Michael Phelps — the most decorated Olympian of all-time and the holder of a record 23 Olympic gold medals — has spent his entire life in water. As someone who’s made his living thanks to H2O, it makes total sense that his retirement thus far has been dedicated to the sustainability of earth’s most precious resource.
Over the last few months, Phelps has been visiting college campuses around the United States, encouraging that they get involved by preaching the importance of water conservation in our daily lives. Through Colgate’s Every Drop Counts initiative, Phelps has given students tips on how to make every drop count.
Uproxx spoke to him about his newfound career in bringing awareness of water conversation to the masses, which he called “way bigger than winning an Olympic gold medal.”
Shorter showers, turn off the faucet. How important is it to ingrain these methods into everyday life?
I think it’s super important in every way possible — but I think one of the core things for me now having a family and getting ready to have a family of four, just understanding the amount of water that is wasted. A family of four can use up to 400 gallons in a day. That’s 400 gallons for a single family of four, that’s a lot of water. If there’s any way that we can all jump together and make some small adjustments to our everyday lives, that can help not only grow the amount of water that we’re going to have for the rest of our lives but provide clean water for the rest of our kid’s lives.
It is challenging, but it’s something that I think is so simple for all of us to come together and do. Two minutes of every day if we can turn the water off, that’s going to make this world become a better place. It’s just mind-blowing if you think about some of the stats and if you leave the water running for two minutes you’re wasting four gallons. That’s one person and roughly 350 million people that we have in this country. That’s a lot of water, especially when everything starts adding up, I think it’s almost just a no-brainer to be able to work more together as a team.
Then you look at like California’s drought and the wildfires that have happened. Is it going to be easier, unfortunately, to get your message across with these issues happening?
I think if you look at younger generations that I think we’re all obviously trying to make significant changes to make the world a better place. Because there are always things that are going on and occurring that are constantly changing, the more we do and spend time caring about things that will make our world a better place. I think it’s going to be astronomical to be able to think about the changes that we can make to give everybody the fair opportunity and a fair chance to help out where we all can. Common sense, you know? Turn the water off when you’re brushing, you save so much water, you’re able to have clean drinking water and that’s something that not many people or not everybody in the world has the opportunity to have like we do here.
If we can all work together, we have the chance to really just make a significant change. We don’t need to take 30-minute showers right? If we can just start talking more about some of the things that we have going on in our world. That’s why I always talk about the stats that we have about the water usage of a family of four, because that’s something that we can all think of, and how to realize that it’s something that we need to change and something we need to change now before it’s too late.
What can we do as citizens? There’s the Line 5 Pipeline that’s sending oil from Canada through the Great Lakes that hasn’t really been upgraded in decades. What can citizens do at the local and government level to address the bigger issues?
It’s communicating. I think communicating is something that’s so big and I always make this joke, like I just really learned to communicate and to understand certain feelings that I have and why I have them over the last couple of years. Using my voice to speak out about things that I’m passionate about I think just really helps so much. It’s something that I’ve seen in my life that has made my life 10 times easier than what it ever was before. It helps me with my relationship, it helps me with my mental health, it helps me with our son who’s now understanding things and his mind is like a sponge. Constant communication, whether it’s good stuff or bad stuff, just constantly always talking about things that are coming up in your life and for me, I’m very fortunate to be able to have a place where I can try and make a difference in a number of different ways in life.