Michael Phelps: ‘A Big, Easy Step’ to Save Water

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, is a multitasker.

“In the morning when I do take a shower, I’m brushing my teeth in the shower,” said the now-retired athlete.

As one of the fastest swimmers in the world, Phelps knows a thing or two about saving time. But these days, he’s all about saving water.

Colgate campaign

Phelps was recently in New York to promote his partnership with Colgate toothpaste and raise awareness around water conservation.

“Water has been such a big part of my life and important part of my life. And for me, it’s an honor and a pleasure to be able to spread the word that we need to conserve as much as we can,” he said.

The Colgate Save Water campaign centers on the ultra-simple practice of turning off the tap while brushing your teeth. Phelps said the surprising stats around water waste blew his mind.

“Leaving the water running when you’re brushing your teeth ruins and wastes 4 gallons of water. It’s like 64 glasses of water,” Phelps said. “I mean, that right there should be enough where you can make that change, and cut back on your showers, or make sure you’re turning off the water. Just the small little things that are going to end up making a huge difference in the end.”

Stickers, smart speakers

With Earth Day around the corner, Colgate has created a water-activated drain sticker to remind users to conserve. When wet, the sticker reveals the message “Turn off the faucet.” It’s currently only available at Walmart stores in a special package of the brand’s Total toothpaste, but consumers can also pledge online to save water and share their resolution via social media.

Owners of a smart speaker such as the Google Home or Amazon Alexa can also use voice commands like “Hey Google, talk to Save Water by Colgate” to enable the sound of running water to play while their tap is off.

With about 71 percent, or 4.3 billion, of the world’s population experiencing moderate to severe water scarcity at least one month out of the year, Phelps said small efforts like this can have a global impact.

“A lot of what we’re doing is, it’s just common sense,” he said. “You’re standing there brushing your teeth and looking in the mirror — don’t have the water running. It’s as simple as that. It’s just one quick turn. And it’s so easy that everybody can do it. I think that’s a big, easy step that we can all take. Every single one of us.”

Future generations

The father of two is no doubt thinking of future generations in his efforts to raise environmental consciousness.

“Being able to have a 2-year-old now, he’s kind of picking up on every little small thing that we do,” Phelps said. “It’s fun to teach him things like this early in their life because then it allows them to be able to carry it through their life but also teach other people the importance of conserving water.”

It’s just one of many teachings the versatile athlete is passing on. These days, Phelps spends more time practicing his golf swing than his swim stroke, but the core lessons remain the same.

“My coach taught me at a very young age to take the word “can’t” out of my vocabulary, because it’s such a negative word,” Phelps said. “Whenever you say you can’t do something, you might as well just give up on it. You’ve already had that idea in your head that you can’t do something, so you’re just wasting your time.”

“That was something at a very young age that I learned and it was hard. But once I got it, I just believed that I could use my mind, and I could get to any place where I wanted to go,” Phelps said.

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