Shower time

Who doesn't love a nice warm shower? In fact, since turning on the heat in our apartment is a luxury that my roommates and I can't possibly afford, taking a hot shower can seem like the only way to warm up sometimes. However, taking long showers can impact the environment more negatively than you may realize.

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While wasting energy to run your shower can contribute to the greenhouse effect and raise CO2 levels, the results of which have already been discussed on this website, depleting freshwater resources is also a concern. Water distribution can be difficult, as water needs to be made available where and when it is needed, and it needs to be high quality. A community's water supply is not infinite, if too much water is taken out more quickly than it can be replenished by rivers, lakes, reservoirs, precipitation, etc., then that community will run into a problem (Rastogi, 2014)

In order to get a concept of how much water is consumed and wasted in the United States, various studies and research were analyzed. It was found that the average American uses 25,300 gallons of water a year (Boston University, 2014). 

One study found that 20% of the volume of water used in the shower is wasted (Lutz, 2004). However, another study found that the average volume of wasted shower water is actually closer to 30% of the total water run while in the shower. This study also concluded that the average energy wasted due to hot shower water is about 40% (Lutz, 2012). This means that running the shower more excessively than needed wastes water, which is fairly obvious, but the energy needed to heat that water is wasted in higher amounts than the water itself. What also isn't always so obvious is that the water you consume had to be extracted from a source, cleaned, pumped to your house, pumped back out, re-cleaned, the eventually discharged to be recycled or sent to the ocean (Rastogi, 2014). All of the actions that were taken to provide your house with water are costly energetically and reducing your shower duration will reduce this energy consumption. 

Research also found that while the duration of shower times can vary greatly, the amount of time spend actively washing remains fairly constant. In correlation with these results, it was found that the amount of time spent wasted in the shower varied from 22% to 48% (Lutz, 2012). This indicates that we are very able to effectively reduce shower time. In some cases, showers can be reduced without even speeding up the part of your shower where you're actually showering!

If you need more of a personal incentive to take shorter showers, results of a further study found that longer showers dry out your skin (Judar, 2011). Although it may be counterintuitive, prolonged showers actually pull moisture from your skin, so keep your showers under 5 minutes and see the benefits in your skin, wallet, and the environment!

Aside from simply reducing the amount of time you spend in the shower, there are many strategies you can utilize to help you reduce your shower time:
  1. Turn off the water while you soap up. This will ensure that you only have the water running when its absolutely essential. Because the average shower uses about 5 gallons of water per minute, shortening your shower by just 2 minutes will save 10 gallons of water per shower (Boston University, 2014)!
  2. Use products like dry shampoo to reduce the number of showers you take per week. These products leave your hair feeling nice and fresh, and you get to sleep an extra 20 minutes in the morning! See some products with high ratings here: Bumble and bumbleLushHerbal EssencesKlorane.
  3. Shave outside of the shower to reduce the amount of time you leave your water running. Different products can help you facilitate and make use of this strategy. Certain shaving creams can be used wet or dry; for example, try out a product like this: eos. This particular product is also fragrance free, which means it will be good to your skin and the environment. If you want to make use of products you might already have around the house, you can also shave using lotion as shaving cream. Apply aloe vera gel after shaving to sooth dryness, redness, and increase smoothness. 

(Courtesy of:

Judar, Nina. "Winter-Proof Your Beauty Routine." Good Housekeeping Dec. 2011: 67-70. Web. 
Lutz, James D. "Water and Energy Wasted During Residential Shower Events: Findings from a Pilot Field Study of Hot-Water Distribution Systems." ASHRAE Transactions 118.1 (2012): 890-900. Web. 
Lutz, J.D. 2004. Feasibility study and road map to improve residential hot water distribution systems. American Water Works Association Annual Conference, Orlando
Rastogi, Nina. "Is It Really Possible to Waste Water?" Slate Magazine. Slate, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.
"Take Shorter Showers." Sustainability Take Shorter Showers Comments. Boston University, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

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