This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on February 22, 2021.
Hello again, friend! I hope this post finds you safe, healthy, and warm. This past week has tested many parts of our country, and my heart goes out to all of those without access to power, water, and the basic necessities we all need to survive. If you’re in that boat right now, if there is any way that I or this community can support you, please let me know.
Last month we launched our new mini-series, Small Change Big Impact.
Each month, we’re highlighting one small change [without complexity] that can have a big impact without much thought. And today’s tip is the second in our series!
Several years ago, before A Drop in the Ocean was even an idea, I attended a conference for zoo and aquarium professionals. I spent four days surrounded by zoo and aquarium conservation leaders from across North America, who all came together to share their best tips for reducing both their institution’s footprint and encouraging their visitors to take sustainability action in their own lives.
In one particularly inspiring presentation, Elizabeth shared an activity her institution had created to demonstrate to visitors the impact that everyday actions have on the planet, and how they were encouraging practical action steps to reduce those impacts.
During her presentation, Elizabeth said, “We need to stop telling people to take shorter showers, and instead encourage them to switch to a low-flow shower head.”
(If you live in an apartment and don’t think this applies to you, stay with me. Promise.)
You see, we all love our showers - myself very much included here. I loveeee my long, hot showers. I know they aren’t great for the planet, but they’re great for my mental health.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to take 5 minute showers. Even 10 minute showers. Every few months I tell myself I’m gonna do it and then the timer goes off and I’ve hardly even washed my hair.
If you take 5 minute showers, please tell me your secrets. Like, really, reply to this email and tell me your ways, oh wise one.
And who wants to end their shower with a timer going off? That’s just not pleasant.
Elizabeth flipped this common messaging on its head.
“Instead of telling people to cut their showers in half, show them how a low-flow shower head can cut their water use in half.”
Same shower time, half the water.
So, this week’s Small Change Big Impact is to switch to a low-flow shower head.
Some numbers for the data nerds among us...
Did you know that showers are responsible for about 17% of residential indoor water use? The amount of water we use each year in the States just for showers could supply all of New York and New Jersey for a whole year. That’s a whole lotta water.
And because shower water use is correlated with energy use to heat the water, using less water means using less energy, too.
The impact of switching to low-flow water fixtures is so great, that it’s even one of Project Drawdown’s solutions for climate change. (In full transparency, it’s fairly low on the list for climate change, but it’s still on the list!)
According to Project Drawdown, with an 81-92% adoption of low-flow fixtures, we could reduce emissions by up to 1.6 gigatons.
On a more personal level, by switching to an EPA-approved low-flow shower head, the average family can save about 2,700 gallons of water and 330 kilowatt hours of electricity every year. This energy savings is equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power an average home for 11 days. And that’s something to dance about.
And if you live in an apartment, you can do this too!
Apartment living often means that you’re limited in the changes you can make, and how sustainable your home can be.
But the great thing about switching out fixtures is they’re not permanent! You can install a low-flow shower head, stash the standard one in a cabinet, and when it comes time to move out, re-install the standard shower head and take the more efficient one with you.
Save money on your utility bills, and don’t lose out on the initial investment when you move!
And these shower heads don’t even have to be that expensive. There are tons of options in the $20-50 range, and pretty much all of the ones I’ve seen are less than $100 max.
Depending on where you live and your utility provider, you may even be able to get some money back. Just search “[your utility provider] rebates.” If you’re in Tacoma, apparently you can even get a free one mailed to you (as well as a bunch of other energy-saving swaps)!
No investment, save money, and apartment-friendly.
I mean, come onnnn is there anything better??
So I’m curious...have you made the switch to a low-flow shower head already? What has your experience been like? Any advice for those of us that haven’t yet? Leave a comment below and share with us!
(And if you’re someone who takes 5 minute showers, seriously, please share your wisdom, too.)