12-Step Guide To Becoming A Water-Conscious Traveler

by Leoni
12 Step Guide To Becoming a Water-Conscious Traveler

Being a water-conscious traveler is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of responsible tourism.

Yes, 70 % of our planet is covered with water. However, only 3 % of that amount is freshwater and, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), only one third of that water is available for our use (e.g. because it is not frozen in glaciers).

Water is the most precious resource on our planet and often also referred to as the “new oil”. Experts predict that by 2025 two thirds of the world’s population may be affected by water shortages.

So, what does it mean to be water-conscious?

By definition, being ‘conscious’ means that one is aware of and responding to one’s surroundings. In this case, the surroundings are not only each destination that you visit, but also the general knowledge that water already is and will be a scarce commodity all over the world.

Being based in Cape Town, the first modern major city in the world that almost reached ‘day zero‘ in 2018, I know that every drop counts.

We all need to be aware of our responsibility when it comes to water usage, especially the most privileged of us (yes, that’s me and most likely also you).

Calculate your personal water footprint here.

How can you become a more water-conscious traveler? Let’s dive in and find out!

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Become A Water-Conscious Traveler In 12 Steps

There are things that you can do before, during and after your trips, and obviously also at home. The good news is: It’s really not that hard and you get used to the habits of a water-conscious traveler quickly.

Research Local Water Politics Before You Go

Research the Water Politics

Before you leave to your destination of choice, make sure you know what to expect.

  • Can you drink the water from the tap?
  • Will there be certain restrictions?
  • Are you going to have access to warm running water?

Come prepared according to your findings.

Take Shorter Showers

Short Showers

… And shower less often. In fact, being water-conscious for the planet is not the only reason why you should only shower every second or third day. It is also healthier for your body.

If you shower too often, you can potentially strip your skin of essential oils. As a great refresher for your hair (if needed daily), waterl<ss dry shampoo works wonders.

The average American shower lasts 7.8 minutes and uses approximately 15.8 gallons (59.8 liters) of water. In order to save water, keep your showers under 2 minutes.

Close the tap while washing your hair or shaving and reduce the water pressure – and you have successfully started your day by helping to save the planet.

Bring A Reusable Water Bottle

Reusable Water bottle

Wherever you go, never leave your reusable water bottle behind. By doing so, you help the planet each time you skip a plastic water bottle. That means you use fewer resources, reduce your contribution to air pollution and help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans.

If you travel countries where it is not advised to drink the water from the tap, use chemical free water purifying solution. Alternatively, when camping in the outdoors, get creative and practice your survival skills by collecting and purifying water in the wild.

Shop Water-Conscious Clothes

Shop water-conscious

According to the WWF, it can take 2,700 liters to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt.

Cotton accounts for 90% of all natural fibers used in the textile industry and is the single largest reason for water consumption in the apparel supply chain.

Occupying only 2.4% of the world’s cropland, it is furthermore responsible for 24% of the world’s insecticide market and 11% of sale of global pesticides.

But that’s not all. More than 14% of an apparel retailer’s water footprint relates to manufacturing.

Another huge problem is water pollution as a result of garment manufacturing. In the process of turning raw materials into textiles, an estimated 8000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world.

Often, companies that cooperate with large international clothing brands are responsible for the contamination of thousands of tons of water. They dump waste water directly into rivers in order to keep costs down.

The following are a few of our favorite water-conscious clothing brands:

  • DL1961: Looking for ethically produced pants? DL1961 makes their clothes from water-efficient botanic fibers. (Check out our favorites for women here and men here)
  • Pact: This company only sources 100 % organic cotton, made into soft and comfy underwear, bras, sweatpants and more. Plus, they have a live count on the website that shows how many gallons of water have been saved by customers buying their products. (Check out our favorites for women here and for men here)
  • United by Blue: A great brand for all outdoor lovers! Besides using eco-friendly materials for their products, United by Blue also removes one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways for every product sold. (View Base Backpack and Trail Socks)
  • Threads 4 Thought: A sustainable brand that offers T-shirts and active wear made from organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Lenzing Modal (made with beech wood and CO2 neutral). (Check out this comfy zip hoodie for men and this Firefly Legging for women)

Buy less but higher quality, in general more secondhand and swap clothes.

And keep in mind: Less is more, especially when traveling.

Go Vegan

water-conscious food

One of the many benefits of being vegan is the amount of water that we can save simply by reducing our consumption of animal products.

Agriculture uses more freshwater than any other human activity. Especially red meat is bad for the environment.

It’s not always that easy to find your vegan alternative when traveling, so here are a few things you can do:

  • Check Happy Cow to find vegan restaurants wherever you are.
  • If you stay in a hotel, ask the staff if they know any vegan-friendly shops and restaurants in the area.
  • Plan ahead and always bring a few vegan snacks.

Skip Room Cleanings

Skip Room Cleanings

Reusing sheets and towels in your hotel room makes a bigger difference than you might think.

Laundry accounts for 16 % of the total amount of a hotel’s water usage, which makes it the second biggest reason for water consumption in the industry, after toilets and showers. Swimming pools on the other hand are responsible for only 1 %.

