Via Sierra Club
Hey Mr. Green,
What are your thoughts about bathroom habits and being kind to Mother Earth? Is there a right amount of time to spend in the shower to save water? Temperature of the water? Straight razors versus disposable?
—Chris in Peoria, Illinois
I grew up with a minimum-flush policy, based on the well-known proverb “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” I continue to follow this tradition and strongly recommend it to all. Even a low-flush toilet uses about 1.25 gallons of water per flush. Since the average person urinates about eight times a day, a frequent-flushing family of four could go through 40 gallons daily on a regular basis.
As for shower time and temperature, moderation is always recommended. The average U.S. household uses 300 gallons of water a day; 40 states have reported that they expect water shortages in the coming years, even without drought.
Household water consumption is about 13 percent of our total freshwater use, while 45 percent of freshwater is used for electric power generation and another 33 percent for irrigation. Total U.S. consumption is around 306,000 million gallons of freshwater a day.
Also consider ditching the liquid soap, which now accounts for 70 percent of hand and body soap sales. Bar soap costs a lot less per wash than liquid soap and has a lighter environmental impact. Still, soap bar sales continue to slip. Among the main reasons for this depressing shift, which only began around 1980, is the belief that liquid soap is more hygienic. Not true, according to authorities such as the Mayo Clinic. It may be easier to handle liquid soap because the bottle doesn’t leap out of your hands or get gooey. If that’s an issue for you, try the recently invented SOAPSTANDLE, a nifty little plastic gadget that fits onto a soap bar. It elevates the bar just enough to prevent it from getting soggy, while also helping you maintain a firm grip on the soap.
As for that straight razor, while it has less direct environmental impact than other methods of shaving, in many cases the medical risks might well offset the environmental benefits. When you’re shaving—whatever your implement of choice—or brushing your teeth, please don’t let the water run continuously during these rituals, as you can waste several gallons of water in the process.