Shades of Water

Originally published on Tangible Virtual Water on 04/12/2016.

Water is available on Earth in various forms and sources: oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, snow, glaciers, precipitation, fog, wetlands, underground aquifers…

This post is an opportunity to investigate a little, and clarify the terminology which categorises different types of water and virtual water, to understand how they are affected from human use.

Part of the range of terms attributed to water are divided in colours which somewhat reflect the state of the water in question and are typically attributed to different sources, kinds and uses.

These are: blue, green, grey and black water.


Blue water

Rockström et al. refer to blue water as liquid water in rivers and aquifers, in addition to groundwater, as considered by Hoekstra et al., and lakes and dams, according to Falkenmark et al.


Green Water

Rockström et al. explain green water is “naturally infiltrated rain, attached to soil particles and accessible to roots”.

Blue and green water are closely linked in two ways, mainly: the moisture present in the soil percolates restoring the underlying aquifer, and blue water can be used to supply the lack of green water through irrigation (Rockström et al.)

There are two water complementary flows: the blue water flow through rivers, wetlands and underlying aquifers or groundwater and the green vapour water.

The green water flow is from natural systems (crops, forests…), it evaporates back into the atmosphere and comes back in form of precipitation.

The cycle can then start again.


Grey Water

Jefferson et al. define grey water as arising “from domestic washing operations. As such sources include waste from hand basins, kitchen sinks and washing machines, but specifically exclude foul or black water sources (toilet, bidets and urinals).” […] usually generated by the use of soap or soap products for body washing and as such, varies in quality according to, amongst other things, geographical location, demographics and level of occupancy.”

Grey water is collected from sinks, showers, baths, washing machines, dishwashers and can be distributed with different means, such as distribution of water directly from the sink into the toilet as flushing water, or by treating it and making it suitable for irrigation.

In addition, grey water as its own footprint, which the water footprint website defines as “The volume of freshwater that is required to assimilate the load of pollutants based on natural background concentrations and existing ambient water quality standards. It is calculated as the volume of water that is required to dilute pollutants to such an extent that the quality of the water remains above agreed water quality standards.”

Black Water

Black water is water which has come into contact with fecal matter, which contains harmful bacteria and pathogens.
Unlike grey water, coming into contact with this type of waste means that the water is not able to be reused, for example in irrigation, without the risk of contamination.

Waste water has its quality affected due to human use, from domestic use (grey and black water) to industrial or commercial production.

As mentioned before, we are living within the context of  a water crisis: using as little water and as efficiently as possible is vital.

Water-efficient solutions are available and at times in place.

The image below is an example of a greenhouse village which shows the potential of what can be achieved already.
It is decentralised from an energy and water supply and with a waste and water treatment. This means it is an independent, closed loop system where there is no waste or entropy: everything is a valuable input.

Water is supplied by collecting rain water and is kept in a cycle by treating grey water from the home, which is used for irrigating the greenhouse, itself is a source of energy; black water waste gets treated too and provides soil conditioner.

This introduction to different types of water will be useful when I delve into the cost of meat, in my upcoming post.

In the meantime, more information on types of water, water footprint, virtual water and more and can be found from the water footprint website.


How do you manage your home’s water use?

Do you know of other ways to minimise water loss?


Climate Change March – March 2015

Last Saturday I went to London’s Climate Change march.

I like the idea of strolling down and even sitting on the normally super-busy and car-invaded streets of London to draw attention to an issue I believe needs attention NOW.
Climate change as in human-caused climate change, as analysed on the NASA website (I think it’s a pretty good source), climate change which is causing rising sea levels and extreme weather.

It was a beautiful day and I took pictures of some of the people there on our way from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Parliament Square.

Continue reading

Sustainable Technology: What do you know about it?

If you are reading this, the chances are you are doing so while being connected to the internet and reading these words on a screen, whether it’s a smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer.

Many of us spend hours in front of a screen and search all sorts of things every single day.


But what is the environmental impact of all this?

Continue reading

100 Ways to be More Sustainable – 100th Post

Hello everyone, this is my 100th post! 🙂

I started this blog on 5th February 2012, over 2 years ago, and have finally got to the 100 mark.

As I started off with the idea of writing a blog that would show that acting more sustainably can be easy and have benefits such as saving energy, money and pollute less, I thought it would be a good idea to write about 100 ways to be more sustainable for the 100th post 🙂


First, though, I would like to thank you.

Thank you if you are reading this, thank you if you have been following me since the start, since last year or if you are a new follower.

