Science + Salt Water (blurb)

70% of the world is covered in water. With water so abundant why do we need to conserve and be concious of water consumption? 97% of the world’s water is found in oceans; a very small percentage of water is freshwater. A GOOD Magazine transparency offers a staggering illustration of this statistic: if all the world’s water were poured into a bucket only one spoonful would be drinkable.Image

It’s a great travesty that humans haven’t evolved to drink salt water because it’s so abundant. I’m always amazed when science finds a way to utilize this vast resource, which is why the good folks at GE just blew my mind with their new project the M-100 Chlorinator. The bright innovators at GE partnered with the Nonprofit WaterStep created a process which uses electrolysis to decontaminate dirty ground water!

How does this work and where does the salt water come in?

“The device fits inside a 10-inch PVC cylinder with two plastic tubes attached at the top. It strips chlorine from salt water by applying battery voltage across a circular membrane, a process called electrolysis. The chlorine bubbles off one of the electrodes and floats to the top where the device captures it and mixes it with contaminated water. The chlorine begins to oxidize organic matter and kills the pathogens in the water. The water is usually safe to drink two hours after chlorination.”

~ GE Report

I was so elated when I came across this technology. Not only did the use of electrolysis summon memories of AP Chem labs with my snarky high school teacher, but also stunned me in its simplicity. This isn’t new technology; it’s a new application. This also takes a great stride towards clean drinking water for everyone.

I stumbled upon this today and felt the urge to share! I have a feeling similar “blurbs” will become quite common.

Three Cups of Tea

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This morning I reluctantly dragged myself out of my warm bed. I flipped on the radio in my kitchen. The broadcaster informed me of what my frozen bare feet already knew—it was freezing. Epitomizing Wisconsin in winter, the broadcaster predicted brief flurries and a frigid low of 0° F. Naturally I started heating water to battle this chill with tea.

I am a tea fiend. I take great pride not only in my knowledge of tea varieties but also in my knowledge of correct brewing practices. On this specific morning I selected Jasmine Pearls, a delightfully delicate floral tasting green tea. By noon I had consumed no less than three large mugs of tea. As I type now I have water heating for my fourth round of steamy goodness.

So what does this have to do with water? While I only filled my mug with tap water several times my tea’s virtual water content is a massive 35 liters per cup! Obviously tea was a live plant at one point, which needed watering, but this source of water consumption had never occurred to me. Astonished and ashamed by the blind spot in my tea knowledge I immediately started scouring the internet for sustainably produced tea and tea alternatives. The more I delved into sustainably produced tea the more I learned about the good tea production can bring to local economies. The world runs on tea; it’s the most consumed beverage in the world other than water. This massive global industry offers opportunities for many small agricultural communities to create revenue, which often supports the creation of educational opportunities, infrastructure, and healthcare.

It dawned on me that making a commitment to reducing water consumption isn’t like resolving to bike everywhere or going vegan. I couldn’t just stop using water like a bike commuter resolves to not use gasoline for transportation or a vegan eliminating animal products from his or her diet. Water is essential. Being conscious of water consumption is much more about being responsible about consumption rather than strictly rationing water. Furthermore, I shouldn’t feel guilty about brewing a mug of steamy heaven; the tea industry does a lot of good for the water it uses. It also has a smaller water footprint than coffee (yet another reason tea will always trump coffee!).

(Like any large global demand the tea trade is jaded with poor working conditions, low wages, and abuse. Like anything really look into the source of your product.)

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Weekly shower timer: *Incomplete* 15 minutes

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Want to learn more about water footprints of your brewed morning beverages?

Waterfootprint.org offers many resources. I specifically sourced the Chapagain, Hoekstra study.

Also a few resources on sustainably produced tea!

Art of Tea offers some insight on what their company does to produce sustainable tea.

Read about how Marboc Tea Company has partnered with the UN in a commitment to fair labour!

For further insight on fair trade tea reference Fair Trade USA

If you have the option to buy tea from a local tea guru I urge you to do so! Not only will you enjoy wonderful tea, but also these shop owners are usually very passionate about tea and talk directly with growers.

If you’re in the Madison area I highly recommend Dobra or Macha! If you’re in the Minneapolis area I highly recommend The Northern Lights Tea Co.

Teavana is a large company and NOT a local teashop. Unilever’s (Lipton Tea) partnership with Rainforest Alliance is admirable but Rainforest Alliance has faced much criticism over the years for being ineffective.

Splash!

In 2008 I came across GOOD Magazine’s infographic video overflowing with facts about water. Like a cold splash of water to the face the barrage of facts startled me. I knew we should save water– I never let the faucet run while brushing my teeth, much to the frustration of my father I practiced “if it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down.” Yet I felt inclined to do more. Since my original viewing of I’ve been ever more conscious of my water consumption. Now I’m embarking on a year long, maybe life long, adventure to vastly reduce my water consumption.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I’m excited for this new venture!
Stay tuned as I routinely explore an element of my water consumption!