How to Reduce the Amount of Water You Use While Traveling

Aug 12, 2019

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Of all the water to be found on Earth’s surface, less than 1% is fresh water that is suitable for human use — whether in rivers, lakes, the atmosphere or groundwater.

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This 1% is under threat from rapidly growing populations, higher living standards, resource-intensive farming and climate change. Water scarcity is a recognized global problem and, as a result, we are encouraged to reduce our water use while at home in order to conserve water and to decrease our bills. However, there is relatively little information available to help us to cut back on water use while traveling.

Peak tourism seasons tend to occur in the driest months of the year. Water use is often significantly higher for hotel guests in comparison to locals, with this disparity being greatest in low- or mid-income countries. It is not only the volume of water used for tourism that is a concern, but also the amount of wastewater that is generated as a result. Many countries simply don’t have the infrastructure to correctly process this, leading to many hotels dumping their wastewater into open waterways, such as the sea.

Related: What You Can Do if You’re Traveling During an Environmental Crisis

A recent study by the UK’s Environment Agency showed hotels could reduce the amount of water consumed per guest per night by up to 50% by making adjustments to their properties. This includes everything from educating customers about water issues, installing water-efficient features such as rainwater harvesting and using profits to support water charities.

Have Showers Instead of Baths

The largest amount of water that hotels use daily is from guests’ bathroom use. There are a few things you can do to help reduce this statistic, such as turning the tap off while brushing your teeth, and showering instead of taking a bath.

On average, it takes about 30 gallons of water to fill up a bath. In comparison, a short shower of about five minutes could more than halve that water use to about 13 gallons. If you wanted to go all-out on reducing your impact while washing, you could even have a cold shower — the colder the water, the less energy that’s required to heat it.

Keep the “Do Not Disturb” Sign on Your Door

If the “Do not Disturb” sign isn’t on your door, then housekeeping will likely service your room daily. They will use water for cleaning, particularly in the bathrooms. If your room is not dirty and does not need cleaning, then leave the sign on your door and skip housekeeping for a day or two.

Similarly, opt to not have your towels and linens changed daily. Hotel laundry accounts for up to 16% of a hotel’s daily water use (a close second after toilets and showers), so opting to re-use towels and linens will drastically reduce this. Additionally, it will save a significant amount of energy in terms of washing, drying, ironing and eventually restocking those items.

Handwash Laundry

Typically, hotels will wash each guest’s laundry separately. So, if you don’t have enough for a full load of clothes, it would be much better to simply handwash the few items that you need to clean for your stay.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 30: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created as a still grab taken from video.) Cape Town residents queue to refill water bottles at Newlands Brewery Spring Water Point on January 30, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. Diminishing water supplies may lead to the taps being turned off for the four millions inhabitants of Cape Town on April 16 2018, known locally as Day Zero. Water will be restricted from 87 litres per day to 50 litres as temperatures reach 28 degrees later this week. Politicians are blaming each other and residents for the deepening crisis. (Photo by Morgana Wingard/Getty Images)
Cape Town residents queue to refill water bottles on January 30, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Morgana Wingard/Getty Images)

Take a Filter With You

When visiting countries with potentially unsafe drinking water, purifying the water that comes out of the tap at your hotel is a great way to reduce your environmental impact, both in terms of water use, as well as avoiding buying bottled water, which usually comes in single-use plastic bottles. Two great options are the Drinksafe Travel Tap or the Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier.

Make Conscious Food Choices

A big way to reduce your water use while on vacation is by thinking about what food you are consuming. Some types of food require significantly more water to be produced than others — specifically, animal-based products require more water than vegan ones. Making conscious decisions about food choices when eating meals during your trip can massively reduce your water use and the total carbon footprint for your trip.

Support a Clean Water Charity

Another great way to help reverse your environmental impact is by donating money to a clean water charity. The best would be to donate to a charity that is local to where you have visited, but some other great ones are the Clean Water Fund and The Water Project.

Featured photo courtesy Getty Images.

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