I wrote this article in mid August while in Ontario visiting family and friends. Keeping up with the elephant apprenticeship was tricky during this time, so I am pleased to see this article has now been published.
It was just another day at the local Starbucks as I began to wash my hands in the bathroom.
The taps were the kind that you manually flip up or down, not the automatic kind. I had just lathered my hands with soap as I noticed the tap at the sink next to me was on in full-force with water flowing fiercely into the sink.
I did not see anyone standing in front of the sink, so I reached over and pushed the tap down to turn it off. I continued to concentrate on lathering the soap into my hands and paid no attention to how, or why the tap was left running. It really didn’t matter anyway. I was happy that the water ceased to flow unnecessarily down the drain.
Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I suddenly noticed an older woman appear in front of the other sink. As I noticed her, she spoke up. “Did the water running bother you?” she questioned me.
I took a moment to think. Did the wasted water bother me? I took somewhat of a deep breath and softly replied, “Yeah, I guess it did.”
I rinsed my soapy hands and turned toward the hand dryer. But before I could use it, she piped up, somewhat aggressively. “What? Oh, no. Two minutes of water running isn’t going to hurt anything.” I could see she was becoming angry through the mirror. Her frizzy grey hair seemed to grow messier with her frustration. I felt I should leave quickly so I decided to grab a paper towel in lieu of the more environmentally friendly hand dryer. I wiped my hands and replied, “Yes, it is.”
I began to make my way to the exit when I turned around, completely bothered by her original statement. I looked back before I exited the facility and remarked, “You know, that is exactly the kind of mentality that is making our Earth go to the wayside.” And I left the bathroom, hearing the echoes of her yelling at me.
I left the bookstore without having coffee in fear of a huge confrontation.
The next day I took a plane to Ontario to visit my friends and family while on vacation. After arriving in my hometown, I noticed the burnt grass everywhere. I had heard that the area was experiencing a drought, but I had no idea how bad it was; all of the ground was brown. I had never seen anything like it growing up in the area. It was a stark contrast coming from Alberta, where I had experienced a summer with lots of rain and lush, green grass.
Most of southern Ontario was experiencing a fire ban and had water restrictions. Many people could only water their gardens or lawns on certain days of the week to help preserve water. The following tweet from the local government made me instantly think of the yelling woman in the bathroom at Chapters.
— Peterborough County (@PtboCounty) August 11, 2016
It’s true. Every drop does matter. Whether we live in an area with lots of rainfall or not, water is simply not a resource that should be wasted. Why waste something that could potentially be used or desperately needed in the near future? I wonder what the woman in the bathroom would have done if the city she lived in was experiencing drought conditions.
If we think on a local level—and in this case, conserve water even when it’s plentiful and available—we help prepare ourselves to better our local and global environments. Sure, conserving water in the bathroom wouldn’t help the people in my hometown 4,000 kilometers away, but it would help people to see that their own individual needs are not greater than others.
Just because we have the luxury of running water does not mean it should be taken for granted. Many people around the world still walk great lengths on a daily basis to find and bring water back to their homes. I am certain that they would not let water run unnecessarily down the drain because they know its value on a deeper level.
If we stop thinking about our individual needs, we enable ourselves to think of each other as neighbors, or friends. By doing this, we enable ourselves to be aware of others and consider their needs too. In doing so, we become more aware of future needs, and less about our immediate ones. Becoming mindful of something like running water will help us not take seemingly “small” every day luxuries for granted.
Together, we can do it, one drop at a time.
Images: Flickr/Open Grid Scheduler
Editors: Travis May and Josette Myers (apprentice)