Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Aspiration (Resolution) Update

Regular readers know that my aspiration (I hate to call it a resolution) for 2008 is to reduce my consumption and lighten my footprint on the earth. I expect 2008 will be a year of journey for me as I move in that direction and look for ways I can do that. So much of what I read about what people can do as individuals isn’t something we can pull off right away. Except for changing over to those new-fangled light bulbs, the suggestions are often about buying smaller cars, using public transportation and eating locally. Well, whatever kind of car you may or may not have, few people can afford to run out and switch to a different one right away. Public transportation isn’t available everywhere. Eating locally is something I try to do during the growing season, but that doesn’t work as well in winter.

So what else can I do? At the moment, I’m focusing on water and reducing how much of it I use. I have a well, so my water usage isn’t monitored by anyone except me. My water use impacts the area’s water table, which in some years has fallen dangerously low.

To reduce my own water consumption, I am currently rethinking the daily shower. No, I am not giving up keeping clean, so don’t let your minds wander there even for an instant.

So who decreed that we have to run a shower in order to clean up and stay socially acceptable? Since when are gallons of water needed to wash one human body? What’s wrong with the old bowl bath or basin bath or the old basin and pitcher combination? That uses no more than a gallon or two of water. Fill with hot water, use soap and wash cloth. Rinse. It’s fast, it’s easy.

Let’s do some math: The average bath uses 30-50 gallons of water, according to statistics I found. If your home was built before 1992, the water coming out of your spigot is likely to run at about 5 gallons a minute. If you take a 4-minute shower, you’ve just used 20 gallons of water. If your house was built after 1992, you might have a water-restricting showerhead, and your 4 minute daily shower just used 10 gallons of water. Even conscientious folks often take longer than 4 minutes in the shower. That’s still, in my opinion, an awfully lot of water, and over time it really adds up.

You may not want to forgo showers forever, but what if you mixed the bowl bath with an every other day shower? By doing just that you will save a lot of water. Assuming you have a water-restricting shower head, by changing to 3 showers a week at 10 gallons each (assuming you are one of those 4-minute shower people) and 4 one-gallon bowl baths, you will use 34 gallons of water per week to keep clean versus 70 gallons, a savings of 36 gallons of water. Over a year, this amounts to 1,872 gallons of water saved.

If you have the 5-gallon per minute shower head and use 20 gallons of water per 4-minute shower (or if you are an 8 minute shower person), your water use will drop from 140 gallons per week to 64 gallons, a savings of 66 gallons of water in just one week. For a year, this savings jumps to 3432 gallons.

For a 50 gallon daily bath, you will use 350 gallons of water per week. Just by dropping to 3 baths per week and four bowl baths, your water usage will drop by nearly 200 gallons of water in just one week and will save 8008 gallons per year.

And let’s say you suddenly decide you want to go from a 50 gallon daily bath to a 4 minute shower/bowl bath combination. Your water savings will be 16,432 gallons per year. Imagine if just 1000 people in the U.S. did that. The water savings from that would be the size of a small reservoir.

If you don’t think any of this is a big savings in water use, try to imagine how you’d feel if you had to go down to the local pond, stream or well to haul water back to your house every day, as so many people still do. Suddenly, those 36 gallons or 66 gallons or the 100+ gallons of water for the bath people saved per week look huge. And though most of us don’t have to do that, over a year or over a lifetime, a little conservation that doesn’t substantially change how we live can have a huge impact.


Cicero Sings said...

Personally, I think we've gone a little overkill on this showering business! Most of us don't get dirty enough in a week let alone a day, to really require a full shower. When we were kids ... it was once a week unless your grimy bare feet needed a dusting down before bed! It is actually better for your skin, NOT to be scrubbed every day, stripping it of its natural oils. Then, if one is showering in chlorinated water every day ... dear, dear.

Speaking of bare feet ... do kids even go bare foot anymore?

Carolyn H said...

Cicero: I agree about the shower overkill, especially in cooler weather. The fastest way to feel cold in winter is to shower and strip away those natural oils. The coldest night I ever spent backpacking was the night after I cleaned up in a motel in the middle of winter trip.

Summer might be a different story.

Carolyn H.

Cathy said...

I don't take a shower everyday. My skin and hair would freak out! Yea this busy of showering everyday is stupid if you work in office all day. I tried keep my showers short but I lose track very easily.

Georg said...

Bonjour Carolyn,

The global warming put us all into a train that seems to gather speed.

The amount of water you need when taking a shower is certainly interesting and gives you credit. But the forces unleashed are well beyond our possibilities.

Do your little something but sit back and relax as the events unfold.

dguzman said...

WOW! That's a lot of water saved! We too have a well, and I'll have to seriously consider cutting down on my showers. I shower every single day because it helps me wake up, and because it's just my routine. Still--those numbers really make me eager to change the routine for the good of the earth. Thanks!