By Rachel Chang
September 25, 2019

If you’re anything like me, there’s a hazy period every morning between when the alarm rings and when you finally get out the door. So many things have to happen — somehow I transform from bedhead to presentable human being — but my actions always feel routine.

Somewhere in there, I brush my teeth, never giving much thought as to how…until I was at the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit on Monday and realized how big an effect my teeth-brushing can have on my water bill — and the environment.

As it turns out, the average American wastes 900 cups of water every week from leaving the water running while they brush their teeth — a guilty action that 42% of people admit to doing, according to a survey conducted by Red Fuse Communications. After all, it’s hard to imagine something so mundane mattering much.

“It’s very easy when you hear about these big topics like climate change to think, I’m just one person, how much difference does it really make when I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth every morning,” water activist and ultra-marathoner Mina Guli said during Colgate’s Save Water #EveryDropCounts panel.

But it’s the ripple effect of that simple action — a quick wrist motion that takes less than a second — that adds up when you compound it with the 329 million people living in the U.S.

How you can cut your water bill by 13 percent

Each time someone leaves the water running while they brush, four gallons of water (weighing an astonishing 8.34 pounds) goes down the drain. While that can be hard to picture, think of it this way: a family of four who diligently turns off their faucet every time they brush will save 11,000 gallons a year — more than a month of average water usage.

So by doing this simple action, that household can cut their water use from 12 months to 10-and-a-half months, saving 13 percent on their water bill — about $65 a year for the average household, as David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association, explained.

All that water adds up to about 50 tons of water a year. While it feels like an endless supply is available with a quick turn, it’s simply not the case on this planet. “We’ve got what we’ve got,” LaFrance added. “The idea of wasting it and just letting it go down the faucet or sewer, it just makes common sense [to turn off the tap].”

Consider the global impact of your carbon footprint

While a lower water bill is a nice perk, the water conservation aspect is what helps lessen your carbon footprint. Think about the steps needed to get that water into your cup so easily.

“If you’re lucky enough to have water come into your home, someone has spent a significant amount of energy to clean that water, [it takes] energy to pump that water, and you may heat that water — and then when it goes down the drain, yet again, it usually gets treated and then waste water system uses more energy,” Colgate’s worldwide director of sustainability Vance Merolla explained. “All that embedded energy in the water is really what the carbon connection is.”

“It’s in the power of all of us to do that one action,” says Guli, who attempted to run 100 marathons in 100 days to spread the message of water conservation. “We may not know what is going to happen around the world when we do it. We may not understand the ripple effect, but it’s in our hands every single morning to do one thing that will make a difference — and that is to turn off the tap. It may seem like simple thing to do today. But if we all do it, we can make a huge impact on our climate.”

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