Joakim Cimmerbeck explains why and how our resources of water are depleting and what we can do to help steer us clear of drought
We’re serious about sustainability and helping our planet by living more cruelty-free lifestyles here at Honeycombers. Whether you do your part for the planet by only buying eco-friendly fashion or if you have chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you may be interested to learn that the world needs help to save water, and fast. Here, sustainability educator Joakim Cimmerbeck opines on why and how Hong Kong can help get the planet back on track.
Why we need to save water right now
Water. One of the world’s most dwindling natural resources, but despite this fact, I get the feeling we have not yet started to care enough about it. The thing is, we can not live without water, and you may not even realise how huge a part it plays in industries like manufacturing and agriculture.
It’s easy to think about water in its physical form: that cup you are drinking out of right now, what you wash your vegetables in or what you will bathe in tonight. The thing is, water is used everywhere. From your clothes to your car to the pasta you are planning on making for dinner, and it’s the way that it’s used that you don’t see that is depleting our resources.
What uses the largest amounts of water?
The biggest user of our fresh water is the growing industry that exists to feed us and help us with all the things that we need for our everyday life. Around 70% of all water is used in agricultural industry and around 20% for other industrial use, such as fracking, cooling and cleaning. The smallest usage is for our consumption, only around 10%. (1)/(2)
We could simply blame the industry and ask them to stop. However, we are the ones that need to change to enable this, as producers only make what they can sell. They produce what we demand at the price we are prepared to pay. If we enjoy being able to drink water freely and shower daily, then we need to change how we think about water and we need to change dramatically.
So how much water do we have left?
Keep in mind that the planet that we live on is two thirds wet and wonderful. Water we can drink and use for our ever-growing industrial demand equates to less than 2% of it all. The biggest deposit of water we can use is permanently frozen; the ice caps around the poles and Greenland store a lot of our fresh water.
Expressed in numbers it looks something like this: saline water 332 million cubic miles, fresh water 5 million cubic miles and the permanently frozen fresh water is almost 7 million cubic miles. (3)
What can I do to help save water?
Every little thing counts, but as you can see from the statistics it’s not going to make much difference if we only reduce our drinking water. The annual growth of industrial demand is greater that what humans consume in a year, a pretty big statistic to get your head around, but one we we need to think about.
The first and most important thing we need to do is to stop our over consumption. We have too much of everything right now and we need to take stock of what we are buying. We need to balance our consumption and that will lead to a balanced production. If you think about the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra, then we need to target the Reduce part by becoming more conscious consumers.
You might be interested to learn these facts, bearing in mind that one gallon is around the weight of a large bag of potatoes.
- You should drink about half a gallon of water per day
- It takes about 35 gallons of water to produce a bicycle
- It takes about 0.5 gallons of water to make 0.25 gallons of bottled water
- It takes about 630 gallons of water to make a hamburger
- It takes about 1,800 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans
- It takes about 120,000 gallons of water to produce a small car
And on and on and on. The numbers will be different dependent on who you ask, but one thing is certain – whatever the number you believe, it takes a lot of water to make our every day objects. (4)
So think before you purchase. Check this online calculator to see how much water you are using every day. Implement a few small changes in your life that will make a big difference long term. Shower one minute less, turn the tap off when you brush your teeth, eat less processed food, reduce your meat intake and put a filter on your tap and drink tap water.
Drought very well may be visiting our city by the sea in our lifetime. Drought is an unwelcome guest, and once here it will be hard to get rid of it. It’s kind of like the parents-in-law when the first born arrives. Not making too much trouble for the first few days, but from then on, every day is a challenge. The big difference here is that drought will never be appreciated.
Want more info on how to look after the planet in Hong Kong? Read our interview with Nate Green on eating sustainably, see what The Vibe Tribe does to help the environment and find out why being vegan in Hong Kong is easier than you’d think.