When most people think of ways in which they waste water, they typically think of home water use like lawn sprinklers, showers and baths. But when you add it all up, wasting beverages is also a significant source of wasted water, particularly in the western world. After all, almost all beverages are primarily made from water or from fruits grown with water! It’s easy in America and most western or industrialized countries to forget that there’s actually a global water crisis beginning (or going on already). Water availability hasn’t hit the west as powerfully as it’s hit many other parts of the world. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not coming or isn’t just as significant. Even small changes in how we choose and use beverages can add up to increased responsibility about potable water that eventually makes an impact. What can you be more conscious of? Here are five ideas.

Number One: At a Restaurant? Skip the Refills If You’re Not Going to Drink Them

Think back to the last several times that you went out to eat. When you got up from the table, how many half-full glasses of water, soda or iced tea were still sitting on the table? Table servers are trained to always keep your glass full. After all, we’d all admit that it can be annoying to be at a restaurant and be sitting there thirsty with an empty glass waiting for somebody to refill it. But the next time you’re out to eat, make sure that you monitor when the server is re-filling your glass and be sure to tell him or her not to fill it or to only half-fill it if you are not going to be able to finish drinking what’s in the glass. It may seem like a small thing, but added up over time it can make a huge difference. (We have more tips on reducing waste when you’re out to eat!)

Number Two: Put Full Beverage Containers on the Dinner Table

Instead of pouring a full glass of beverage for everybody at dinner each night, put the containers of whatever beverage you drink onto the table and let people pour the amount that they’re actually going to drink. Of course, this is also a potential “learning moment” when you can educate your family on why it’s so important to be aware of not wasting water and other beverages. Instead of defaulting to pouring a full glass every time, they can learn to pour half glasses, but pour more frequently. (We have more tips on eco-friendly family dinners!)

Number Three: Buy Smaller Individual Sizes of Beverages

It’s usually not very eco-friendly to buy individually-sized beverages at all when you have the opportunity to make your own beverages or transfer larger beverages into reusable bottles, but sometimes we all find ourselves in a situation where we need to buy a single-use or individually-sized pre-packaged beverage. When this happens to you, as it inevitably will, opt for the smaller size. In our super-sized world, it’s often instinctual to buy the larger size (or the largest size) simply because it’s more economical. Taking the fact that the very reality of buying a larger size being cheaper than buying a smaller size is absurd out of the mix, consider how many times you actually drink everything in the larger sized bottle. Even soda comes in small, 100 calorie size cans these days (not that soda is ever a wise choice!). Skip the super size. Buy the conservative (and healthier) size.

Number Four: Chill Glasses Instead of Using Ice Cube

Particularly in the summer, we all love our drinks icy cold. Ice cubes, of course, are made up of water. Did you know that there’s a way to get your beverages nice and chilly without loading them down with ice cubes? Put the glasses that you’re going to be using in the freezer whenever you’re not using them and let them get frosty. If you have a rotating set of six glasses or so in your freezer at all times, you really should never need to use ice cubes. Yes, we know. You are using energy to run the freezer. However, the reality is that your freezer would be running regardless. Use it for good and keep your glasses chilled so that you need to use fewer ice cubes.

Number Five: Skip the Water Bottle. Use the Water Fountain.

Stop right where you are. Take a look around. Is there a water fountain within reach? Chances are that there is. While it’s always useful to have a (reusable) bottle of water on you, it’s certainly better to use a water fountain to only take the water that you need. This is particularly true if you have a habit of buying single-use bottles of water. Think about the number of times that you’ve thrown excess water out of your water bottle rather than drink it. Water fountains are your friend.

Staying hydrated is always, always important – particularly in the hot summer months. But even small changes in being more responsible about how and what you drink can add up to helping the overall global water shortage. After all, in some countries, the amount of beverage that you waste daily would be welcome with open arms! Little changes can, over time, make big differences. Which of the small changes above do you think that you could incorporate into your life?

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Photo Credit: Matt Hintsa via Flickr