Sunday, May 25, 2008

Washing Oneself With a Rag On a Stick

With gas prices and the effects of global oil panic and speculation rippling through the country, people are finally starting to wise up to the benefits of conservation. Not having a car, I don't get to share in as much of the joys and headaches that many Americans take for granted. But I do try to trim my energy budget in other ways. Like collecting milk jugs and soup cans for the passive solar heat exchange wall I was designing yesterday. It would be nice to have something like this for when I own a home someday, hopefully. I plan to use it in my passive solar greenhouse this winter, coupled with an active 12v solar powered water heater unit unit.

But while I was enjoying my nice hot shower this morning, I thought about how 25% of a home's energy budget comes from hot water (that's a lot). Hot water is hot water, whether you're bathing in it or washing your dishes or circulating it through your radiators. I take pretty short showers compared with my brothers and most people I know, but then I thought, 'why do we take showers at all?' Granted, there is nothing nicer than taking a hot shower when you're traveling or after getting back from a camping trip. But most days I get up, go to work, and come home. Sometimes I take the bus and sometimes I bike, but even when I bike I don't sweat like a hog and this time of year it evaporates and all that's left on me when I get into the office is some dampness on my back where my bag is. So I'm never really that derty, hygienically speaking.

I am a pretty consciously clean person, as most of my friends and my bidet will attest to. So I'm not about to forgo bathing in the name of the environment. But I do think we wash with much more frequency in this country than is necessary, and that almost always involves the use of hot water, whether in the summer or winter. I have heard from some hippies and some normal people as well that there are even little organisms living on our skin that are beneficial to our health and when we're constantly scrubbing ourselves with anti-bacterial soap we are killing them!

So for all the people who are struggling with the $4 gas prices, I am passing along my new bathing strategy so you can save some money. From today on I will be using this method in the hopes it will catch on. Here's how it works:
  1. As I said, I'm a pretty clean person, but I do think showers once a day are unnecessary if you haven't been working out or getting sweaty or working in a restaurant. From now on I will be washing on average every other day. Some days more, some less. I will not go longer than two days without washing.
  2. My bathtub will become a "washroom" and the shower will not be used. A small stool for sitting and washing feet, and a large bowl and ceramic pitcher will be used for washing and rinsing. I learned in Thailand that a bowl is a surprisingly effective tool for washing.
  3. A sequence is employed to minimize time spent washing. This is especially important in the colder months. Body parts are washed in the following order: 1) ears; 2) neck; 3) underarms; 4) forearms; 4a) calfs/shins (summer); 5) genitals; 6) feet. Face is washed separately, before or after bodywash, at sink to ensure all soap is removed from face with help of mirror. Typically body parts which are not exposed (back, chest, upper arms, legs, etc.) can be ignored, though a full body wash or shower should be taken at least once a week and at most twice per week.
  4. Washing hair is an individual preference. Because my hair is frizzy, I have found washing just with water and not shampoo helps to maintain some of the natural oils that prevent this. Therefore, hair will be wetted and washed but not shampooed at each bathing.
  5. I will wash in the evening before bed. There are a few reasons for this:
  • One is that when I wake up in the morning I am cold. Because of this I usually take longer hot showers to warm up. When I get out of the shower I am also cold because my entire body is wet (evaporation). Washing after work or after dinner makes it easier to be undressed in the washtub because the house is much warmer during the day/evening.
  • Washing in the evening also means that I wash after, not before, my commute, and I go to bed fresh and clean and my linens stay freer of body oils and dirt.
  • Washing in the evening also gives me more time to sleep before work.

So there you have it. I am looking forward to having more time to sleep in the morning, helping to conserve natural resources, saving the lives of millions of valuable microorganisms, having healthier, more nourished hair, and someday when my heat and gas isn't included in my rent, saving some money. As Bart Simpson once said when he imagined himself as an obese invalid on disability unable to shower, "I wash myself with a rag on a stick." Booya!

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