Thank you for every “like”, comment and share. Thank you for supporting me in my little mission.


Now, to the more practical side of things.

Everything we do has an impact on the environment, this impact can be more or less sustainable, if we think of it as “capable of being maintained as a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage”.

So, here we go, just over 100 tips on how to be more sustainable! Click on the links to discover more about these eco-tactics 🙂


Less energy-hungry food (16)

  • Eat less energy-demanding meat. It only takes a few seconds to look at this World Food Clock and realise how we produce, consume and waste every single second. (Thank you for sharing, Janina). Here are some ideas to get your newly recommended 7 (or even more) a day! 10 Ways to 10 a Day from KHGS.
  • Eat more lentils! They are an excellent sustainable source of protein and easy to grow too.


Lenticchie di Norcia - Italian Lentils

Lenticchie di Norcia – Italian Lentils


  • Store food properly. By doing so, it will last longer and you will waste less. Did you know spring onions last longer in a glass of water in the fridge? 🙂
  • Plan meals ahead and let frozen meals thaw in the fridge. This will save you energy because the fridge will need less electricity to keep the temperature low, plus you won’t need to defrost the meal in the microwave either. Guide: How to defrost safely.
  • Buy locally, go to farmers’ markets or local farms – you will be supporting smaller producers and you can save money too.
  • Have a look at supermarkets’ reduced to clear sections.
    You can find amazing bargains, especially towards the end of the day (loaves of bread for 20p), and purchase food that would otherwise go to waste. You can then consume it as soon as possible or freeze it for future use and save a lot of money.


Reduced Food

Amazingly cheap but still perfectly fine reduced food


  • Understand the difference between “best before” dates and “use by” dates. Look at the Ultimate Shelf Life Guide to avoid wasting food unnecessarily.
  • When you go out, try local produce and products. From craft beers to wine, from pies to vegetables and fruit: give your local producers a try!


Less Pollution (22)

  • Try natural alternative to laundry detergents, such as affordable soap nuts.

Green People Mascara

  • Give car sharing a try. Try sharing rides with colleagues, share a taxi or simply use public transport or start cycling.
  • Learn to drive consuming less fuel: Cut your speed and petrol bill.
    As a pedestrian, if you see a single car coming along, and you’re not in too much of a rush of course, let it drive past so they don’t need to break and re-depart after, which would use more fuel.
  • Walk more. Ramblers is a website that shows many walking routes, or you could simply walk more and use your car less.
  • If you need to pack a parcel, reuse bubble wrap or – even better – use strips of waste paper and ask the receiver to reuse or recycle them after.
  • Try purchasing less plastic and buying reusable items made of less toxic materials. You can start by taking a reusable bag when you go shopping. Life Without Plastic.
  • When you are eating out, ask for tap water rather than bottled water (in areas where it is safe, of course). Why Tap Water is Better.
  • To freshen your home, use essential oils rather than chemical-filled air fresheners. You only need a few drops in a burner or in a spray bottle.
  • Instead of sponges which are not recyclable and harbour bacteria, use cloths which can be washed and reused.


Reusable Material Cloth and Ecover

Reusable Material Cloth and Ecover


  • Switch to online billing rather than paper billing, some companies offer discounts for the switch too.
  • To get rid of oil stains, rub chalk on the affected area before washing rather than using harsh chemicals.
  • Take your own lunch to work, you will cut down on a lot of packaging and also save around £1,000 per year!


Take a packed lunch to work :)

Take a packed lunch to work 🙂


  • When changing the oil for your car, make sure you dispose of it properly as it can pollute waterways and kill wildlife. Find your nearest UK oil bank.
  • Try to purchase products that don’t rely on batteries, and if they must, use rechargeable ones. Look for solar power chargers for an extra sustainable option.


Make, repair&fix (12)


Make Do and Mend



  • Turn used trousers into shorts or skirts.
  • Get to know your neighbours, they may need something you can offer and they may be able to offer something you need.
    My flatmate designed the website for the restaurant next door to us.
  • Make your own body scrub, for example by mixing olive oil with a bit of ground salt and sugar. Simple!
  • Make your mirrors, windows and glass objects sparkle by using white vinegar. Add some in a spray bottle (you can dilute it with 1:10 vinegar to water up to 50/50) and apply with scrunched newspaper to leave no traces or marks.
  • Make a wood cleaner by mixing two parts of vegetable oil with one part lemon juice, use with a cloth.
  • If you prefer purchasing cleaning products, choose eco-friendly ones such as Ecover.
  • To freshen up smelly shoes, try filling them up with scrunched newspaper overnight or sprinkle the insides with bicarbonate of soda or talcum powder and shake them out the day after.


