A Day in the Life Part 1: a Wake-Up Call
7:45am: You wake up, roll out of bed, don a towel, grab your bath caddy and hit the shower. Pending statistics on the average shower at Lawrence, the average American spends 10.4 minutes in the shower each morning, which can use up to 70 gallons of water, or between 6 and 10 gallons a minute with conventional shower heads. But, if your morning shower isn’t the only one — maybe you go to the gym and shower after — you use twice as much water. So, if the average LU student is like the average American, taking only one shower a day uses 18,000 gallons of water annually.
Consider a Military-style shower — water on, get wet, water off, soap up, water on, rinse off, water off . The total time the water is on for a Military-shower is usually only two minutes, using as little as three gallons of water. This means, one person could save up to 15,000 gallons of water per year by taking short showers. Of course, if you live in Hiett with your own bathroom, another solution could be two-person showers, cutting down on water use by half.
So, you’re using less water with a Military-shower. Fine. But during the “soap up” time, what’s in that soap that’s going down the drain? First off, if you look on the back of any shampoo container, most of the ingredients are synthetic and do not naturally occur in the environment.
There are probably so-called “essential oils” listed on the ingredients label.
Beware that conventional methods of extraction of these oils often includes use of toxic solvents, which — although gone from the product by the time you soap up — go down a drain somewhere along the line. “Fragrances” are another red flag on the ingredient list because they may contain neurotoxic chemicals and can introduce a high amount of volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) into the air you breathe.
But you have to get clean, right? How about using organic, all natural soaps and shampoos? Most organic brands are no more expensive than a quality conventional brand. Brands that are completely organic include Jason’s All Natural, Nature’s Gate, Kiss My Face and Bert’s Bees. Most of these brands make not only plain soap and shampoo, but also conditioner, face wash, and even toothpaste and mouthwash –that tastes exactly like the conventional brands, if you were wondering. All are made from organic, biodegradable ingredients.
You can find them in the organic or natural section of most major grocery stores, or online. One reliable site is Kokopelli’s Green Market, found at ****HYPERLINK**** “http://www.kokogm.com” www.kokogm.com. Be careful, though: “Natural” does not always mean organic and “organic” doesn’t always mean certified organic. Look for a certification agency in small print usually near the bottom of the bottle.
So you get out of the shower feeling good about yourself for using very little water and washing with biodegradable products. Walking back down the hallway, you think about what you want to wear today. You open your closet to put some clothes on. But hold on a bit, just where are those clothes from? Are they new or second hand? If new, are they made in sweatshops overseas? Polluting the rivers in India with brightly colored dies?
It’s extremely difficult to know the actual ethical and environmental practices of companies making and selling your clothes because these companies often do not make a practice of publicizing these records in full. For instance, Gap, Inc., the umbrella company owning Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, advertises that they engage in composting waste at their corporate caf*****accent e*****s. Still, they could be doing more, and their website does not detail the processes occurring in all of their factories. Investigative reporting into all our clothing makers will have to be the Jungle of the 21st century. Until then, if it’s not advertised as “organic” or “sustainable” or “green,” it probably isn’t.
Unfortunately, organic or green clothing tends to break the bank for the typical college student. Good thing there’s always Goodwill and the Thrift Shoppe. These are not only incredibly cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to buying new clothing, but it’s also a whole lot more interesting and fun to shop at second-hand stores.
So now, you’ve got yourself dressed in the latest Goodwill fashions, smelling like organic soap and feeling thoroughly hippy. Go on and walk to class feeling good. Just don’t stop at the Grill and get a throw-away cup of coffee.
Sources: University of Florida Extension, National Public Radio, *****The Organic Report******, Gap, Inc.
A Day in the Life Part 1: a Wake-Up Call