I like hot showers. That’s not strong enough…I LOVE my daily hot shower. I wake up, I feed the cat, I do some stuff…emails, social media, maybe exercise, then it’s shower time. Crank the faucet well into the red line and hop in. The shower is where I do much of my daily planning. I think about what I have to get done, who I have to speak too, what I forgot to do yesterday, etc. While I’m planning my day, I’m taking care of cleaning ritual on autopilot. Multi-tasking. Habitual. And as it turns out, extremely wasteful.
Water Conservation and Behaviours
Intellectually I know that behaviour is the most powerful tool to maximize water conservation. While Erin and I have taken great care to install water saving fixtures in our home (Caroma dual flush toilet, low-flow shower head, and aerators on our taps) we are not necessarily mindful of how we use water everyday. I for one regularly just take for granted that we have these water saving technologies and forget about it. But lately, as I wrap my head around the water conservation program we’re building for the City of Selkirk, I have been much more aware of how I use water. This awareness has led me to rethink my daily routine.
Mindfulness in the Shower
Last week I attempted to be more mindful of what I was doing in the shower. You know “be here now”. I was committed to not planning my day or rehashing a conversation I had the day before. The first thing I noticed was how lost I was. Having to actually think about the steps I normally take out of habit was a bit disorienting. For all-intents-and-purposes, I “zone-out” when I’m in the shower. I enjoy the hot water, I don’t really think about what I’m doing and I let my mind wander. End result – 10 to 15 minutes showers. That’s a lot longer than the average shower length of 8 minutes measured in a 2011 British study. That number is similar to the 8.2 minutes often quoted by the US Environmental Protection Agency. That’s a lot of extra water use, not to mention the energy to heat the water.
Quantifying The Wasted Water
The shower head we have installed came from the Manitoba Power Smart program. A technician came to the house and installed the shower head and the faucet aerators. According to Manitoba Hydro, these shower heads have an approximate flow rate of 6 litres per minute, which is apparently on the lower end of the low-flow shower head range. Based on that rate, my showers were using anywhere from 12 to 42 litres more water than the average. That’s 84 to 294 litres wasted EVERY week! That’s just crazy.
Slow Shower Solution: Using a Timer
I remember seeing a promo commercial for Ed Begley Jr’s reality show where he was timing his family in the shower. The scene of him banging on the bathroom door with a timer in hand was a bit jarring at the time. I suspect the intention was to make him look like a crazy eco-hippy. Anyway – I figure that I don’t need to invite Ed to monitor my morning shower, I can use my trusty BlackBerry for that. So for the past week I’ve been setting the timer for 5 minutes, being “present” while in the shower, and intentionally speeding through my cleaning routine. Four of the last five days were a great success. I had shut the water off long before the timer went off. Thursday I was mid conditioner rinse, the final step in my routine, when the timer rang-out. The sound brought me to the present again – I had let my mind wonder to daily planning. As they say, old habits die hard. I finished up in a hurry and likely limited that shower to around 6 minutes. Still a big improvement against my average.
Thaw, Change, Re-Freeze: Making New Shower Habits
I’m going to continue to time my showers for the next few months. In fact, next week I’m going to reduce the timer to four minutes so that my shower length is half that of the average person. I will harness the power of habit by intentionally establishing a new routine and frame of mind for my daily shower. The result will be far less water and energy used and a reduced probability of incurring the wrath of Ed Begley Jr. Both great motivators.