As a designer, you have the potential to make a big impact on water conservation and promote yourself as environmentally responsible in the process.
What does it mean to be an eco-responsible designer? When it comes to conserving water, it means a lot. Clients want to feel good about the products and services they are using, but they also want to know what’s in it for them. Becoming a resource for water-saving, money-saving products that are also affordable and stylish sends the message that the designer not only keeps up to date on the latest products, but is also a responsible steward of the planet. The EPA’s WaterSense labeling program for water-conserving products, such as bath faucets, showerheads, and toilets,is an excellent step in that direction.
Q: Why is water conservation important?
A: Water is pretty much like energy—it doesn’t diminish in quantity—we are literally bathing in the same water that rained on the dinosaurs. The problem is distribution. While there is enough freshwater to meet the world’s current needs, it’s not always available where and when it's needed. This is becoming more and more of a problem.
For example, when someone waters the lawn, some will seep into the ground and work its way back into the supply and some will evaporate into the atmosphere. So it all goes back into the supply or creates clouds and rain, right? Yes—however, it can take years, even decades for water to get to a groundwater source and as the population continues to increase, these sources are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. And those clouds? They can form several states away (if it always rained exactly where water evaporated, it would be constantly raining over the ocean). Still not convinced? According to the Huffington Post, Americans today are using more than twice as much water as they did in 1950. The issues with surface water sources (lakes, rivers, streams) are no less real. The bottom line is that there are solid environmental reasons for conserving water.
Q: What can designers do to encourage water conservation?
A: In a recent interview with the U.S. Green Building Council, Randy Fiser, executive vice president of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) said, “At least two-thirds of the U.S. has experienced or is expected to experience water shortages. Reducing the amount of water we use is imperative and one of the easiest solutions is to improve water efficiency of kitchen and bath fixtures and appliances.”
He continued, “If every household in America installed a water-efficient faucet, the U.S. could save 60 billion gallons of water annually. From a commercial perspective, a small office with as few as 10 employees can save about 69,000 gallons of water and $420 in water bills in a single year if they replace just one toilet. Scale that up to a 500-room hotel and you get a sense of the impact interior designers have on their clients’ pocketbooks as well as the environment.
Specifying water-efficient fixtures is just one example of something interior designers can do on a daily basis that makes a real impact one project at a time.
Consider the following statistics:
The average family of 4 uses 400 gallons of water a day.
Over half of all water use inside a home takes place in the bathroom
The average home can use 30 percent less water and save $170 a year by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
Using WaterSense labeled faucets alone could reduce faucet water use by more than 500 gallons per year in a single household.
Q: So what is WaterSense?
A: Since it was initiated in 2006, the EPA’s WaterSense program has been providing a simple way for designers to help their clients use less water and save on utility bills by integrating WaterSense labeled bath faucets, showerheads, and toilets. WaterSense products meet the EPA's criteria for water efficiency and performance.
One of the program’s key points is that consumers should be able to save water with products that don’t compromise on performance. In fact, products that earn the WaterSense label are required to be at least 20 percent more efficient than standard products without sacrificing performance. An example istoilets that use 1.28 gallons or less per flush while performing better than most toilets that meet the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush.
What all this means to designers is that they can confidently recommend WaterSense products to their clients and earn the right to market themselves as environmental champions in the process.
Q: What are some other ways for clients to conserve water?
A: Providing realistic and insightful tips (such as the following) that also save their clients money, is a good way for designers to own the environmental expert niche.
Get a Free Leak Check Up: In some communities, a water utility rep will check buildings for hidden water leaks and leaking pipes free of charge.
Throw, Don't Flush: Don’t flush anything in the toilet that can go in the trashcan.
Keep Drinking Water in the Fridge: This means wasting less water (and time) waiting for the tap to cool down.
Avoid Permanent Press: Some older washing machines have a permanent press cycle (which uses an extra rinse cycle).
Water Houseplants with Ice Cubes: Because ice cubes absorb slowly, excess water won’t run out of the container.
Reuse Old Water:Get in the habit of never throwing water away. For example, an unused cup of water on the nightstand can be used to water a houseplant
Capture Warm-Up Water: While waiting for the hot water to reach the tap, place a bowl or bucket under the faucet to capture warm-up water. This can be used to rinse dishes, wash veggies or water the garden.
Mow Grass Less Often and Cut it Longer: Taller grass means less water evaporation.
Favor the Car Wash over DIY: Most car washes capture, clean and reuse the water.
Monitor Water Bills: Investigate any peak in consumption.
A great addition to an environmental expert toolbox is the distribution of WaterSense fact sheets to clients and prospects. The following are URLs to downloadable versions: