Shower Power

Living in the greater Seattle area, I cannot help but be affected by the green movement. After all, we’re a bunch of rain-soaked, granola-munching, espresso-swigging, fixie-riding hippies, amirite? Any product or service has a green alternative (trust me), and it seems that I can’t watch the news or open a magazine without green ideas/jobs/locations/tips jumping out at me. Shoot, I even work at a green hotel.

That said, being green doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, including me. Going green resonates in my head and in my heart, but going green is also kind of intimidating. And, to be honest, it requires a lot from me–time, energy, money–and it isn’t necessarily a convenient way to live. Going green requires sacrifice.

For example, I like showers. Scratch that, I love showers. Showers can be both relaxing and energizing, and they are a private space where I can, at least temporarily, leave the weight of the world on someone else’s shoulders and just be. Hot, steamy, falling water is physically and mentally intoxicating for me. In college, I once took a three hour shower.


My typical shower is fifteen minutes long–even when I wash my hair–which I could argue “isn’t that bad.” But let’s look into that number a little further, shall we? A little internet research shows that an average, non-water saving showerhead uses 3.8 gallons of water per minute. That means that for my fifteen minute “not that bad” shower, I am using 57 gallons of water. Fifty-seven! By comparison, the average African family uses about 5 gallons of water a day (

Since I grew up in Africa (my folks are missionaries), that statistic rings true and convicted me to be more water-wise. With Africa in mind, I did the only thing I could think of to fix my water waste problem: I bought a bucket.

Now, instead of using ~57 gallons of water per shower, I can use less than five–even when washing my hair. For those of you who may have never taken a bucket bath, the premise is simple: fill a bucket of water to the temperature of your liking and use that water to bathe. It helps if you have a cup and a sponge (or shower poof, if you prefer). Use the cup to get wet, then soap up using the sponge or poof. Use the cup again to rinse yourself off. Voila! You probably used about two gallons of water.

If the idea of keeping a bucket in your tub or shower doesn’t sound all that enticing, you can get similar results by turning off the water in the shower when you are not actively rinsing, etc. For me, the bucket method works best since leaving the shower running is just too darn tempting.

What are your feelings about going green? Any tips for conserving water?

By Dormouse

Bilingual (and a half) white girl who spent thirteen of her formative years in Africa. She is a writer, mentor, coffee drinker, wife, cat owner, language lover, photography dabbler, aspiring speaker, and a lifetime student. She keeps her writing going over at

10 replies on “Shower Power”

I tend to take baths rather than showers, which allows me to be much more aware of exactly how much water I’m using. I also don’t generally have a full bath every day, I just wash standing up at the sink. North Americans are astonishingly wasteful with their water, it’s especially shocking when you consider that it’s all perfectly potable drinking water.

Ella, it is pretty shocking when one realizes the waste. Also, I don’t take a shower/bath every day either, especially in winter when my skin tends to dry out anyway. I take one about every other day and wash my hair every other to every three days, depending on how much exercise (read: oily, sweaty hair) I’ve been doing. :)

My college years would have me thinking that more than enough people already scrimp on showering.  idk, I don’t always like the way that conversations about environmentalism often come down to how long your showers are (although yes, it probably is the easiest way to conserve a resource without changing your lifestyle).  People who are naturally on the smellier/hairier/zittier side of things really do need a little extra time to get their scrub on and they’re not helped by people with perfect skin telling them that all they need is a splash of cool water anyway.  This isn’t directed at you, btw.  I do think that people who can’t conserve water really are obligated to find other ways to cut back on consuming resources.

I’m a person with mad oily hair and, short of going no ‘poo (which I don’t intend to do right now), I need to let my hair have a LONG time in the shower to get the oils moving through, so I hear you. I think decreasing showers is great for people who can do it, and it falls to the rest of us to find other clever ways to conserve. (Speaking of, do you have any? I’m always looking for more.)

I don’t really have any new ideas.  I’m really fond of, say, walking to my favorite sushi place on a nice day instead of driving there.  I also think more people could afford to give up their Starbucks habits (not because I hate corporations, but because it’s expensive and those paper cups add up) and learn how to make an even better brew at home.  I try not to buy unnecessary things in the first place, and I like to make sure any gifts I give are actually wanted (otherwise they’ll eventually get lost or thrown away).

Hi, soitgoes, I think what it really comes down to is personal choice. Bucket baths aren’t for everyone (they are just one of many options), but I think they are an overlooked option for people who are looking to use less water when they bathe. And yes, some people might need more water than others in order to really feel clean, but for myself–someone with thick, oily hair and skin and a decent amount of BO–five gallons is plenty of water for daily grooming.

Really, what I wanted to emphasize in this article was the amount of water that can be wasted in showers if one is not conscientious of use. I didn’t realize until recently just how much water I did waste in my showers and wanted to raise awareness of the issue.

My water saving comes closer to dish-washing time; the best is a double sink, but in lieu of that, deep rubbermaid containers for washing and rinsing are perfect. Learned this trick in Girl Scouts out in the middle of the woods, but it turns out to be the best when I’m trying to cut back on water use, too! In a single sink, I just run a low amount of soapy water (just enough to cover my largest dish), and run very little water to rinse each one.

We’ve just come off a big drought here in Queensland and we had a lot of water saving measures publicised (eg 4 minute showers etc) and one of the other things they said is that as long as your dishwasher is an energy efficient one that you use less water for a full load than you do handwashing.

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