Canada has about 20% of the world’s freshwater supply, but, despite what many think, water is still a scarce and valuable resource that needs to be protected. Only 7% of that water supply is accessible and renewable. Even with decreasing water usage, distributing that water to everyone who needs it remains a challenge, especially with changing levels of demand throughout the country.
For this reason, it’s crucial to find as many different ways to reduce your water consumption as possible. Although important, using less water at home isn’t enough — you should also strive to save water wherever you can. For many, this means reducing water consumption in the workplace.
Work is likely where you spend most of your time when you aren’t at home, offering the biggest opportunity for you to cut back. Further, if you own your business or are part of company leadership, you’re in a unique position to make larger changes in your workplace that have a tangible impact. No matter where you work, here’s what you can do to save water in your workplace:
General Assessment and Audit
Before anything else, conduct a water conservation audit. You need to know the state of your water usage, including how much you use, when it is being used, and what it is being used for, to determine the best ways to cut back.
Doing an audit also establishes a clear baseline of your water usage. In the future, you can assess your water usage again and see how it compares to the original audit. With both audits, you can see if your conservation efforts are having their intended effect.
You can start with a quick checklist to understand your current habits, similar to what you would do at home. To get a true understanding of your water usage, though, you’ll probably need to find a professional to conduct a more thorough audit.
When it comes to saving water, the fixtures in your building’s kitchen and bathrooms are a great starting point. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), replacing old, traditional faucets with low-flow models can reduce water flow by at least 30% and save hundreds of litres of water annually. Similarly, the EPA estimates that, in a 10-story office building, switching to low-flow toilets can save millions of litres of water each year.
To make your bathrooms more efficient, it’s best to replace your sink faucets, toilets, and urinals with low-flow alternatives. If you have on-site showers, you can do the same with your shower faucets.
If you have a kitchen in your workplace, you can make similar changes by installing more efficient kitchen faucets as well. In addition, consider installing aerators on all of your faucets. They combine the water from the faucet with air, resulting in a fine mist that uses even less water.
Take the time to educate other people in your workplace — including your employees and coworkers — about the importance of water conservation. Your actions will have a greater impact if everyone in your workplace makes a conscious effort to save water.
Some people may not be aware of the need to conserve water, or the best way to go about it. Others may simply not realize the importance of conserving water at work, despite making efforts to do so at home.
Make sure employees and coworkers know that the organization is committed to saving water. You can incorporate this information into the company handbook so current and future employees understand these policies.
In addition, you can hold a meeting to discuss new expectations for water use at work. After the fact, send out a newsletter with this information, so people can refer back to it as needed. Consider sending out water conservation tips periodically to ensure that education is ongoing.
Install signage in your workplace reminding employees to save water. This is a simple but highly effective way to remind employees about conservation best practices. For maximum effect, place these signs near any area where people can use water, including in the bathroom and kitchen.
Don’t just remind employees about the importance of water conservation; provide tips to help them do so, such as reminding people to turn off the sink while lathering soap until they are ready to rinse their hands. This actionable information is more likely to affect people’s behaviour than simply re-stating the need to reduce water use.
You should also provide the opportunity for employees to compost their food scraps and coffee grounds. Not only does composting have environmental benefits, but it can also help save water, especially if you have a garbage disposal. Instead of turning on the water to run the disposal, employees can simply place food scraps in the compost bin. This also increases the longevity of your disposal.
Landscaping and the Outdoors
Water conservation extends far beyond the walls of your workplace; it also applies to your landscaping and the area around your workplace.
Make the landscaping surrounding your building more sustainable. Consider planting native plants, as well as plants that are drought-resistant or don’t require a lot of water. You can also look into landscaping ideas that don’t require any water, such as hardscaping, rockscaping, and xeriscaping. That way, your landscaping can thrive while relying solely upon naturally occurring water and rain.
If your landscaping does require water, assess your current irrigation system. You may be able to find a more efficient system that uses less water, such as drip irrigation instead of sprinklers. Some irrigation systems even have sensors that automatically turn the system off when it rains; this ensures you don’t use water unnecessarily or overwater your landscaping.
Change your irrigation habits to reduce water usage. This includes watering in the morning rather than the middle of the day, so the water soaks into the soil instead of evaporating in the sun. You can also collect rainwater and save it for later watering.
Finally, do your best to stay on top of plumbing and irrigation maintenance. Plumbing issues are responsible for wasting a significant amount of water. Exact measurements depend on your specific fixtures, but a leaky faucet can waste thousands of litres of water in a single year.
Your maintenance should include looking for leaks in faucets and pipes and getting them repaired quickly if you find any. You should also have your drains cleaned periodically. This will help your plumbing system work as efficiently as possible and ensure no water is wasted.
Going green is a process, and it’ll take time to figure out what conservation methods work best for you. Don’t hesitate to try new things or come up with creative solutions unique to your workplace. It will also take time to see the effects of your efforts. However, it’s well worth that effort if it results in a reduction of your water usage.