Marina Freire Gromaly: What’s in your Water?

Marina looks at water pollution and how we contribute to it.

October 10, 2014

While thinking about water usage, I began to notice articles relating to water in the media. For example, this CBC article noted that there have been elevated levels of five classes of chemicals found in the Great Lakes. Although these chemicals are at fairly low concentrations, it points to the fact that we as a society are impacting the very source that is crucial to our survival.

Additionally, there has been increasing awareness about how microbeads, tiny plastic bits in toothpaste and other hygiene products, have been accumulating in our water supplies. This is a pretty new phenomenon and we still don’t know what the long term impacts will be!

The water treatment processes are improving and there is quite a bit of innovative research at UofT specifically on how water pollutants can impact our drinking water post-treatment, and innovative biologically activated methods to help remove the pollutants during the treatment process.

These articles and insight into the research has prompted me to dig a little deeper to find ways I can minimize my impact. For example, I bring left-over medicine to the pharmacy and do not flush it down the sink. I checked one of my face washes and realized it contains micro-spheres – I’ve cut that product out of my home, and am making sure from now on not to buy such products!

Similarly, in a lab environment, I’ve been looking into proper disposal of chemicals, and not running the post-lab sludge down our sinks. I think this is an area where we need a more concerted effort. Many chemicals used in the university are not meant to be poured down the sink after use. The sewage treatment facilities are simply not equipped to handle the complex waste.

As well, in terms of household products, I’m moving away from traditional household cleaners and using vinegar and baking soda as much as possible.

I hope you’re all making pledges too! If we work together to change our behaviours, we can make this world a more sustainable place for future generations!


Marina Freire Gormaly: Reducing Water Usage

In Marina’s first post, she explains how she plans to reduce her water usage for the month.

September 15, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I’ve pledged to reduce my water consumption. Although I’ve been conscious about it these past two weeks, this is the first time I’ve started sharing my experiences. It’s been a busy start to term. As a first-year PhD student, courses and research took priority for the first week of school. Now, I’ve settled back into the routine, and am excited to share with you my experiences. As the external liaison of the University of Toronto’s Environmental Research Network, I’ve seen a ton of exciting sustainability related funding applications over the years. I hope you will be inspired to take on a pledge, and perhaps even take on leading a workshop or event related to water. Remember to apply for funding if it relates to UTERN’s mandate.

When I started this pledge, I thought it would be a breeze. How hard can it be to take shorter showers or to not waste water? Now that I’m into the throws of the school year, I’ve realized it is a lot harder than I originally anticipated.

Here are some of the ways I’ve tried to reduce my direct and indirect water consumption.

  1. Take showers between 3-5min long. This is particularly challenging for me. It’s taken me a few times to stick to 6mins. I plan to reduce it to even shorter ones by the end of the challenge.
  2. Using a re-usable mug every time I purchase a beverage. This represents a challenge for me, since sometimes in between a three-hour class there’s hardly enough time to buy the coffee in the store, let alone run to the office to pick up the re-usable mug. To overcome this, I’ve started to make a tea/coffee in my office before class in my re-usable mug. Then if I feel I need another, it will be with me.
  3. I personally don’t have a dish washer. Washing dishes represents another large use of water in my daily activities. Instead of letting the water run while I soap my dishes, I’ve started to use a little bit of water to get the sponge soapy, then scrubbing my dishes, and then doing a quick rinse. It seems to require much less water than the previous method.

This video relates to the use of paper towels after hand-washing. Wicking lets you use just one if you fold it!

If you have any tips you think I should try out, or if you’ve implemented a few of your own, feel free to post them on the blog! Looking forward to hearing your stories too!