Greener, Cheaper, Better Shaving

ESSAY - 2 Gallons at a Time


Essay - 2 Gallons at a Time


The Albatross founder lives on a sailboat.  He believes, at least for the time being, that doing such enables him to more clearly think about environmental issues.  Here is one such thought process.  


When I first moved onto a sailboat to live, a primary problem that needed to be resolved was my water situation.  The water tanks were not usable and solving that issue cost a bit of money I didn't want to spend yet and would require a bit of time I didn't have.  I could have also decided to connect a hose with fitting and in essence have running water.  This may come at some point, but I have fallen in love with using my water 2 gallons at a time.


I am not suggesting others follow my suit, but as an unplanned experience I have gained a great appreciation for the potential impacts created by water scarcity.  I have come to value water so much more than I previously did, and how and how much I use it illustrates this.  


To be fair, I am reasonably adept at using water frugally -- a necessary skill for offshore sailing.  However, before my enlightenment, when I had access to running water at my home, I undoubtedly used a lot/ wasted water.  So, what are the differences between then and now?


First, we must start at the beginning of my water cycle: Acquisition.  I have 2 one gallon jugs that I carry to a sink located in a building just off the docks when I fill them up.  There are many implications created by this process.  Water is heavy and voluminous.  I can put the jugs in my backpack, but then I have very little room for other things.  Still, it's water… it's worth it!  But, the endeavor itself takes about 5 - 7 minutes.  


The difficulty, inconvenience, of acquiring water is likely my biggest deterrent for wasting water.  This difficulty though, like so many other things, gives birth to beautiful purposefulness.  


My daily routine is now quite diligent.  I am highly efficient in how I brush my teeth, cook, do dishes, etc.  When it comes to dishes I boil water in a kettle and use a mixture of hot and cold water as efficiently as possible to make the least amount of water go the farthest.  Perhaps I will film this effort sometime.  I have gotten quite good!


This so called diligence that I mention encompasses an entire process of constant thought about how to make less water go farther.  When I brush my teeth and am pouring water out of a jug and onto my toothbrush, I try to waste as little as possible down the drain.  This is far different from the old standard of letting the water run while brushing.  I am also always increasing my efficiency at getting water when it is convenient to do so, when I will be walking by a sink and coming back shortly after.  


The other day I was entertaining a group of 8, and with that many dishes among the other reasons, I needed to go refill the water jugs.  It was raining, and the timing was less than ideal.  Someone asked me why I didn’t get a couple more jugs because they were so cheap, and it appeared that I would most definitely get a great deal of utility out of the additional water reserves.  I replied that it would help in situations like this, but that I could only carry 2 at a time… and in fact really didn’t need that much water on a daily basis.  


More jugs would serve to complicate things for me.  The typical guide for sailing recommends bringing 1 gallon of water per person per day, plus at least a 50% reserve of the total in case of emergencies.  Why do we always strive for more when enough is the appropriate amount?  


Discovering just how much convenience modern plumbing provides us with has led to a greater appreciation for a myriad of other scarce, and amazing, things.  You’d be amazed how far I now make a roll of paper towels go!  Using non-durable goods in general has become both a challenge in the sense that I try to maximize the use I get out of them and a challenge morally because I find it almost absurd to use things more-or-less once before throwing them away.  When we consider all that must happen in order for us to get, say, a coffee in a to-go cup, it is nothing short of unbelievable that after all the effort to create the cup, it is used for perhaps 15 minutes before being thrown away.  We literally must drill thousands of feet into the ground and extract oil, refine this oil into plastic and fuel (for the transport of the cups and raw materials), refine corn into a coating for the inside of the paper (read: processed, cut down trees), etc.  All that work for 15 minutes of use!  

My point in writing this is that we must become conscious of our own individual, daily impacts upon the world.  Some may say that using 1 vs. 3 paper towels when drying your hands in a restaurant bathroom ultimately makes no difference; however, if you were on a boat in the middle of the ocean, or even the middle of a marina, you’d likely try hard to use as few paper towels as possible.  I believe we must begin to take this approach on a global scale.  Transitioning out of the disposable economy will not happen overnight, but it certainly can happen, and needs to happen.  Let’s try to be better performing individuals in this area of sustainability.  Keep the facts of your newfound discipline to waste less private.  Lead by doing, by example, and don’t make a big deal about saving 1 napkin at a time or refilling your water bottle instead of buying another disposable one.  But, do save that 1 napkin if you don’t really need it!