by Kim Bone, Gaia Education & Development

Traveling throughout the North Island over the past few weeks, I have witnessed the countryside turning from a pale shade of green to brown.  With many areas in Aotearoa, New Zealand experiencing near drought or drought conditions, many of us are aware that we have to conserve one of our most precious resources we have – water.

We have been fortunate in the past years, with rainfall at regular intervals, keeping our water levels high and not having to really think about where our water is coming from.  However, this attitude of water being available to us at all times needs to change.  We only need to look towards Australia and areas of USA to see what happens when you have minimal rain fall over months and years, and the devastation that wild fires can cause.

Education is key to teaching everyone the importance of saving water and keeping our waterways clean.

In New Zealand, approximately 50% of our drinking water comes from underground while the remainder comes from surface sources such as rivers and lakes.  Rural New Zealand relies on the collection of rain water for water supply and septic tanks for sewerage disposal.

So, let’s look at some of the quick and easy things that we can do to help conserve the water that we use.  This, by no means, is an exhaustive list of things to do.  I’m sure that you have ideas too on what you can do to save more water also.  The best way that we can make an impact is to start now and to be the best role model we can be.

IN THE BATHROOM

  • Adults need to talk to children about whatever goes down the drain can end up impacting on our environment.
  • The only thing that should be flushed down the toilet is toilet paper.
  • Baby wipes and other waste items should be disposed of in the rubbish.
  • Many people living in rural areas have the saying “if it’s yellow, let me mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down”.  It may be time for all of New Zealand to start to follow this rule and save several litres of water per person per day.
  • When turning the tap on in the morning, the water is normally cold and takes about 15 seconds to warm up. In that time you could stick a plastic milk bottle under the tap and almost fill up 2L of water for your garden for free!
  • Swapping your bath for a shower is another water saving activity.  However, waiting for the shower to warm up can use several litres of water.  Placing a bucket or reusing a plastic milk bottle in the bottom of your shower allows you to collect water that you can then use on your garden.
  • It has been recommended by many city councils that people take showers of no longer than 4 minutes.
  • When we are washing our hands, turning off the tap while foaming up the soap on your hands before rinsing.
  • Using a cup of water to brush your teeth is an excellent way of seeing how much water you don’t need while cleaning your teeth!

IN THE KITCHEN

  • Cooking oils should not be tipped down the sink but reused or wiped out and placed into the rubbish.
  • Stop using your waste disposal unit for getting rid of food waste. Start a composting system. Utilising the waste disposal unit uses several litres of water.  Composting food waste also is a good way of getting more nutrients into your soil. The more nutrient your soil is (and mulched), the less frequent your watering.
  • At the end of the day when you are cleaning out lunch boxes and water bottles, tip any water from water bottles onto your plants.  Water used to boil eggs or vegetables can also be saved and used in the garden.
  • Storing bottles of water in the fridge is a better way of getting a cold glass of water than running the tap and waiting for the water to turn cold.

COLLECTING RAINWATER

  • Collecting and using rainwater can be used for many tasks, such as watering the garden and washing the car.  With a slightly more sophisticated system, collected rain water can also be used for supplying water to washing machines and toilets or topping up swimming pools or spas.
  • Setting up a simple system in your garden to collect rain water only requires a large plastic drum, plastic piping and a few bricks.  YouTube has many tutorials on how to build simple rainwater collection systems that will allow you to collect water for your garden.
  • Many local councils also have resources available and have incentives for having rainwater systems in place.  Start your research by visiting your local councils’ websites to see what is available to you in your region.
  • At Gaia ED, we have supported centres in developing their sustainable practices, which has led them to win the “2018 Most Sustainable Business Practices Award”. We have created a sustainability audit process and professional workshops on building on your sustainable practices.  If you would like to find out more about what we provide, please contact us via email info@gaiaeducation.co.nz

Because our environment is under such pressure at the moment due to population growth and climate change, it is vitally important that we teach our children to be respectful of our environment and appreciate how precious water is to our existence.  We need to ensure that children have the appreciation in place now to help them in solving the water problems they will face in the future. A timely event coming up is the UN World Water Day on the 22nd of March, where you and your community can raise awareness and share all the clever things you are doing in your centre and homes.

For more information on how Gaia Education & Development can support your centre to reach award winning performance in sustainability,  please contact us:

  • Our Study Tours take you to centres around the world, where you can see, be inspired by and learn from teachers and children being OK with risky play.
  • Our 1-1 Mentoring is a supportive and reflective space for you to explore, test and develop your own sense of facilitating, guiding, scaffolding and planning risks in play.
  • Our Centre Quality Audits provide a good balance between ‘risky play’ and ‘risky business’.