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Excessive Conservation Wearing Out [noun]... Answered

So... While brushing my teeth - I first rinse my brush, turn the faucet on, brush, then rinse the sink/mouth. Yes, I turn the faucet off while brushing. And if you're counting - that's two on/off cycles per brushing...

I've been playing with this tool: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/procurement/eep_faucets_showerheads_calc.html

And I pose an open question for discussion.. But first, my data/research...

I'm estimating 3 minutes of use per day - 365 days/year. According to the tool... I use 2190 gallons per year. Lets say that's 5 uses per day (2 for teeth - 1 for bathroom use). The tool seems to estimate an 8.4 year service life - so that's a total of 18396 gallons of water over it's life as a faucet.

So If I leave the water on while brushing - that's 3 on/off cycles per day.
but
If I turn the water off while brushing - That's 5 on/off cycles per day (40% more cycles).

Realistically, a faucet's wear comes from on/off cycles - each use bringing it closer to retirement. So 40% of 8.4 years is 3.4 years.

Now... Leaving the faucet on an extra 4 minutes per day (2 minutes per brushing) consumes 2920 gallons of water per year.

The difference over 8.4 years is: 30660-18396=12264 gallons. At about $4 per 1000 gallons - that difference is $49.06. BUT, the direct replacement for my faucet (as priced today in home depot to the exact model) is $75. So after 8.4 years

Faucet remaining on will cost me:
$49.06 + $75 = $124.06
Faucet being turned off will cost me:
$75 + $30(prorated cost of faucet for 3.4 years of wear on a new faucet) = $105

Differences:
$19.06
12,264 gallons of water

That is to say - due to extra wear on my faucet - it's only marginally more economical to turn my faucet off while brushing my teeth. If I wasn't me, and not able to DIY replace - it very well may be cost effective to leave it on given the cost of a hiring a handy man or plumber...


Okay... Now that you've read the above... please discuss your thoughts. I am very much aware of the assumptions I have made (no need to point them out) - just looking for opinions :)



Update

Lets turn this discussion on it's head now... As several have pointed out, conserving is more important - bonus as it's close to an economical wash in my fictitious scenario above (it's not 100% real and based on data from the link above and some hefty assumptions).

My car uses .3 gallons of gasoline per hour at idle. Lets take a 100% city drive in heavy traffic (my drive yesterday). I was at a complete stop due to traffic lights or traffic for 20 seconds or more a total of 12 times to travel ~10 miles (yes, I freakin timed it). So that's a total of 4 minutes (wow, that worked out nice) of idle time. That time consumes 0.02 gallons of fuel costing me $0.06. If I were to make that commute 5 days a week, twice daily - that's a cost of:
10.4 gallons of gasoline
$31.2 worth of fuel

So, a new starter for my car costs $130. Typically the motors don't actually die - just the contacts. But lets assume I don't want to fiddle with that and just want to direct replace (corollary to valve washers :D).

This means - using my starter an additional 24 times per day - it will take 4.2 years for the fuel savings to pay for a new starter. In 4.2 years - averaging 12,000 miles per year - I will have traveled 50400 miles.

Okay - now lets consider the cost of fuel to restart - 24 times.... According to mechanical engineering magazine, a V6 engine used 5 seconds worth of idling gasoline to restart. So - redoing some math to compensate - that's a savings of
7.8 gallons of gasoline per year
$23.4 per year
Time to recoup 1 starter: 5.6 years (equating to 66000 miles)

So, I'm having some problems finding data on starter life cycle - all I have is anecdotal evidence...
*My personal car has 115K miles and is ~8 years old - and I've been doing this since I bought the car >2 years ago.
*My last car was sold at 98K miles and this was done for a little less than 2 years (the car was 8/9 years old when sold).
*My first car had unknown mileage (estimated around 150K), was 10 years old and the engine was killed at stoplights.
*My parents own a conversion van (seldom used now) that is 12 years old, 120K miles - did not shut the engine (v8) down at traffic lights.
None of the cars above have had their starter go.
*Father had a truck that had it's starter replaced around 220K miles - unknown age. That car left us with a blown connecting rod around 300K miles

Batteries... Yes, this does put more strain on your battery... I'll go more into that when I can find some better data (more than anecdotal :p)...