So, help the planet and skip room cleanings! You probably don’t use a fresh towel every single day at homer either. The Do Not Disturb sign outside your door will let the staff know that you are okay to reuse your sheets and towels.

For beach days and workouts, bring your own travel towel. It’s easier to carry around and dries within a few minutes.

Do Cold Laundries

Cold Laundries

Not every laundry you do needs to be hot. In fact, there are laundry detergents you can use for your cold washing that will clean your clothes without a drop of hot water.

Only 10 % of the energy your washing machine uses goes to electricity – the remaining 90 % are needed for water heating. You see, there’s a great potential to save energy and prevent carbon pollution by doing cold laundries.

Close Taps Properly

Close Taps to be water-conscious

A dripping tap approximately wastes just under 2,083 gallons (7885 liters) per year, which equals over 5 gallons (19 liters) of water per day.

To put this in perspective, a person in Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Uganda uses 3.9 gallons (15 liters) or less daily.

Book Eco-Friendly Accommodation

Water Conscious accommodation

Hotels, guesthouses and other kinds of accommodation make us feel comfortable and important when staying over in a place other than home. Unlimited access to water, whether it be in a bathtub, a swimming pool or in form of luxurious laundry services play a big part in our comfort abroad.

And don’t worry, your wish to be a more water-conscious traveler does not necessarily take all of that away from you.

By making water and energy conserving choices in areas like hotel laundry, eco-friendly accommodations reduce their water footprint significantly.

Check out these Eco-Friendly Hotel Certifications

You will find plenty of hotels and guesthouses on Booking.com, EcoBnB and bookdifferent.com.

Reuse Water

Water Plants

When you cook for yourself while traveling, use the cooking water to water plants or prewash the dishes.

Especially in countries where water is a scarce commodity, like South Africa, you can collect shower water in a bucket and reuse it to water plants, cook, or wash you clothes.

Don’t Let Water Run

Close Taps

When washing dishes or food, fill the sink with water instead of letting the tap run.

When you brush your teeth or wash your hands, turn the water off until you are done.

You would be surprised how much of a difference this makes in the long run.

Spread The Word

Spread the word

As always, the more you speak about the topic, there more friends, fellow travelers and family members will become aware of the importance to be water-conscious.

Adapt to the water-conscious travel style, use your social media to raise awareness, and have those uncomfortable conversations with everyone who could do better.

Resources For The Water-Conscious Traveler

water-conscious traveler resources

If you would like to inform yourself more about the water crisis, solution approaches and projects, check out the following resources.

Water Consciousness Book

Water Consciousness: How We All Have To Chance To Protect Our Most Critical Resource

In Water Consciousness, Bill McKibben, Maude Barlow, Vandana Shiva, Wenonah Hauter, Sandra Postel, Tony Clarke and other top environmental writers explore all aspects of the water crisis and what we can do about it. It provides essays on privatization, bottled water, conservation, appropriate technology, lessons from indigenous cultures, and an argument for the need for new public policy on the right to water.


water-conscious traveler book

Eat Less Water

Can we as individuals hope to have any effect on the global scale of water misuse? author and activist Florencia Ramirez knows: Yes, we can. Having  traveled across the US to interview farmers and food producers, she now tells the story of water served on our plates. Eat Less Water is an eye-opening account of the under-appreciated environmental threat of water scarcity, a useful cookbook with water-sustainable recipes accompanying each chapter, and a fascinating personal narrative that will teach you how you, too, can eat less water.


water-conscious traveler book for the youth

The Sustainability Stories : Stories Of Change, To Inspire Our Youth To Become Water Conscious Citizens. 

 The international non-profit organization Why Waste? is dedicated to water conservation and uses all earnings from this book to fund their efforts. The Sustainability Stories is a collection of stories written by young adults, for young adults in the making. Through characters like Zelly the Zebra, Why Waste? explains the water cycle, their famous #GlassHalfFull concept, the mindful usage of water, and most of all, they try to inspire young minds to be the change that they wish to see in the world.


water conscious clothing book

The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide To Looking Good While Doing Good

 The Conscious Closet is call to action to transform one of the most polluting industries on earth—fashion—into a force for good. Author Elizabeth L. Cline shows us how we can start to truly love and understand our clothes again—without sacrificing the environment, our morals, or our style in the process.


water conscious Netflix series

Explained: The World’s Water Crisis

The Netflix series Explained explores a different topic in each episode. In The World’s Water Crisis, it addresses the lack of clean drinking water in all parts of the world and questions how we can ensure that all people have access to drinkable water. Definitely a must-watch for every water-conscious traveler.


documentary about the benefiuts of a vegan lifestyle

The Game Changers

The movie The Game Changers shows how a vegan diet benefits our minds and bodies. It also touches base on the huge positive impact veganism has on our planet. Experts and athletes explain how 27% of humanity’s water footprint is used to produce animal foods, that 25% of the rivers in the world no longer reach the ocean, because we’re taking out so much water to produce feed and what role livestock production plays in water pollution.


Are you ready to become a more water-conscious traveler? What are your experiences with water usage on your travels? Maybe you can even add another tip to this list?

Let us know in the comment section below!

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