Products impact water resources

You don’t have to look too far in your home for a product that impacts water.
While we impact our local water resources directly with how much water we use and what we put on our yards and down our drains, we also impact water resources nationally and globally through products we purchase and use.
Products can impact water resources (lakes, rivers, wetlands, groundwater, etc.) throughout their entire life cycle. A product’s life cycle consists of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, all of which impact water resources in two ways; pollution and water use. Extraction consists of removing raw materials or natural resources from the earth to create a product and often results in pollution of nearby lakes and rivers (think mining). Production is the creation of the product through industry which again can pollute waters and often uses large volumes of water through processes like cooling or cleaning equipment. Distribution includes the packaging and transportation of the product. Consumption is our use of the product, and disposal is the end of the product lifecycle when the product usually gets thrown in the trash and ends up in a landfill where contaminants can leach into groundwater.
Both impacts, pollution and water use, give each product a water footprint. A product’s water footprint as defined by the Water Footprint Network (www.waterfootprint.org) is the volume of freshwater appropriated to produce the product, taking into account the volumes of water consumed and polluted in the different steps of the supply chain. But you can help stop this cycle that pollutes our waters and uses them up.
Here’s what to do:
• Recycle, recycle and recycle! Recycling typically uses and pollutes way less water by cutting out two major steps of the product life cycle; extraction and disposal, because you don’t have to get new materials, and you aren’t disposing of old materials.
• Use the county’s product reuse room! Instead of buying all new stuff, visit the Carver County Environmental Center Reuse Room where you can pick up paint, automotive products, cleaners and more, all FREE of charge.
It costs nothing for you to grab an item. It saves the county money because we don’t have to pay for its safe disposal, AND you are reducing your impact on waters because you aren’t buying a new product with a totally new life cycle. www.co.carver.mn.us/ec.
Learn more about the Reuse Room by reading the related article on Page 8.
• Buy smart! Choose products that don’t have as much packaging. Choose products that are recycled and recyclable and that come from sustainably mined and produced practices. Buy local crafts, food from farmer’s markets and stands, wines and more.
Often local is more sustainably grown AND doesn’t have the high costs of transportation. Focus on not creating waste when purchasing products and help close the loop from extraction to disposal through reducing waste, recycling and reusing products.
Want to know more about the product lifecycle. Watch “The Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard www.storyofstuff.com.

By Madeline Seveland, the Education Coordinator for the Carver County Water Management Dept. Her column is a monthly feature of the Waconia Patriot.

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