But, that's to say... It's economically viable to turn off your engine at traffic lights... So much so, it's illegal to idle (over a certain period of time) at traffic lights in some countries...

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burning_empire (author)2009-05-24

THIS IS OFF TOPIC...YET RELATED As far as water conservation and the environment goes , I believe the mere concept of "wasting water" is stupid. First off it is one of the few renewable resource we have in abundance. I say leave your faucet running all day long, I say flush your toilet for no good reason, Take 4 showers a day. The more clean filtered water we put back into the sewers--->rivers--->oceans the better. It keeps the septic system clean and clear, dilutes pollutants, and promotes a healthier environment. So waste away.

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PKM (author)burning_empire2009-05-26

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquifer

I don't think draining aquifers into the sea constitutes "promoting a healthier environment". I'm not sure about your idea of diluting pollutants, either- could you clarify?

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burning_empire (author)PKM2009-05-26

I was really just referring to putting cleaner water back into the hydrologic cycle instead of our cruddy waste water all the time. The aquifers are going to drain back into the sea anyway. For example: If we produce 1,000,000 gallons or dirty chemical-filled laundry water and only 10,000 gallons of "wasted" water (like running the faucet while buttering your toast across the room) the potency of the toxicity of the dirty water is pretty bad. But if we produced 1,000,000 gallons of dirty water to say 600,000 gallons of cleaner water it could only help dilute the potency. I'd drink a cup of water that has 1/1000th part bleach, than 1 part bleach. I'm definitely no scientist. I just like to kick around weird ideas in my head and share them, that way it stimulates brainstorming like we are doing now.

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Your idea is the old "The solution to pollution is dilution" belief that has made such a mess of the world already. Below is a video of some of the 300 Million gallons of partially treated sewage that Florida has been dumping into the ocean every day for the last 40 years. Just how long would you have to run your tap before you'd be willing to drink it?


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I didn't intend my "dilution" scenario as a pollution solution, or justification to half treat sewage. Just to say that its not necessarily an absolutely terrible thing to let your faucet run a little for fear of destroying the planet. it does little harm, if not a little good.

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It does little harm if you were the only one doing it, but multiplied by the 300 million people in this country who are hopefully brushing their teeth at least once a day, it does enormous harm.

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300 million people.... .now consider 1 bliion people who don't care and do worse. Seems like our efforts will have little effect

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Yep, sure does, and if that's all the excuse you need to do nothing, that is your prerogative.

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Who says I or we do nothing?  You assume a lot don't you!

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user

He surely didn't say any of that... All his comment says is that it's an excuse, and it's your choice (aka prerogative).

I think what Tool (and many others) assume is that those that wish to respond to a comment will actually read first. If that's assuming a lot, that's your call (but I would respectfully disagree if that's the case).

The crux of it is, those 300 million people (which I assume you mean in the United States) are the biggest offenders per capita with Canada in #2 (but significantly far away from the #1 position) and Australia #3.

I would consider 1 billion people offending worse - but it would be pure academics for an alternative reality. We'd be so lucky if we cut our consumption so far as to be that far down the list of resource consumers :p

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jason.ambros (author)trebuchet032010-05-17

where did you get that America is the #1 polluter? which country spends more money per capita on real green tech and cleanup?

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trebuchet03 (author)jason.ambros2010-05-17

Which country spends more money per capita?

That would be the Dutch... According to the "OECD Environmental Indicators", page 104. But per capita is a TERRIBLE way to measure money expenditure - a smaller country can easily win (think back to your statistics class - it's been awhile for me too)...

But, even based on %GDP - Netherlands, Austria and Japan still top the US (which comes in just barely below Japan - it's perhaps a tie).


Just to be clear... cleantech expenditure is completely independent of pollutant output. Lastly, spending more doesn't necessarily make a problem better (and hence the phrase: "throwing money at the problem").

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I'm too lazy to read the thread an see if this solution has been posted, but why not leave the water running, and just not turn it all the way on?  taps are analog man ;-).

