21 April, 2018
American Michael Phelps possess more Olympic medals than anyone else in history.
Phelps won 28 medals over the years as a competitive swimmer. So he knows a thing or two about water.
Retired from the sport, Phelps has developed a new interest in water: saving it.
Recently, Phelps was in New York City for a public appearance. He spoke about his partnership with Colgate-Palmolive, the manufacturer of Colgate toothpaste products. They are working together to bring attention to the need for water conservation -- safeguarding water supplies from overuse.
Phelps told reporters "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."
Colgate's Save Water campaign has a simple message. It is urging people to turn off running water while cleaning your teeth. Phelps said the shocking numbers around water waste were a big surprise for him.
"Leaving the water running when you're brushing your teeth ruins and wastes 4 gallons of water. It's like 64 glasses of water," he said.
Phelps added that everyone should also use less water when they clean up.
Stickers, smart speakers
With Earth Day on Sunday, Colgate has created a water-activated drain sticker that urges people to conserve water. When wet, it shows the message "Turn off the faucet."
Currently, the sticker is only sold at Walmart stores. But you can also make the promise on Colgate's website to save water and share your promise on social media.
The company is also taking its Save Water campaign to owners of smart speakers, such as the Google Home or Amazon Alexa. It says they can use voice commands, like, "Hey Google, talk to Save Water by Colgate," to hear the sound of running water while their faucet is turned off.
Phelps says small efforts like this can have an effect, both locally and around the world.
"It's just common sense," he said. "You're standing there brushing your teeth...don't have the water running. It's as simple as that. It's just one quick turn. And it's so easy that everyone can do it. I think that's a big, easy step that we can all take. Every single one of us."
About 4.3 billion people experience moderate to severe water scarcity at least one month every year. That number represents about 71 percent of the world's population.
The Olympic champion and father of two is thinking of future generations in his efforts to bring attention to environmental issues.
"...(I) 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 Phelps is passing on to others. These days, he spends more time playing golf than swimming, but what he has learned remains the same.
"Whenever you say you can't do something, you might as well just give up on it," he noted. "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.
I'm Susan Shand.
Tina Trihn reported this story for VOA News. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
toothpaste – n. a product that is used for cleaning teeth
conservation – n. the protection of something
brush – v. an act of cleaning or smoothing something with a brush
drain – n. something (such as a pipe) that is used for removing a liquid from a place or container
faucet – n. a device that is used to control the flow of water from a pipe
pick up – v. to gain possession; to learn by watching
allow – v. to permit or let