Buy less, use less and buy better quality (9)


  • Do a little research about brands you may want to purchase: do they pay sustainable wages to their workers? Labour Behind the Label.
  • Use less plastic and more natural or oil-free materials, have a look at alternatives from Life Without Plastic.
  • Reuse things: for example, jars can be used as containers for more food or other objects.
    Here are 40 ways to reuse newspaper. Take a reusable coffee cup, like a Keep Cup, to the coffee shop instead of using disposable ones. Some places give you a discount if you bring your own cup too!
  • Buy second-hand books, they can be so much cheaper! Or borrow reading material from your local library.
  • Have your shoes resoled once they need to and keep on using them. I have had my boots for 7 years and they’re great!
  • Dye clothes that have faded and give them a new life.


Bank Better


  • Triodos Bank is “a global pioneer of sustainable banking.” Their mission is “to make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change.”




  • Give someone the opportunity to create a sustainable business and alleviate poverty with the Kiva project, you can lend as little as $25 to someone who needs it and who will give it back to you when possible.


Save Energy (15)


  • Invest in an energy-saving product such as Energenie in order to save energy and money.
  • When charging devices, unplug them once they are fully charged, avoid leaving them plugged in unnecessarily or overnight.
  • Look for energy-efficient domestic appliances.
  • Buy rechargeable batteries and replace your batteries rather than replacing your whole phone.
  • Turn off the oven a few minutes before the time is up, the heat remains in the oven for a long time after you switch it off.
  • Try to use the oven as its full capacity when you use it, you can add meals to eat later in the week or use it to make croutons out of stale bread, for example.
  • Switch to a green energy supplier.
  • Wear warmer clothing and adjust your central heating to avoid wasting energy and money.
  • When you dry your clothes indoors, avoid putting them on radiators as this will stop the heat from reaching the room, create damp and good conditions for mold to grow.
  • Cook in bulk and therefore save energy. You can freeze additional portions.
  • Cook food in a steamer, you can cook different things on each level at the same time.


Recycle and Reuse (11)


  • Save paint from going to waste, Community Repaint collect reusable paint and distribute it to those who need it, helping them and avoiding waste.
  • Recycle your shoes at a collection bank.
  • Clear your cupboards of old electronic equipment, sell it or recycle in appropriate centres.
  • Consider going to charity shops first to find what you need. It could be a frame, and even if you don’t like a picture you may love the frame. Give things a new life.
  • You can recycle all sorts of things, even ink cartridges. Check before you throw.
  • Donate, don’t throw. If you have unwanted furniture, give it to a friend or donate it to a charity.
  • Borrow instead of buying, can help you find what you need with no need to buy it.
  • Share more. You will save money, use fewer resources, meet new people… 10 reasons to share.
  • Use carpets in many ways to avoid them ending up in landfill. Use them to line cupboards, cars as mats, pet beds,  as doormats and even under plant pots.


Waste Less (9)


  • Compost food and tea bags to fertilise the soil which you will be able to use to grow your own herbs, vegetables, food or plants.
  • Reuse timber material from skips.
  • Take your own suit bags to the dry cleaner’s rather than having them give you flimsy plastic ones and take back the hangers for them to reuse.
  • Reuse tea bags – when you make tea in a cup, you can often reuse it for another cup as their strength is usually enough for a few cups. Or use loose tea leaves and then compost them if possible.

CHai Tea

  • Buy in bulk or buy refills.
  • When you go to a restaurant, if you cannot finish your meal, ask to take it away in a doggy box. It’s a compliment to those who took care to source and prepare the food, and you have paid for the whole portion, don’t be shy! Too Good To Waste Campaign.


Save Water (5)


  • Choose a dual flush system or put a water-saving device in your loo tank to use less water with every flush.
  • When you are waiting for cold water to turn hot, collect it rather than letting it go down the drain and use it to water flower and plants, wash fruit and vegetables, fill the kettle…don’t waste it!
  • Use a tank to collect rain water. It’s ideal to water plants or wash the car.
  • Wash your vegetables in a bowl rather than under running water and use that water for plants and flowers.


What do you like to do to be more sustainable?

Do you have any additional tips?


*Special thanks to my amazing flatmate G for continuously contributing to ideas for this post*

Meet Sam from Fair Marquit Value – Eco Tourism

Just hours before hopping on an enormous metal bird to the land where orange juice is the official national beverage (how cool is that? And by the way I hope I will be offsetting my trip’s carbon footprint by eating vegan, as a start!) I would like to post another article.

