Tips on how to conserve food and water

For World Water Day, people are being encouraged to share tips to conserve water and prevent wastage. I have a few of my own. I have been practicing conservation of water and here is my story of how I did it. When I was in an apartment, my shower stopped working. Instead of sending the plumbers to fix it, I started to bathe by filling a bucket up with water and pouring it over me with a mug.

Mostly, I just hear about people conserving water by taking shorter showers, but this is a much better way to bathe. It is just as effective as showers and uses far less water. In addition, because of the effort involved, one prefers to get over with it as quickly as possible. The big problem with showers is that they are very relaxing and one is tempted to spend as long a time as possible with the water running over you. That is far from the case with bucket baths.

I still bathe with buckets because my shower only emits cold water, which I cannot use in winter. What I do is boil a large pot of water and pour it into a bucket filled with cold water so I get warm water to bathe with. When summer comes and bucket bathing is no longer necessary, I shall still continue to do it. It will be very easy by then, as all I will do is fill the bucket with water from the bath handle and pour it over me without feeling very cold in between pours or when I am lathering myself. In addition, one benefit of buckets is the sense of control one has. With showers, water is pouring out endlessly at a constant rate and turning the tabs to control it seems unnecessary. But with buckets, the water pours out when one wants it. It is also good exercise.

There are many other ways of conserving water. Ways of conserving water can be very small. For example, after brushing your teeth, when it is time to rinse out the toothpaste from your mouth, instead of letting the tab run a lot of water over cupped hands to do so, put a small amount of water in a cup and rinse the mouth very hard and long. Spitting out the toothpaste remnants is also a good idea.

Conserving water is a matter of habit and we need to develop the right habits. Many people like to leave their water running while brushing out of carelessness, maybe even because they find the sound pleasant. But I have an irritating feeling inside me about the water running. It is like leaving food outside when my cat is around. I have an urgent desire, more like a duty, to close the water.

Human beings have habits which are ingrained in them, such as making sure the gas is not leaking or making sure that no food is left out uncovered. Similarly, one just needs to develop the habit of conserving not only water but other resources, such as turning unnecessary lights off .

Another habit I have regarding conservation is that I do not like wasting food at all. No matter how full I am or how unpleasant the food is (such as cooked vegetables), I try my utmost to eat it all up without throwing anything. I think this is because my garbage disposal system consists of having to create a disposable bag from scratch every time something needs to be thrown. So, I do not like throwing food away as it results in the creation of garbage. By the way, the type of food that I eat is usually not solid but fluid-like in form, the kind South Asians usually eat with bread. It can be daal chawal (rice mixed with grains), beans, pasta, or cooked vegetables. It is more difficult to throw them away than solid food such as sandwiches. But I do not think this is the whole reason, my brain has been firmly wired to believe the appropriate destination for all food is the stomach.  As a result, I do not like leaving any food uneaten when I am at restaurants. I try to eat up all the food that is put in front of me. If more people behaved the way I did, there would not be so much of a food wasted in the world. A third of the world’s food is wasted while half of the world’s population is malnourished. It is all because of our luxurious habits. The attitude must be cultivated in everybody that everything edible should end up being used.

Perhaps public policies will enable this to happen. That is already happening with people having to pay a much higher price for food then they ever did before, but it does not work for those who don’t value pieces of paper called currency much. For example,  a third of the world’s food is wasted and therefore a third of the money used to buy food is spent in vain. Maybe other things need to be done. What if restaurants have the policy that customers should take the dishes away? That would stop creating food wastage in commercial food places. Harsh measures like making people pay more to buy a licence to install shower in their bath, and weekly food quota for each individual in grocery stores may also help curb wastage of food and water.

I believe that to save the environment, instead of implementing public policies, we should start at home, each and every one of us. This is more effective than people like Al Gore calling for laws to be made at a seminar and then driving off in his SUV.  Al Gore’s SUV is an example of how public policymaking does not bring change. People will call for change from public platform and continue with their harmful habits in private.

The pets people own consume a large percentage of the world’s resources. You all know our oceans are being seriously overfished. What you may not know is that a lot of the fish is eaten by domestic cats and dogs. They take a lot of the food that could have gone to poor people or could have stayed in the environment. What can one do, though? So many people have pets.

One time, I lived in a very large house which had a terrace (in warm climates, where it does not snow, people have terraces and flat rooftops instead of sloped roofs). At night, the place was crawling with insects. I, my mother, and my cat often stayed on the terrace at night. The terrace light attracted insects. My cat ate a lot of insects. One time, he caught and ate a large praying mantis. Many of the insects were large and could sufficiently provide for a cat. I also put some plants out on the terrace which attracted insects. There were also a lot of lizards which my cat often caught and ate with my help.

Ultimately, this never amounted to anything and my cat mostly lived on a diet of biscuits made from beef, chicken, and fish but it has given me ideas on how to feed cats without putting a drain on our resources.

One can make one’s terrace, rooftop, garden, or other place crawl with insects which cats can eat. What I could have done is fill up my terrace with houseplants, put a lot of dirt also on some parts of the ground, put out containers filled with dirt and a mini-habitat in them, and deposit a lot of food everywhere, such as burying vegetable matter in the soil. A huge amount of insects will come, which in turn will attract a lot of lizards. My cat could entirely live off of them. No need to give him fish. An enormous amount of meat and other foods must have gone into producing a small amount of crunchy biscuits.

Such a program of turning the terrace wild also sounds fun. Change should begin right at home. By just focusing on public policy, we seem to think people cannot behave well by themselves. But we can easily encourage them to take their own initiative and think up of creative ways to bring change. I encourage you all to think up ways to help the environment and humanity!







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