We Americans love to shower. In fact, an average American family uses some 40 gallons of water per day in the shower. This adds up to 1.2 trillion gallons of water used each year in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To put that in perspective, 1.2 trillion gallons of water could supply the greater New York area with all its water necessities–for a year.
Because most of us enjoy a nice hot shower, especially on days when it hits -30 degrees, showers take a huge toll on electric energy as well. Unless, of course, your hot water heater has frozen and burst, as it’s apt to do in South Dakota.
Before you get upset, I’m not about to say I stopped showering for a week. That would be icky.
Instead, this week, and in weeks leading up to this, I’ve been attempting to reduce the length and the amount of showers I take, the degree of heat I use and what the EPA calls “behavioral waste.” Behavioral waste is letting the shower run for five minutes before actually getting in.
So in the last week, I’ve showered three times. One of those times I washed my hair and the other two times I simply rinsed off after a workout. I kept the temperature at luke warm to cold, and tried to keep them under five minutes (eight is the average shower time for an American).
I should also say that over the last month and a half I’ve trained my hair to only be washed once or twice a week. There is a transition period (I was consistently asked if I had died my hair darker—eek), but your hair will adjust and be healthier for it. When you don’t strip your hair of its natural oils, it becomes naturally more moisturized and voluminous.
As someone who used to shower every day, and is also accustomed to taking lengthy baths, I can honestly say the recent switch has saved me a lot of time. Quicker showers get me going faster, the cold water can actually be very refreshing after a workout or in the morning and not needing to wash my hair every time I clean myself cuts down drastically on my water usage.
Now maybe you’re saying, “Grace, I lift for three hours every morning and I’m a wet mop after. You can’t expect me not to shower every day.” To you, I first must say, congratulations on your obscene dedication to physical fitness. Secondly, of course you must shower if you’re a dripping wet mop. I’m not advocating for bad hygiene here.
However, just because you’re working out every day doesn’t mean you need to wash your hair every day. A three minute cold rinse and scalp massage after a workout will keep you refreshed, save time and preserve energy. All of a sudden you’ve become the person who cares about their physical fitness AND the environment. Bravo.
I realize that cutting down on shower time doesn’t seem like it will make a huge difference in the grand scale of waste and pollution and the whole slew of problems facing our planet. I know that showering twice a week is not going to make the mile wide swirling heaps of trash in our oceans disappear or prevent large companies from dumping waste into waters.
But I don’t think we need to resign ourselves to a “there’s nothing I can do” attitude. This column is about attempting to adopt habits that not only improve our lives, but also allow us to be better, more productive members of a larger community. Becoming aware of the areas where we can reduce waste and preserve energy is a great place to start.
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