You are earth, air, fire, water, imagination, creativity, consciousness, time and space – you have all this in your soul, in your genes and in your cells. You are billions of years old.
I was recently introduced to the wonderful work of Satish Kumar by a friend. He points out that our old catch-phrases that guide our lives – such as,“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – are too human-centric, and exclude nature. Kumar proposes a new trinity for us to live by: soil, soul, and society.
After reading his brilliant piece on why we should seize this new adage, I found myself inspired to relate his teachings with our attitudes and practices surrounding water. Kumar shares many of the same philosophies as author and water-lover Alick Bartholomew, encouraging a holistic approach to living, including our relationship with water – our life source.
You may have heard the fact floating around that Americans use twice as much water as Europeans. Why might this be? My thoughts are that it is primarily due to a lack of awareness of both water shortage and our own water usage. If we haven’t been taught the ins and outs of how many gallons we use whenever we draw baths, for example, it is understandable that it’s simply not on our minds when we’re lying back in the tub, relaxing. If we’ve never been in a situation where we have lacked access to safe, drinkable water, it makes sense that we perhaps don’t value and respect our clean water as much as we ought to.
Happily, change is always possible. Relating it to the broader picture, Kumar says:
“Social systems can be changed (…) The ones we have now are not very old. The trouble is we are driven by fear and so we make panic decisions, like opting for nuclear power. At the moment, our culture is of violence – to nature, animals, people, ourselves. We are not protecting nature these days so much as managing it without knowing it. If you want to protect it, go out in it.”
Kumar advocates that we get out into nature and connect with our Mother Earth through activities such as walking and practicing conscious awareness of our universe. He describes the trinity of soil, soul, and society quite beautifully, in both his writing and public speaking.
Regarding our tendency toward self-centered thinking, Kumar reminds us:
“Even the words adopted by the New Age movement – ‘mind, body, spirit’ – refer to the human mind, human body and human spirit. It’s an anthropocentric worldview – the view that human beings are at the centre of the universe.” When we look outside ourselves, we can actually feel much more connected.
True words. So how, then, can we begin to mend the current disconnection that exists between our wondrous water world and our everyday actions that devalue this source of life?
For starters, we can ask ourselves questions about our daily relationship with water. How much do we use? Why? How? To help us, National Geographic has a handy feature on its interactive website that calculates an estimate of the amount of water we use. Tabulating our water footprints not only increases our awareness of the role water plays in our lives, it also gives us tips on small changes we can make to decrease our unnecessarily large consumption:
“Know this: The average American lifestyle is kept afloat by about 2,000 gallons of H2O a day—twice the global average. The bright side: By pledging to cut your water footprint, you can help restore freshwater ecosystems. So far 66,473 people have used this tool, promising to save 13,412,982 gallons of water.”
Twice the global average. There it is again — that unflattering comparison of water usage. But what if we stopped comparing, and simply focused on increasing our understanding of why we use so much, and how we can make achievable shifts in our everyday lives?
To help us in our quest, another useful online resource shares over 100 ideas for decreasing our daily usage. I am particularly partial to their advice for kids, since the thoughts are simple, fun, and sometimes surprising.
Small steps to change
As I was reading through, I noticed that my sense of urgency to conserve water increased as I read more facts about how much we actually use. And, of course, certain tips resonated with me more, depending on my own relationship with them.
For example, I love taking hot baths. But I wasn’t aware that one full bathtub can use up to 70 gallons of water! To me, one simple solution to a bath-lover’s extreme water consumption is simply making the commitment to cutting down on time in the tub. If we usually take a bath once every two days, why not try having only one per week? Once we adjust to once per week, we can then up the ante to once every two weeks, and so on. Slow, tiny steps. If it helps to motivate you, I am proud to share that I have had exactly five baths during the past year! Even though this is mainly because I’ve been living in places without bathtubs, I still take pride in my step in the right direction.
Another key area that we can save water in is during our showers. By shortening our time in the shower by even one or two minutes, we can save up to 150 gallons of water per month! Knowing that we can save so much water by making such a slight change in our daily habits is really motivating to me. I feel excited to consciously make these shifts when I understand what the positive effects will be.
Washing clothes is the other main area of my life where I can improve upon my water usage. Similar to baths, I haven’t had access to a washing machine for about a year now, due to traveling. But one tip I remember my mom giving me is to always use cold water for colorful clothes. This helps to keep your clothing’s color strong, while also conserving energy and water. When I do return to having a washing machine, I’ll be sure to get back into this easy habit.
Lastly, we can make the effort to think of the many ways in which we can recycle our water at home. If we have pets and find ourselves emptying their unused water down the sink drain, why not use that water to instead water our plants, or outdoor trees? Tiny acts like this really do make a difference to our overall water consumption, while actively tuning our minds to our relationship with water, and our natural world.
Conscious actions that align with our integrity will serve to move us forward in our connection with our universe.
Below are my favorite water conservation tips that are easy, but which will make a big impact on our earth.
1. When shopping for a new washing machine, compare resource savings among Energy Star models. Some can save up to 20 gallons of water per load.
If you’re in the market for a new machine, be a conscious consumer and purchase an energy saving model. This is one of the simplest ways to change our water usage.
2. Time your shower to keep it under 5 minutes. You’ll save up to 1,000 gallons per month.
Easy! Enlisting a 5 minute shower rule in our household will contribute to the health of the environment, and make us feel strong about our choices.
3. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save up to 4 gallons a minute. That’s up to 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
This is a great one for kids to help them become aware of their water usage. Make it a game at bedtime and in the morning to teach them how to consciously care for their earth.
Shifting from selfish to society
When I think about the plans I’m making to improve my own relationship with water, it becomes apparent that, in the end, everything relates back to the premise of Soil, Soul and Society. When we stop thinking about living for our own individual interest, and start living with the soul of the universe in our hearts, our choices become more conscious and clear. Everyone reaps the rewards, including our fellow humans, animals, and – most importantly – nature. Choosing to act respectfully toward the environment as a whole draws us closer to our source, as our souls become delicately interlaced with the intricately woven fabric of our universe.
As Kumar wisely advises:
Let us make a shift from self-interest to mutual-interest of whole human society. If we can have a holistic view of soil, soul and society, if we can understand the interdependence of all living beings, and understand that all living creatures – from trees to worms to humans – depend on each other, then we can live in harmony with ourselves, with other people and with nature.