Small streams make a river: why conscious water use is key to a more sustainable lifestyle

70% of the Earth consists of water, but less than 1% of it is available for human consumption. The Nolla cabin, which features no running water, challenges us to consider how much water do we actually need?

Freshwater makes up a very small fraction of the Earth’s water reserve. Most of the planet’s water is either in oceans, frozen in the polar ice caps, or too inaccessible for practical use. It's true that the water cycle continuously returns water to Earth, but not always in the same quantity and quality – or into the same location.

In the Nordics, easy access to the cleanest water in the world is an everyday commodity and it is often taken for granted. An average Finn consumes approximately 150 liters of water every day, which according to WHO, is almost six times more than we actually need. In Finland and other Nordic countries fresh, drinkable water is even used to flush toilets.

Carry every drop

A typical Finnish summer cottage often lacks some modern-day commodities, but a growing number of cottage owners consider running water a desirable comfort. The Nolla cabin encourages us to contribute to a cleaner future by considering the amount of fresh water we consume on a daily basis.

The Nolla cabin does not feature running water and the closest fresh water supply is located 700 meters from it. Carrying water from a distance is often a trigger to considering how much of it we actually need – who really wants to carry 150 liters of water a day?

A bath in the sea?

The cabin is of course surrounded by sea, but due to the risk of eutrophication, washing and bathing in it with detergents and soaps should be avoided. Eutrophication means the process in which a body of water becomes enriched with minerals and nutrients that contribute to the excessive growth of plants and algae, which results in oxygen depletion of water. This has a devastating effect on underwater ecosystems.

The most ecological way is to wash oneself farther away from natural water reserves and take care of the water used in washing according to the rules and regulations. Nolla visitors are instructed to use only the natural cosmetics found in the Nolla cabin. This way the washing water can be poured into the ground, where it is filtered through soil, before returning to the water cycle.

Make a difference every day

In the Nordics, fresh water is abundant for now, but what we often forget to consider is that heating and purifying it consumes a lot of energy. Closing the tap while shampooing your hair or brushing your teeth will help reduce unnecessary water and energy consumption significantly.

So, whilst you don’t need to carry what you use, make sure to appreciate every drop, and to use water only when truly necessary. After all, small streams make a river – quite literally.

You can read more about how The United Nations are coordinating their work on water and sanitation at

We have embarked on a journey towards a carbon neutral future. However, it takes more than one to reach zero. Together with our partners, Neste will explore new ideas and steer the world towards a better future.