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That's exactly what I was thinking when I said it's not perfect! There's 6 of those pipes in S. Florida - each discharges 300 million a day :/

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I might agree with you IF we didn't have waste water treatment. But modern treatment facilities will remove the "dirt" and chemicals from laundry water before discharging it where ever (including irrigation systems). The water coming out of these facilities is near potable (it just need a chemical disinfectant such as chlorine or ammonia - natural bacteria doesn't mean human safe bacteria :p). Using better laundry detergent (phosphate free, and etc.) would be a better solution than trying to dilute ;) Don't forget that the clean water that comes out of your tap would also be diluting the natural fauna at the discharge point :/ I'm not saying our treatment facilities are perfect, I'm just stating that we're not dumping all of our crude waste. Also bear i mind how much power it takes to bring potable and pressurized water to a faucet. The electric demand is significant :/

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Your exactly right about the electric power used for water distribution. I wasn't even wandering into that aspect. The fauna at a discharge points could also adapt or evolve. I have seen orange plants or algae that grow by the nuclear power plant cooling pipes. Those pipes pump out hot water into a nearby river at about 120*F and the algae have adapted to become resistant to those high temps. I've also seen a sewage treatment plant in San Francisco showcased on a Discovery Channel program. And the engineer said that with all their microfilters and processes they can purify water down so pure, that they have to add minerals back into the water for it to be useful. But that was for incoming water, not outgoing.

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Some species have not been able to adapt.... Algae reproduces quickly and has a better chance at adapting, species such as the everglades snail kite do not. The snail kite eats apple snails - apple snail population is directly correlated to water demand. Considering that this bird is only below man in the food chain, it brings up the question of human "rights" with respect to environmental impact. Should we expect other species to adapt to us? Or should we, as highly adaptable beings, adapt to our environment? In almost every aspect of this question, we (people) typically adapt to/with our environment. This question most frequently is debated in the circumstance of other life forms. Not to be nit picky (just attempting to prevent the spread of improperly used terms), "fauna" refers to animals of which algae is not. Flora, however, is the corresponding term for plants and I should have said in my earlier post, "fauna and flora" ;)

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trebuchet03 (author)trebuchet032009-05-26

hrmmm... just thinking to myself here... is algae actually flora? Or does it have it's own classification.... Tool U.A. would be the one with the proper education :p

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They are photosynthetic, like plants, and "simple" because they lack the many distinct organs found in land plants. For that reason they are currently excluded from being considered plants. ~Wikipedia I made the mistake of calling them fauna, forgetting that, that means animal. I meant Flora...but apparently they are neither. They are split up into different affiliations depending what type of algae you are talking about.

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It's perfectly acceptable to apply the term flora to algae, even if they are not plants, generally you would just preface it with the modifier "algal".

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I ated the purple berries....taste like burning!

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roberzo (author)burning_empire2009-11-15

I'd like to think you're just kidding with this weird theory. Otherwise it could be taken as an offence to millions of people.

"Abundance" of water depends on where you live. Where I live (south of Europe) "abundance of water" is a joke because winters are usually mild and it never rains and snows enough, and it's just the same anywhere else near the tropics. Use of water is restricted during the summer. We're even desalinating water to drink.

Please think a bit about this fact and consider again your theory.

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Bardouv (author)2009-05-27

Let it be known that I too turn my faucet on and off when I brush my teeth and that the handle comes off very easy now. Also, the drain cover never quite stays shut.

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westfw (author)2008-02-09

> it's only marginally more economical to turn my faucet off while brushing my teeth. [or worse] OK, if you want to neglect bad assumptions (I'm not sure that's a good idea, but...) A lot of "conservation" sorts of efforts aren't meant to be obviously "cheaper" in the short term. They're predicated on the belief that the apparently cheaper route has "hidden" costs (to "the world at large") and that as a rich society it is better to spend excess money on the "good" alternative (or the politically correct alternative) than on the "bad" alternatives. Look at organic farming for a relatively extreme example. I notice that you don't mention the "water cost" of manufacturing a new faucet, or disposing of the old one. And to get really obscure, I wonder what happens to waste water treatment if household effluent becomes more concentrated (on average) because of a decline in pure water "wasted"...

