Simple Measures Can Really Add Up
By Marci B. Reed, CFRE, MPA, Chief Officer, Development and Communications, Southface
Summer is upon us. As temperatures rise, thoughts turn to a dip in the pool or a nice, cold shower. And while May 2015 was the wettest month in the nation since 1895, soon conversations in many parts of the country will turn to talk of watering restrictions and water conservation.
The Georgia Water Stewardship Act went into effect statewide on June 2, 2010. It limits daily outdoor watering for purposes of planting, growing, managing, or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs or other plants. Further, it permits watering only between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. for anyone whose water is supplied by a water system permitted by the Environmental Protection Division. The full list of restrictions and exemptions can be found here.
Recently at Southface, we tried an experiment to limit water use. Challenged to reduce our water consumption by 20 percent in order to meet the requirements of the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, we decided to monitor our behavior in an easy, low-tech way. Clipboards with pens and stopwatches hung by every kitchen sink and in each restroom. Staff members were asked to describe their activity (wash hands, rinse recycling, brush teeth, etc.), how long the water ran and how many times toilets were flushed. The results were recorded daily for one month.
The next month, large sticky notes appeared around the Southface campus asking for staff suggestions on how we could save water. The third month, infographics appeared on the restroom doors indicating how much water is consumed by one month’s exclusive use of that water closet. Our facility manager, Stephen Ward, made signs encouraging staff in the Resource Center to considering stretching our legs and walking to the adjacent Eco Office to use the composting toilets (1.2 ounces of water each use versus 1.6 gallons per flush in the oldest Resource Center restroom). Spray bottles and brushes appeared at kitchen sinks with the suggestion to spray dishes with the soapy water and scrub with the brush before turning on the faucet, while a sign above encouraged us by stating: “Thanks for saving water, you sexy thang.”
The result? We exceeded our goal of 20 percent reduction in water use through behavior change and raised awareness.
When my sister introduces me to strangers she says: “This is my little sister who is trying to save the world. She takes MARTA to my house to prove it can be done and reports which of my neighbors is watering on the wrong day.” Is she teasing me? A little. But the fact of the matter is, even somewhere like Southface, where staff members are already inclined to conserve, simple measures can still really add up.