Earth Day 2014: 100% Participation in Building Greener Cities

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – April 22, 2014 – Comment

Remember the “formative” years of Earth Day when everyone was encouraged to turn off the lights for just one hour? Almost everyone’s response was to question, “Is 60 minutes of no electricity in my one little house/room/apartment really going to have any kind of impact?” Still, some gave it a shot that first year… and more and more followed suit with every passing Earth Day.

This “lights off” exercise taught the power of participation, and today still demonstrates a founding dynamic not just of Earth Day, but of the entire movement to create a greener, more sustainable world. Whether it’s advancements in solar power applications and adoption of use, energy independent homes, or water leak detection technology, every giant leap has started with small steps.

Just like in the early years of Earth Day – the participation factor may have seemed insignificant… a lamp turned off here, a water-efficient washer installed there. But, the “smaller,” more do-able actions lead to bigger efforts, and empowered by that action, people made an even more significant change. Now, we know of entire communities who have made greener practices not just a “sometimes thing,” but a way of living.

Even those of us in the water industry have evolved from this step-to-bigger-step process; it’s inherent to what we do since the beginning of large-scale water supply in the 18th century. One priority has always been to assure the dependable delivery of quality in a way that minimizes leakage and waste of our most precious resource. Having advanced toward that goal, the momentum took us to innovating ways to treat and deliver water while better preserving other resources… new, more energy-efficient systems were born. Today, we utilize technologies that range from reverse osmosis desalination and ultra-violet disinfection to leak detection systems that prevent losses of treated water and more complex innovations that create efficiencies in energy use. And on this foundation, the next generation of innovation will surely follow!

In the spirit of Earth Day and its 2014 theme of “Green Cities,” Dr. Water encourages everyone to take bigger steps this month. Water-responsible actions such as these can play a crucial role in sustainability, energy savings and ultimately the greening of cities:

  • Regularly check for leaking toilets, pipes and faucets – indoors and outdoors – and repair them promptly.
  • Be conscious of your daily water use and take even simple steps to use less, such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, only running full loads in the clothes and dish washer, using a broom instead of a hose to clear off sidewalks.
  • Consider replacing old fixtures with water efficient ones, such as those with the EPA WaterSense label.
  • Avoid purchasing bottled water; in addition to being more expensive and less stringently regulated as tap, the bottles themselves are less environmentally friendly and carry a larger water footprint.
  • Take care in the use and disposal of garden, lawn or other home products and ensure that they do not find their way into groundwater.
  • Dispose of unused or expired medicines properly. Do not pour them directly into home drains, the sewer or the lawn, and do not flush them down the toilet.

Can you imagine if 100% of the people in the U.S. put these six steps into practice every day? Granted, 100% participation may be an ideal, but each generation gets closer to reaching it. But for now, you can make sure you are among the percentage who do take all the steps, and that alone is one of the best ways to celebrate Earth day every day.