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trebuchet03 (author)westfw2008-02-09

I notice that you don't mention the "water cost" of manufacturing a new faucet, or disposing of the old one.

Yep - I've been running through fictitious scenarios (like this one) at the point of service level. That is, the cost of water necessary to build a faucet (motor, head of lettuce, etc.) is built into the monetary costs. That assumption, I believe, is fairly sound as I'm lead to believe faucet mfrs are turning a profit on their products :)

One assumption, overall, that I hold is that the US population as a whole is economically driven (for the most part) into conservation. That is, the "greener" option is viable/used when economic. I feel this holds true for cases that don't include political correctness or status symbols (turning off the faucet while brushing - no one sees this, but you personally know).


And to get really obscure, I wonder what happens to waste water treatment if household effluent becomes more concentrated (on average) because of a decline in pure water "wasted"...
Awesome - this is the sort of thing I'm looking for :) I didn't take that into consideration and it's a very good point. Does anyone else have a problem with depositing human excrement into a ceramic bowl of completely drinkable water too?

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westfw (author)trebuchet032008-02-09

> Does anyone else have a problem with depositing human excrement into a ceramic bowl of completely drinkable water too?
Maybe. The costs of the water supply seem to be more related to fresh water rather than pure water. That is, sterilization of all water to "drinking water standards" for residential use is easy compared to desalination, or even transport of water from where it's found to where it's needed.

Did you find any statistics that break down overall water use? I'm still worried that we're talking about a vanishingly small amount of water compared to residential irrigation, industrial use, or (the biggie?) agricultural irrigation. Regardless of apparently large magnitude, decreasing water wasted by not turning off during brushing from .25% to .1% of overall usage is NOT significant; it's just a variation on how to lie with statistics.
(one of my friends once pointed out that in California, we grow rice in the middle of the desert...)

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trebuchet03 (author)westfw2008-02-09

Water statistics - yes...
USGS
The following includes saline water:
85% of total water was Fresh
15% of total water was Saline

Total water:
408,000 Mgal/day

Breakdown....
Public Supply: 11% (this is likely most of us)
Domestic Supply: <1% (those that supply their own water - such as a well)
Irrigation: 34% (for non household use)
Livestock: <1%
Aquaculture: <1%
Industrial: 5%
Mining: <1%
Thermoelectric power: 48% (30% of this is saline)

You were right - the biggie is Irrigation - accounting for 40% of all freshwater (largest of any other category).

Home Use Breaks down into (according to AWWA)
Outdoors: 58% (irrigation, pools, etc.)
Indoors: 42% (see below)

Indoor Usage breaks down even further:
Toilets - 26.7%
Baths - 1.7%
Showers - 16.8%
Clothes Washers - 21.7%
Dishwashers - 1.4%
Faucets - 15.7%
Leaks - 12.7%
Other Domestic Uses - 2.2%

For my state:
Ground-water withdrawals for public supply and irrigation in Florida were nearly identical.

And interestingly - water use intensity (withdrawals per square mile) is much higher on the east coast as compared to the west coast.

huge note

National or Global water trends are not indicative of local supply. That is, one can't say there's plenty of water to wash your car etc. when your state (GA) declares there's less than 90 days of municipal water due to drought :/


My calcs based on the above sources...
408000 Mgal/day for total water use
346800 Mgal/day for total freshwater
assume 100% of public supply water is fresh water as per USGS
38148 Mgal/day for total freshwater consumed (for some reason - USGS estimates higher at 43,300 Mgal/day)
16022 Mgal/day for total freshwater used for indoor use

2515 Mgal/day for water used by faucets

Faucets account for less than 1% of all freshwater withdrawals (0.725%).

Assuming self supplied water is negligible (as to include them in the population using water)
If everyone (300 million people) left their faucet on for 4 extra minutes per day @ 2gpm - that would add 2393 Mgal/day - almost equivalent to the total amount of faucet use now. <-- this is a mostly worst case scenario as it pretty much assumes everyone is leaving the faucet on full blast.



