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Sustainably Speaking

Conserving water through education

In April I went to the Kitchen Bath and Industry Show and IAPMO’s Green Technical Committee meeting. At both events water was a key topic. At KBIS, 99% of the plumbing fixtures I saw at the trade show conserved water, from toilets and showers to kitchen and bath faucets (click here to read Contractor’s KBIS coverage). It seems to me that most companies realize water conservation is not going away — it’s becoming a bigger and bigger trend. Also, during the show, I attended an industry luncheon that David Kohler, president and chief operating officer of Kohler Co., spoke at.

Kohler noted that water, along with water quality, is a huge issue because it is becoming scarce these days. He also mentioned that there is a significant change in consumers’ attitudes about water conservation, and water regulations, codes and standards will change in the near future to conserve water and improve water quality. He also mentioned that water rates may need to increase in order to change consumers’ attitudes about water use.

While at IAMPO’s Green Technical Committee meeting, members discussed some of the same topics Kohler mentioned at KBIS. Once again, there was discussion about changing consumers’ attitudes regarding water use, and the possibility of increasing water rates (click here to read the article about the Green Technical Committee meeting).

"As a professional installer and someone who is involved in the code world, our principal focus needs to be on protecting the public health and safety today,” Bill Erickson, chairman of IAPMO’s GTC, told CONTRACTOR. “We have to be mindful of the fact that this country wastes an incredible amount of water, and it’s only a matter of time before regions of this country that don’t have a water problem now will have a water problem. We have to look at the practical part of this — the public health and safety — and be thoughtful of where this is going in the future.

“I don’t think the answer is to raise the price of water,” Erickson added. “It’s through education and consistent effort by code and energy officials to promote water and energy conservation with respect to water. Whether you pump it, heat it or treat it, it all takes energy, which we are trying to reduce with the Green Supplement.”

I agree with Erickson. Personally I don’t think that an increase in water rates will decrease water use in the U.S. that dramatically. Instead I believe education is the key to changing attitudes about water use before increasing the cost of water. And I think the main place to start with education is in the school systems. When kids start learning about natural resources, conservation should be a key topic discussed in the classroom. And as children go from elementary school to middle school, then on to high school, they should learn more and more about natural resources and sustainable measures. After all, many colleges and universities now offer sustainability programs, so why not start exposing children early on to sustainability? Why wait until college to start studying this? If kids learn about water and energy conservation at school, plus recycling, they will probably take these lessons home, which would probably trickle up to the adults in the house.

Some schools have already added sustainability to their curriculum — some intertwine sustainability into lesson plans and other schools have lessons specifically on sustainability. For example, Chicago Public Schools has an Environmental Action Plan, teaching students to be environmental stewards.

Regardless of the way sustainability is taught in primary and secondary schools, it is important that it is done. The sooner the better since future generations and current generations need to understand what it means to conserve resources and why conservation is important and must be done.

TAGS: Showers