By Taylor Ray | GFDA contributor 

Californians think about water in ways that other Americans don’t.

On the shower walls of the gyms here in the Bay Area, you’ll find waterproof timers to show you how long five minutes is, and little blue stickers saying things like “Shorter is indeed better.” 

But aside from installing low-flow toilets, skipping flushes, and learning to like shower heads that spurt, consuming less feels like the only thing a conservation-minded person can do.

But it’s not.

What if we re-examine how we use our water at home? 

And how can new products help us in ways that could make saving water easy and fun?

The answers to these questions were clear when I met the work of Principle Faucets of Santa Cruz, CA. Principle Faucets makes faucets with step pedals—beautifully designed ones. And the reason they are so beautiful is that the people who make them have thought deeply about water and how we use it at home.

First, let me explain step pedals. You may have seen an industrial version at a doctor’s office. The faucet looks normal, but when you step on a pedal below the sink, the water comes out. When you release the pedal, the water stops. It’s a better way to keep your hands clean, since you don’t have to touch the handles to turn off the water once you’ve washed them. 

And now for some facts: 

In the grand scheme of things, our household faucets use a lot of water—26 gallons a day in the US to be precise.  And the average household wastes nearly half of this by simply running the tap.

Why do we run the tap? We get busy at the sink. We put dishes in the dishwater, step away to stir, brush our teeth in slow circles, hoist up our kids to wash their hands.

In all these little moments our hands are busy. We don’t need the water, but it’s too cumbersome to keep turning the faucet handles on and off.  If you’re a cook, you know that it’s easier (and more hygienic) to just leave the water running rather than muck up the handles with goopy hands.

But these little “moments” are where innovation can happen—and the people at Principle Faucets saw this opportunity. 

Enter… the step system.

But not some clunky, industrial step system. These are well-designed, well-researched faucet systems and adapters that do exactly what you need to control your water while working in the kitchen or bathroom.

Principle Faucets studied the behavior of how we use water in our homes, and is the first US company to offer a fully integrated kitchen faucet that includes a step system. The pedal is easy to install, and the faucet designs are lovely. They also offer a sleek adapter that can be used with an existing home faucet if you simply want to try one first. The pedal allows you to use water more intuitively, and only when you need it. And the faucet handles stay fully operational.

Curiously, the folks at Principle Faucets say that once people start using a step system for their kitchen sink, they naturally don’t use the handles very much. Using a pedal is much more intuitive way to use water. 

They tell me their customers start with the faucet in their kitchen to “try it out” and then often come back to install step systems in every sink in the house. It’s just easier and more fun.

When you combine the joy of doing something easy with the data on conservation, the step system makes real sense.

Principle’s research has shown that installing a step system to a standard household kitchen faucet can save up to 8.8 gallons a day (or 94 tall glasses of water). That adds up to annual savings of 3200 gallons of water per year (or enough for 212 super thirsty horses after the Kentucky Derby) and saves 200 kilowatt hours of electricity (or the same as leaving every light on in your house for over 3 days).

It’s funny to think our next major energy-saver could come from using our feet. But innovations like these signal an even greater trend for living a more low-waste life. When we can build new ways of doing things that are easier and actually more enjoyable…making a shift becomes a whole lot more natural.

My first pedal adapter from Principle will arrive next week, and I’ll let you know how it goes. Better yet, if you’re so inclined, feel free to make the change yourself (and step on it).

Taylor Ray is a contributor to the GFDA. She works as a professional distiller, honing concepts to their essence. This is a real job and people pay her for it. You can find her work on bookshelves, in launch strategies, in new products, and in media of all kinds. On the side, she teaches improv to corporate clients to help them pivot more creatively.