So yes, it is a relatively very small number... However, I'm a firmly support that an all or nothing attitude results in the latter :)

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westfw (author)trebuchet032008-02-09

Thanks for digging that up.
Thermoelectric power: 48% : That's a weird thing to include. Isn't the water coming OUT of the power plant just as usable as when it went in? And doesn't it tend to actually BE reused as well? (Hmm. And where are those saline hydroelectric plants?)

Indoor Usage breaks down even further:
Toilets - 26.7% : Wow. That's a bigger number than I would have thought. Install those low-flow toilets!
Clothes Washers - 21.7% : I expected this to be a big one. Heh. Wear your clothes twice as long before washing and you'll save a lot more water than most other conservation measures! Combine with a return to weekly bathing!
Leaks - 12.7% : now THAT's pretty impressive. And sad.

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El Mangosta (author)westfw2009-02-23

For guys, pee outside! Why waste a MINIMUM of 1.6g/flush (I think our toilets are 3g/flush...go eighties) for a sterile liquid full of nitrogen? Go fertilize a plant! (But be mindful not to get any on the leaves. Urine has LOTS of nitrogen, so it will burn foliage. Go around the roots). This would also prevent wear on the internal workings of the toilet ;) The Leaks stat doesn't surprise me much at all. I was in mold/water damage remediation for a couple years. Reasons for losses: -Some people let leaks stay (or they don't even know about them) for YEARS. I've gutted houses because of how much water has been lost and how much mold has grown. Broken underground irrigation lines also cause waste. -Negligence - bathtubs overflowing, leaving a faucet/pool fill/irrigation running. -BUILDERS!!! Master Planned communities are looking only at the bottom line. They pay the subcontractors extra if they get things done faster than anticipated, including the plumbers. When plumbers don't solder copper pipes correctly because they are trying to work too fast, leaks happen. Builder screwups were our main source of work 2-5 years ago when the housing market was booming. As far as the below comment "It's similar to turning off the lights when you leave a room. It may only save you pennies per day, but if everyone did it..." goes: We have cut our electric bill (and usage) in half by turning off lights and using smaller lights. You don't need every light on in an area for you to be able to see. Use area specific ones (like that little one under the stove hood, or the one just above the table). Also, stay together. If people are in the same area of the house, less energy is used. Promoting family values decreases waste!

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Great comment. Frighteningly underutilized by the silly mammals we are. Creepy thing about nature is that she rarely forgets good design....Peeing outside (where the food/cover's growing), staying in a pack, most often using tools and recources that are at an arm's-length away.... the basics of an evolving species; recollected by ourselves, now, with the startling thought- Dang! Good idea!

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trebuchet03 (author)westfw2008-02-10

It may be re-used... but not directly... Power plant discharge is an issue in many areas. In Florida, for example, the discharge can be around 95 degrees - even when the water is 10-15+ degrees cooler. It supports wildlife that should otherwise be further south and shifts wildlife to move further north.

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westfw (author)trebuchet032008-02-10

Ah. It said "thermoelectric", but I read "hydroelectric." It makes sense now.

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NachoMahma (author)westfw2008-02-10

. Although there are exceptions, most nukes I've seen do not recycle the cooling water. Dresden, near Chicago, pumps water out of the IL River, runs it through the system, dumps it into huge cooling ponds, and then back to the river.

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westfw (author)trebuchet032008-02-09

> the "greener" option is viable/used when economic.
Hmm. Another point to consider is that (for better or worse) what is "economic" in the US is what industry chooses to mass-produce. Thus for under $1000 you can get a supercomputer dedicated to playing games, but electric cars are very expensive. It's a chicken-and-egg problem, and it'll generally take some "early adopters" to adopt a technology BEFORE it becomes fully "economic" to prove that people will be willing to use it.

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trebuchet03 (author)westfw2008-02-09

and it'll generally take some "early adopters" to adopt a technology BEFORE it becomes fully "economic" to prove that people will be willing to use it.

Absolutely - that's why I said
US population as a whole is economically driven
Those early adopters are branded all sorts of things: savvy, hippie, tree hugger, eclectic, visionary, etc. :D As we're on a DIY site - many/most of us have probably been called one of those terms in the past...

