Are you guilty of leaving the water running when brushing your teeth? Maybe you let the water run before jumping in the shower? Or perhaps while washing your hands or doing the dishes? Well if you are…you are not alone.
American households collectively waste up to 10 trillion gallons of water per year just from leaving the faucet running while brushing teeth. And another trillion gallons of water are reportedly lost each year to leaky faucets. These are startling but very real facts. Fortunately, one celebrity hero is diving in to help alleviate the issue.
Olympian Michael Phelps is taking a stand to help reduce water waste by making #EveryDropCount – a new PSA campaign slogan that is part of a national water initiative from Colgate. While most know Phelps as a 23-time Olympic Gold medalist, he is evolving his nomenclature as “The Best Swimmer in the World” to include humanitarian and environmental advocate.
Now father to his 2-year-old son, Boomer, and currently expecting another on the way with his wife Nicole, Phelps recognizes the role he plays both at home and on the global stage as an ambassador of goodwill.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with the 32-year-old swimming legend to learn how he is making ‘#EveryDropCounts’ a national saying as well as an ongoing thought in all American households.
Conscious Action Equals Mindful Conservation
It starts with brushing teeth. That’s the idea behind the campaign. According to Colgate, the average person can save four gallons of water each time they brush their teeth if they just think to turn the faucet off in between rinsing. And assuming this is a twice a day activity, that means each person can save up to 8 gallons of water just in teeth brushing alone.
Phelps explains that water is a resource that is often taken for granted, and as a swimmer for 20 years, he admits to being guilt of this. “We are so lucky to have clean water every single day,” he says, elaborating that it’s important to recognize this luxury might have an expiration date if we don’t start reducing our water usage.
He adds that now as a dad, water conservation is something that is important to his family, and a value he hopes to instill in his children. “We are just trying to teach them the right things, especially now. Boomer is so aware of everything that we are doing and he is basically mimicking us, so we are trying to get him to understand the basics of water conservation. This is something that Nicole and I are very excited about.”
According to Water.org, the average American uses 176 gallons of water per day compared to five gallons the average African family uses. Phelps urges, “if we can get everyone on board and trying to save little by little, I think we can make a huge difference.”
Taking the Message to the Youngest Water Warriors
Colgate and Phelps set out to inspire 10 million youth to turn off their faucets this fall. They believe if they can influence kids across the country to become water conscious, 80 million gallons of drinkable water can potentially be saved each day.
On October 19, 2017, Phelps visited a top participating school in Colgate’s Recycling Program to discuss water conservation. Joined by TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky, the two set out to talk with the students of the Alain L. Locke Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship on various ways to conserve water and why #EveryDropCounts.
“Visiting the school was a real treat for me,” Phelps reflects with a smile, “I’m the happiest human being when I’m around kids.” After spending the day teaching water-saving tips and tricks, Phelps gave each student a water-activated drain sticker to apply to their bathroom sink as a visual reminder to Turn Off the Faucet. “It’s something the kids can share with their families when they go home from school, and it becomes something they learned today. Hopefully this interaction inspires their parents.”
TerraCycle CEO, Tom Szaky, adds, “It’s harder to break bad habits as you get older, so this is a perfect time for these children to learn good ones such as turning off the faucet while brushing their teeth.” By encouraging students to teach their parents sustainable practices, Phelps believes “word of mouth” from child to parent is one of the most powerful tools of communication.
He jokes, “I recently found out what communication was, and [life becomes] a lot easier when you’re able to communicate things. That is something that we can all work more on.”
Being a Champion for the Meek
Communication didn’t come easy to Phelps growing up. He often struggled with expressing his feelings. “I’ve learned [communication] is very important. And it’s a big part of life. No matter what it is, the only way you are going to find your answers is if you talk about it.”
Outside of championing water conservation, Phelps is highly regarded as a mental health advocate. He has confessed to battling depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts during his swimming career. “A lot of people look at athletes or celebrities or public figures as superheroes, but at the end of the day we are all human beings and we all put our pants on the same way.”
Now leading the charge on tackling mental insecurities, Phelps spends a lot of time speaking internationally to at-risk youth who can look to him as a beacon of hope. “To be able to save a life is way bigger than winning any amount of gold medals,” he says. Being an inspirational voice is another passion driving him.
“These things have given me a better picture of where I really want to go after my swimming career, which is where I’m going now. I do have the chance to wake up every day and believe that I can make a difference. That’s the best part.”
And as evidenced by the people who come up to him on a daily basis to express their gratitude for his work with Colgate, it’s clear he is having an impact already.
Beyond the #EveryDropCounts campaign, Phelps plans to be a lifelong ambassador for mental health and water conservation.
You can help spread awareness for this campaign using #EveryDropCounts on social media and by learning more at EveryDropCounts.Colgate.com. To learn more about Michael Phelps, follow his activism, view his clothing line, or read one of his critically acclaimed books, visit Michaelphelps.com.