It is written by Sam Marquit, an independent green contractor and co-author of Fair Marquit Value from New York who focuses on sustainable building by using ecological materials and new eco-friendly technology.

If I had the chance to have a new home built as I wished or if I could purchase a property I know I would love it to be as sustainable and as energy-efficient as possible.

Go to Sam’s Fair Marquit Value page to learn more about him and what he does. I found the articles about the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification and creating energy while having a shower particularly interesting.


Silver Linings: Greening Our Way to Prosperity

The economic downturn hit the construction and contracting industries pretty hard. As a contractor, I’ll be the first to say that it can be hard to find a lot of positives in the situation. I’ll also say that if there is a silver lining, it is in the recent upswing of eco-friendly projects that have started to see the light of day.

Across the globe, a number of public and private initiatives have begun to incentivize companies and organizations to make positive environmental choices. Designed to connect the advances being made in research with the market, Eco-Innovation-Europe is one of these programs. Through Eco-Innovation, “green” ideas ranging from production to products, services, and processes are given the opportunity to be commercially viable. The five-strand initiative includes various aspects of recycling, sustainable building products, water treatment and distribution, and a focus on the food and drink sector. In addition, the greening of pre-existing businesses is a major part of Eco-Innovation, and one that may help the EU meet its environmental objectives while boosting economic growth.

One of the largest hotel chains in the world, The Marriott is an example of a major established business taking the lead on the green-front. Taking advantage of a new corn-by-product made room key, The Marriott purchased 24 million “green” keys to replace the more common plastic cards. Biodegradable and recyclable, these new key cards are expected to prevent as much as 66 tons of plastic from being dumped into landfills every year.

For the most part, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Luckily for the rest of us, one of the most popular hotels on the Strip isn’t trying to keep its green practices a secret. Recently named the “Most Eco Friendly Hotel in America,” the Palazzo Hotel and Resort is pioneering multiple green initiatives ranging from the ability to reuse its own waste to solar paneled heating and a state-of-the-art water recycling system. With the amount of travel the city sees each year, it’s encouraging to see new green Las Vegas hotels going up each year.

The green initiatives and building projects that have accompanied the slow economic recovery have proven a definite boon. Yet the embrace and support of green initiatives by organizations are just as important. Perhaps eco-friendly building and sustainability practices are not just the secret to saving the planet, but the key to reinvigorating the economy as well.


How eco is your holiday?

How eco is your holiday?

What do you think about eco-friendly hotels?

Do you focus on sustainability when travelling or going on holiday?



I was also in contact with Rob from destiny USA regarding the benefits of the LEED certification for larger businesses.

Have a look at their link: is LEED Certification Effective: a Case study of Destiny USA in order to find out more about Destiny USA and the rating system which focuses on sustainable builds.

Sustainable locations, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovations in design…these features are all considered in order to obtain a high rating.

And look at the advantages:

Destiny USA

Destiny USA

I think rating systems like these are very helpful to ensure that new buildings are sustainable and consider the effects that their construction and energy requirements have on the environment.

This way water, energy and materials can be used unwastefully, reducing a negative effect on the building’s surroundings.


What do you think of using certifications such as LEED to set a high sustainability standard for constructions and businesses?

Do you think they should be promoted to raise people’s awareness on objective sustainability levels?

Blackfriars Railway Bridge: The World’s Largest Solar Panel Bridge

London Blackfriars Railway Bridge is the largest solar panel bridge in the world.

The only other solar bridge in the world is the Kurilpa Bridge in Brisbane, Australia.

London Blackfriars Railway Bridge crosses the river Thames close to the Tate Modern Gallery on the South side (right on the picture) and it is situated West of the Millenium Bridge which leads to St. Paul’s further East (on the left, with the impressive dome).

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on new Blackfriars bridge. Photo from The Guardian

This is another green project for London that was ready just in time for the Olympics, it was closed for 3 years to increase its capacity (60% more passengers each day), include a step-free access, refurbish the platforms to welcome 12-carriages services… It’s the first mainline station to span the Thames and have exits on both sides of the river.

Every morning on my way to work the train stops at Blackfriars station. I witnessed the station’s changes during the past few months, changes  that showed how modern green technology can be combined with a 125-year-old Victorian bridge harmoniously.

The roof is now covered with more than 4,400 photovoltaic solar panels which will produce 900,000kWh each year, 50% of the station’s energy and reducing CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes a year.

