by Lara Goodrich Ezor
One summer in college, during an Atlanta drought, I enthusiastically hung water-saving advice on every bathroom mirror in my parents’ home. I spouted common tips for reducing residential water use, including taking quick showers, flushing the toilet less often, and watering the lawn during non-peak hours. But, in spite of my gumption, I had forgotten a room of the house that is often a culprit for unwise water use: the kitchen.
Food production is always thirsty. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), irrigation accounts for 37% of annual freshwater withdrawal in the United States. But, as discussed in this issue, water may not be the eternal resource it was once thought to be. With aquifers drying up, temperatures rising, and increasing droughts around the country, we seem to always be on high alert for a potential water shortage.
As foodies, cooks and kitchen-dwellers, here are some easy ways to save water in the most important room of the house:
Hand wash dishes. For those of us who live in apartments with kitchens the size of closets, washing dishes by hand may not be so much of a choice. But washing dishes in the sink and scrubbing stains by hand can save a lot of water, as long as you don’t keep the sink water running while scrubbing away.
Save water for other purposes. When rinsing produce, save the water for later use (e.g. to water plants). If you’re boiling or steaming vegetables, save the cooking water for a savory stock.
Use lower water pressure. Let’s face it. You do not need to pressure-wash your produce or dishes. Instead, use a lower stream and scrub by hand.
Use an appropriate amount of detergent. Applying excessive soap requires more vigorous rinsing and unnecessary water use.
Boil pasta in a smaller pot. Though the cooking instructions call for making pasta in a big pot full of water, you don’t really need all that liquid to get the perfect al dente.
Use only what you need. It takes a lot of energy to warm up a full teakettle or to brew your morning cup of joe. Making only what you need can save water and electricity.
Compost. Running the sink disposal uses excessive water, while tossing out food scraps can be wasteful and smelly. If you’re able to, compost. Or, freeze food scraps for a tasty stock when you need ‘em!
Drink tap water. It takes nearly 1.5 gallons of water to produce and manufacture a single bottle, so turn on the tap, and choose the alternative.
Lara Goodrich Ezor is a first-year FPAN student who loves iced water on a hot day, and a hot cup of tea during a snowstorm. She has also perfected the sub-two-minute shower. Learn more about her on our Meet Our Writers page.