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What about Shorter Showers?

November 28, 2011

Here’s a question that keeps popping up: is it “green” to take shorter showers?

Taking a shower uses water and energy, usually gas or electricity for your water heater. Showers generally use between 1 and 5 gallons of water per minute. [Here’s a link to calculate your water use and energy cost.]  Over the course of a year, you could pay $50 or more for hot water, and use thousands of gallons of water.  That’s a lot!


photo from kevin dooley/flickr

In light of this, those 30-minute showers seem a little wasteful.  (Which isn’t really a surprise!)

But let’s look at the bigger picture here.

While showers are something we do every day, they are NOT a major factor in water use in this country. For some context, let’s talk about gas drilling – “fracking” – which is rapidly growing, with tens of thousands of new wells drilled in the USA each year. Each well requires 2 to 8 million gallons of water – so that’s between 70 and 140 BILLION gallons of water used each year, according to the EPA (pdf link).

For me, showering with hot water is one of the marvels of modern civilization, something that gets me out of bed on a cold morning.  And for many of us, it’s a comforting part of the daily routine.  So while I’ll try to limit my absurdly long showers, I don’t feel bad for enjoying a reasonable one.

The Bottom Line?
We should make reasonable changes
in our own lives to make a difference, especially when it’s something you’re passionate about.  It’s totally right to limit wasting water.  But sometimes it’s better to take that enthusiasm for change, and pour it into a fight where we make a bigger difference.

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