The bridge also has rain harvesting systems and sun pipes for natural lighting.

The platforms’ walls are currently full of interesting signs which display how eco-friendly London Blackfriars has become after its refurbishment, so I took a few pictures:

Network Rail rebuilt the station on top of Blackfriars Bridge

Use of barges took 2,000 lorry journey off London Roads


First of all, all the material needed was transported on water rather than on polluting lorries



4,400 solar cells = 50% of the station’s energy is completely clean and sustainable


The solar cells produce enough energy to power 300 homes



Even the timber from the scaffolding didn’t go to waste


Blackfriars Bridge: Good at Recycling

Additional links:

Architettura Eco Sostenibile

Thameslink Programme

Thameslink Programme Facts

Renewable Technology

What do you think of this project?

Can you think of examples of cities and towns that could benefit from similar green projects?

London 2012 Olympics – Pavement Facts and Sustainability

The London 2012 Olympics 8th day has begun and the first week has already been filled with great successes, several broken records and honourable defeats.

It was back on 6th July 2005 that it was announced that London would be hosting the Games in 2012, and so much was planned and built after that.

I work in London, so I tried to gather information on how eco-friendly the London 2012 Games are just by looking around me.

During the past couple of weeks I have noticed Olympics facts posters have been stuck to the pavements around Holborn (and perhaps other areas that I haven’t visited recently). These are the ones I found:

London Olympics 2012 Facts Poster – High Holborn

“Within the Olympic Park, more than 4,000 trees, 74,000 plants, 60,000 bulbs and 300,000 wetland plants were planted to create a new open green space for London.”

I took this picture in High Holborn during my sunny lunch break yesterday and you can see an Olympics volunteer or “Games Maker” on the left. There are about 70,000 Games Makers for these Olympics so they are easy to spot in their official gear.

London Olympics 2012 Pavement Facts – Gt. Russell Street

This pavement poster was in Great Russell Street and there were more in Tottenham Court Road.

Some posters’ facts were about the size of the Olympic Park and about the nearby British Museum.

Olympics 2012 British Museum Facts – Gt. Russell St.

I was able to find out about plants and animals, which is great, however what about all the energy needed to bring the Games to life? Are these Games the most environmentally friendly Games yet?

The official page for the Games states that the ODA, Olympic Delivery Authority, responsible for building the Olympic Park tried to reduce its construction’s impact to the people living nearby.

I had a look at the PDF document from November 2009 that they linked on the page and it explains that while building they were talking into consideration the importance of sustainability and particularly:

  • Using less energy: Energy-efficient technology in the new Olympic Park Energy Centre would provide electricity, heating, cooling and hot water, a biomass boiler would burn recycled woodchips to generate power, 20% of energy used on the Olympic Park would be from renewable sources and a 120m wind turbine in the Park would generate enough energy for 1,000 homes
  • Protecting wildlife: They did surveys of plants and animals living in the area and cleaned out all the rubbish that was in the Olympic Park’s area waterways
  • Managing the quality of air and water
  • Reducing waste: They reused some materials on the Olympic Park, including soil that was washed and shaken to get rid of pollutants and then reused on site, also the Greenway which runs through the park used old cobble stones which were already on the Olympic site.

Some of the steps that have been taken are brilliant and really show the effort to make these the greenest Olympic Games to date, and other make me wonder if they could have done more.

Washing the contaminated soil and reusing it once clean meant that a lot of energy was saved as they didn’t have to dump the dirty soil somewhere and then use so much energy to transport more soil into the building site.

-You can find more information about decontaminating the soil in the Metro article which also includes that they have recently realised that the energy provided from renewable sources for the Games is more like 11% rather than 20%.-

However I also think:

-If they installed a 120m wind turbine that can generate a lot of energy, couldn’t they build more than one? It’s probably a very naive supposition as I am not aware of how complicated it might be to build one, but I just wish the strong winds that blow here were used to make clean energy more.

-One of the Olympics volunteers was saying how shocked he was at the food wasted on site: can’t there be more attention dedicated to managing this effectively and waste less food?

Here are more links for additional information on the Olympics eco-friendliness on how people are encouraged to recycle and walk, cycle or take public transport, including those very futuristic electric double-decker buses I’ve seen, to the Olympic Games:

Some of the facts and figures needed to really assess how green these Games are will only be available and accurate once the Games have finished, so for now I will carry on enjoying watching the Olympics and looking out for more green Olympics news.

Have you seen any green Olympics facts posters around?

Have you been to the Games? What did you see that struck you as being an effort to make these Games the most sustainable possible?