Wednesday, September 19, 2012

4 minute shower - no way?

image from Going Green Consulting

I am a shower hog.  A water glutton.  An H20 vampire.

And yes, a hypocrite.

In the morning, before Steve and Gareth leave for work/school, I chastise them for failing to unplug their cell phone cords.  Don't they know that wastes 2-3 kWh a year? (to give you some perspective: the average family uses about 4,000 kWh/year).  

Once I've secured the electrical grid, and the kw vampires have taken their leave, I enjoy a shower in all my self-righteous glory.

Quite frankly, with no one here to shame me, I'm surprised I manage to get out by the time they return home in the afternoon/evening. 

How long is it, really?  I don't know.  20 minutes?  It could be longer.

It's probably longer.

What do I do in there?  I have no idea. I think I fall into some kind of a water trance.  I also think I'm transition challenged.  I cannot bring myself to turn off that hot water and face the cold air outside. It's just so...cold.  Do they have Showers-Anonymous for people like me?  It's a disease you know. 

Like all maladjusted behavior, we can trace the roots of my excess to my childhood--or at least to graduate school.  While enrolled as a full-time student, I experienced both the challenge and trauma of studying graduate-level literature with an undiagnosed reading disability.

If you've ever been a graduate student or a teacher (or both!), then you know the work is never done, disability or not.   Wherever I went, my books went.  Like a line of faithful little ducklings, they followed along behind me, chirping at me incessantly over weekends, on road trips, during vacations: even in the bathroom.  They pecked at my time and trampled my sleep. Thinking they would drive me to madness with their river of words and ideas, I sought a place that, despite their webbed feet, they could not follow: THE SHOWER!

Oh, the bliss of those long nonliterary moments.  Something about that ritual of escape stuck.  Got a long day ahead? How 'bout one more minute in the shower? Cold outside?  Just hang out here in the steam.  Incidentally, the shower is also a really great place to grieve.  You can cry in there and your kids will never know about it. 

Over the years, I've made feeble promises to myself about improving, but when I'm in there I get distracted by the fact that there are no distractions.  I forget that I should turn off the water.  Then when I remember, I still don't want to do it.  So lame. 

Yesterday, I made these beautiful zuchini breads (yes, this matters to my shower story). I added precious ingredients: zuchinni and pecans from my local farmer; organic eggs from my co-op; and whole grain flour that I ground myself.  I popped those four fantastic loaves into the oven.  Yes.  Four.  Olivia has food allergies so hers contained local duck eggs and a combination of gluten-free flours that I also ground.  Basically, I did everything twice.

I'm telling you all that so you can appreciate how hard I worked on that darn bread.  I had planned to take my shower while it cooked (it takes at least an hour, so I figured even a hedonistic fool like myself can get a shower in that time, right?).  But you know how one thing leads to another.  By the time I'd cleaned the kitchen and prepared for my ritual of excess and debauchery, the timer on the bread said 4 minutes. 


I had an appointment to get to, so I could not wait.  And I could not burn that bread.  So guess what folksies? When you've got bread in the oven, it's possible to take a 4 mintue shower!  Which tells me something distressing:  it must always be possible to take a 4 minute shower.

No worries.  I am not here to tell anyone to shorten their shower time.  I am in no position to judge or advise. This is my own personal tale of waste and woe.  I do want to make a personal commitment, however.  I will shorten my showers to a more reasonable time.  Which is?  Although I felt so proud of my 4 minute shower, I also thought it was a ridiculous limit for every day.  Right? 


It seems most local water authorities think I've only shorted myself out of a minute. The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (I figure Nevada knows a thing or two about saving water) has a great fact sheet on how to conserve water--including their 5 minute shower recommendation. 

Apparently, my family of 4 can save up to 20,000 gallons of water a year by taking 5 minute showers. How could I have worried about cell phone chargers wasting 2-3 Kw/year while ignoring this truly astounding water conservation opportunity?

Foolish foolish girl.

Intent on trying it again today (sans the bread imperative), I noted the time, jumped in, then bolted back out like a water phobic cat.  Shaking myself off victoriously, I checked the clock and realized I'd forgotten what time I'd started. 

But it was quick.  I know it was. 

I don't know if I can keep it up.  It's like giving up your morning coffee.  or butter.  or sex.

Still, I keep thinking: 20,000 gallons of water...


  1. Oh, Deb, you do so much for the planet in so many other areas, it's too bad you can't keep your nice, healing warm showers. Hmmm... maybe you can install some kind of gray water system and capture that shower water for reuse (like for flushing toilets, etc.)? Easier said than done, I know, and I'm not sure it's even legal in all places... but maybe someday! I feel a similar guilt about long showers, not only about the "wasted" water but also the "wasted" time. But when I rush I tend to drop things and bump into things. I think it's safer to take the Goldilocks approach-- not too long and not too short!

  2. hahah. I hide in my bathtub. EVEN more water. I hear ya, sister. so, do you use water saving shower heads? water saving toilets? recycled water? gray water? could you do anything like that to offset shower water...cuz, mmm, a little luxury shower time with all the other things you do for the planet seems okay. total different than just leaving the chargers in the wall...

    loved your zucchini bread transition...and cat picture.

    and giving up butter? don't even write about that, please! lol

  3. you are both so nice - i almost feel like I DESERVE my long showers now! :) we do have a water saver shower head, although with long hair and the reduced pressure, I sometimes feel like that makes hair rinsing take even longer...but I just cut off all my hair, so there goes that excuse! i'd love to recycle gray water, but i think that happens in the next life (it takes money to save money/energy!). so...perhaps you are right, Jennifer - the Goldilocks approach. Let's use that for butter too! :)