: Waste Less Water. Take shorter showers, turn the faucet off while brushing teeth, do only full loads of dishes and laundry.

The EPA provides a list of many ways that we can all conserve water. According to the organization, "Toilets, showers, and faucets combined represent two-thirds of all indoor water use. More than 4.8 billion gallons of water is flushed down toilets each day in the United States. The average American uses about 9,000 gallons of water to flush 230 gallons of waste down the toilet per year (Jensen, 1991)." They recommend installing low-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets (or place a container filled with water in your toilet tank).

Lawncare is another source of major water waste. According to the EPA, it accounts for over 30 percent of residential outdoor water use. Try using plants that need little water, grouping plants with similar water needs, or try cycle irrigation methods.

In the kitchen, run your dishwasher only when full to save up to 20 gallons of water per day. If washing by hand, let them soak in the sink first. In the bathroom, turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving, and take shorter showers. Check out the EPA's website for more tips.

Sasha: Years of living with roommates has made me the king of fast showers -- a necessary skill if you're going to avoid using up all the hot water and keeping everyone from getting out of the house on time. An environmentally conscious roommate of mine in college cut his water usage down even further by wearing the same t-shirt and pants most of the time, and washing them in the sink every so often. I haven't gone to such lengths, but his habits did make me realize that you can wear the same clothes over and over again, and almost no one will notice. (Don't believe me? Try taking the Six Items or Less challenge yourself and see.) There is one bad water-usage habit that I have though, and I'm vowing now to stop it: When I brush my teeth, I let the faucet run while I cup my hands to rinse the toothpaste out of my mouth. The better, more efficient thing to do would be to pour a glass of water and use that to rinse.

Jess: Since a dishwasher can't really fit in my tiny uptown apartment, I am forced to wash dishes by hand. This is where my evil non-green twin takes over, because turning on-and-off the water in between each dish is such a pain. Instead of leaving on the tap for 30 minutes or so, I put all the dishes to soak in a tub with the minimum amount of water and soap. I just used a small stream to wash them off afterwards, saving water and keeping my hands less pruney!

Joanna: I'm really bad about spacing out in the shower. I'll refocus and realize I've just been standing there under the stream of hot water doing absolutely nothing for a shockingly long period of time. Today, I made a concerted effort to just go in, get the job done, and get out. It wasn't quite as relaxing, but I have plenty of dry land where I can space out if need be.

James: I set a timer on my phone before I got in the shower this morning so I would know not to shower for too long. I always turn off the water when I'm brushing my teeth anyways, but I spent the day being more conscious about the water that I was using.

Becca: I read somewhere that shortening your shower by only a minute or two can save up to 150 gallons a month. I definitely spend a minute or two in the shower every morning, just standing blearily, trying to wake myself up. Next time, I'll get my coffee before my shower, and cut down on my shower time.

How did you do with this #EarthWeekGoal? Tweet us your experience and check out the twitter slideshow below to read about other challenge participant experiences:

Check out this photo of us turning off the water: