Saturday, August 25, 2007

Day Fifty-Six - Showing My Pearly Whites

Brushing My Teeth with Less Water Waste

We all know what a precious resource our fresh water supply is and how we should do everything we can to minimize waste, right? After all, we've been told since the 70's to shut the water off when we're brushing our teeth -- and with good reason. The average bathroom faucet has a flow rate of 3 - 5 gallons per minute. If you're a good kid, and brush for two minutes you could be wasting upwards of 10 gallons of water just to clean your teeth. But none of us are that wasteful, right?

I know I'm not. I've never been a faucet-runner. But, me and my OCD personality got stuck on this teeth-brushing issue so I decided to see if I could improve on the suggested "turn the water off while you brush" mantra. It seems like I waste a lot of water just cleaning off the brush and rinsing my mouth.

So one morning this week I put a bowl in my sink to catch the water as I went about my bi-daily brush. I turned the faucet on to wet the brush then shut it off while I scrub-a-dub-dubbed. Turn the tap on again to rinse the bristles and stick my head under the faucet for a couple of gulps to swish and spit. When I measured the output, I found that I used 40 ounces (about .3125 gallons) to clean with. Better than ten gallons, but definitely could be improved upon.

Since I'm trying to lessen any and all aspects of my eco-footprint, I figured this would be an easy way to shrink my water use. That night I took a small cup of water (about 2 ounces) in with me for the brushing to see what I could come up with. Here's my new routine:

  1. Dunk brush head in water cup to moisten.
  2. Apply toothpaste and brush.
  3. Rinse mouth with half the water in the cup.
  4. Use the rest of the water to swish the brush head around in to remove the toothpaste residue.
  5. Dump any remaining water.

Easy peasy. A very, very small change, but a change nonetheless. Starts my day off right by knowing I've found a new way to save 76 ounces a day. It's also a good reminder of how every action, no matter how seeminly inconsequential, an impact on our world. Even if I just used the cup for rinsing, rather than sticking my head under the faucet, I estimate I would save at least 40 ounces a day.


Two hundred twenty eight gallons every year. Not bad at all.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Again, this is another chore that is so ingrained, so habitual, that it's difficult to not automatically turn on the faucet and brush the old way. Once I get used to the new way of brushing, it will be just as easy as before. And I'm sure this change would be ADA approved. :-)

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