Another point to consider is that (for better or worse) what is "economic" in the US is what industry chooses to mass-produce.

Yes - that is a very chicken/egg issue... however, I'm willing to bet that a majority of mass produced products started off as an egg. That is, consumers expressed interest in some fashion before mass production.

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FooGlacticon (author)2009-05-06

Sounds like you're getting at the issue of false economy.

This is why it's important to do LCA.

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CybergothiChe (author)2009-04-26

shouldn't you also turn your cars engine off when you are going down hill?

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blugyblug (author)CybergothiChe2009-05-02

Nope, starting and stopping a car will use more energy than an engine thats on for a few seconds.
Just dont accelerate and let gravity accelerate for you, but keep your feet on the pedals incase theres an emergency..
Yeah im 13 years old, but i watch my dad do this in his car =P

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Goodhart (author)2009-04-29

Starter wear lengths will be even harder to find then faucet wear, since starters (most of them) have a few parts to them, that are integral to the starter (parts that normally go bad first; like the solenoid, etc) AND, they have widely different wear times (and if you replace one, it will not be with a new one, most likely....oh it will be completely rebuilt and rewound, but brand new ones are put in cars that haven't been sold yet.

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Kiteman (author)2008-02-10

I also switch the tap off whilst brushing, but I don't consider that to be excessive in any way. I think that the source of the "8.4 years" as the life of a tap is wrong.

I've been using taps (faucets) for forty years, and been responsible for their maintenance (at home) for over half that.

I've never had to replace a tap that has worn out - I've had to replace washers, but never the whole tap.

Back when I worked in a builders' and plumbers' merchants, I only ever sold taps to people who were replacing them for reasons of fashion, not because they wore out. I sold an awful lot of washers, and a handful of the barrel mechanisms, but never a whole tap.

(Except for one time to a lady who had used a four-foot long adjustable wrench to tighten the top of her tap when she replaced the washer, but I'm not sure that counts as "wearing out".)

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Goodhart (author)Kiteman2009-04-02

Sorry for coming on this conversation late, but I tend to agree with Kiteman here, especially the statistics on wear of the faucet. If one has an old ball and socket with a rubber washer, style faucet (tis hard to find replacement parts for them anymore) then yes, the rubber indents, and leaks fairly quickly....but, most faucets now have done away with that and are studier and more reliable. Abuse, such as slamming a handle down on a single handled faucet, will tend to wear it more quickly, but then, one need not abuse the thing...and all will be well for many years.

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The_Beast (author)Kiteman2008-12-14

I thought everyone turned off there faucets while brushing because it only makes scenes Your dumb if you don't

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Kiteman (author)The_Beast2008-12-14

Common sense isn't that common - I did a survey of my classes this week, and found that almost a third of them leave the tap running while they brush their teeth, even if their parents have a metered water supply.

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The_Beast (author)Kiteman2008-12-23

Do you ever listen to Mancows Morning Madhouse??? He says that all the time "common sense isn't so common"

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Kiteman (author)The_Beast2008-12-24

It was something an university friend used to say.

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killerjackalope (author)Kiteman2008-12-14

Taps rarely go, though they seize with little to no use, the ones in the out of the way downstairs bathroom actually did break eventually but the ones upstairs are fine, installed same day and everything, same taps and set up. The thing that did them in was seizing up more and more, then when you forcibly unseize them it damaged other bits until one day I snapped the rod going through the tap unseizing it.

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justoskar1 (author)2009-04-02

I live in iceland we got nothing but water

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victus_maestro (author)2009-03-20

This is a microcosmic case of the problem, but it is this concept that causes people to have such an issue with switching to conservation-minded methods. In many cases, it will cost you more to go with an environmental solution than a tried-and-true mass-produced resource-hogging one, and that is why so few corporations are going as green as they really could be. The fact is that so many people are willing to give up what is right for what will get them more money, and that is the reason we're in the problem we are. Saving a couple dollars here and there may be nice, but the fact is that faucets are an infinite supply--as long as people are around to make them, they will be made. Water is finite and to waste it is irresponsible not even simply to nature, but to humankind. Nobody should ever be under the impression that cash is more valuable than water. Never take things like that for granted!

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