Blog post by Mallory Watson, San Diego Coastkeeper's community engagement coordinator
Teaching science for over 5 years, I found we have ingrained conservation into the minds of our students. From third grade to college, they can rattle off a laundry list of ways they can make a positive impact on our environment. Things like turning off the tap when brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, biking to work, taking reusable bags shopping, turning off the lights when you leave a room – it’s music to an environmental educator’s ears. After a few months of hearing this list repeated over and over again, my questions changed from "what can we do?" to "how does it help us?"
We need to conserve our water. Phrases such as "it’s bad to waste electricity, we can’t use up all of our oil, we want clean beaches" are not bad but not exactly convincing either. For my third graders, I’ll let it slide. But I’m going to press the rest to think harder. We know these actions are good for the environment. But what about us? Where is the immediate return on our sacrifices and investments?
It turns out that environmental responsibility is economic responsibility.
I recently moved from Miami where I had two roommates. I diligently unplugged electronics not being used, took short showers, washed my clothes in cold water and turned off the lights when someone left them on. It was a running joke that I was the only one of the roommates who did this. I took it in stride as our electric bill for three of us was under $70 per month. I moved away in June, but the last electric bill was sent to me by mistake. With only two living in the same apartment and no one turning everything off, the bill was almost $25 more.
If $25 really isn’t a big deal to you then multiply by 12. If you still can’t think of anything you’d rather spend $300 on, get in touch with me. I’ve got some great suggestions.
At San Diego Coastkeeper, we are focused on protecting our water resources in San Diego County. In exchange for your short showers, running full loads of laundry and watering the lawn at night, you get a nice discount on your next water bill. Heating the water adds to your electric bill, so consider that next time you find yourself lingering in the scalding hot shower to ponder the meaning of life.
Just how much are you going to save with environmental responsibility? It costs about 15 cents for a 10 minute shower in San Diego. One shower a day makes it $50 a year. If San Diego water rates increase by the projected 50 percent in the next 5 years, one person could be looking at nearly $75 a year. That’s just for showers and not counting the cost to heat the water.
Taking a 5 minute shower (enough time to belt out two of your favorite songs in their entirety) would reduce the cost to below $40 for the year. Even with the project price increase.
So why should we care about doing the right thing? Aside from being an environmentally responsible action, it is more often than not better for your wallet. Each time we cut our reliance on a resource, from oil to water, we minimize demand and the reward falls to you. And it’s not just water and electricity. It extends to our fuel consumption, urban planning and development, and single-use plastics. Changing our behavior to do what’s best environmentally isn’t easy, but it just might benefit you quicker than you think.
Not to mention, it feels pretty good to do the right thing.