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Our challenges, opportunities, and solution paths are complex and interrelated. Yet, all too often, we see them individually, not linked and interacting.

To Timbuk3's My New High Efficiency Toilet, dfarrah commented

I don't have low flow shower heads, but I rinse up, turn off the water, lather up, then rinse quickly.  I think this works out well. ...

My response, a recommendation to get a low-flow showerhead.

Do you really think that my method doesn't save as much as a low flow head running the whole time?

Well, actually, it likely does "save as much" ... and perhaps even more. But this is postulating an either / or situation when there is greater power in "and".

A brief 'apology' for a call-out ... This is, quite likely, too strong a call out of dfarrah because, probably re not just showers, if others (like all Americans) acted like dfarrah, our energy and resource challenges would be much more under control.  

The general challenge of moving beyond stovepiping, of looking at the system-of-system implications, of putting together Silver Dust/Silver BBs (rather than touting Silver Bullets) weighs on my mind. This tangible example, directly understandable and relevant to any / all of us in our daily lives provides a good path toward looking to larger situations.  

Looking for the greatest impact

We have, writ large across our resource challenges, to be looking for ways to 'use less' to meet our requirements and, when we 'use', use sustainable/renewable resources.  'Use less' can occur in ways that are, in essence, invisible to us through "efficiency".
And, they can be conscious choices (driven by ethics, by laws, by fiscal issues) to downshift one's demands via "conservation".  

Either / both of these can be quite powerful.

Very simply, there is greater power in pursuing conservation + efficiency rather than simply one or the other.

  • Efficiency is a powerful tool, which can be set via standards & regulations, providing "same" services at lower energy demand & lower total cost.

  • Conservation is the choice to act differently, in ways to reduce power demand.

Note something here. While we can have some choice as to "efficiency" (what lightbulbs do we put in, do we buy energy star appliances, which car do we drive), the range of those choices is basically set by forces beyond the individual. It is government regulations and competitive business practices that set forth the range of power demands for refrigerators when we go to buy a new one every 10-15 years.  Amid all its problems, one of the too-little discussed and underappreciated elements of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, recently passed by the House and headed to the Senate, is the focus on energy efficiency for appliances, buildings, and throughout society.  These will have such a large impact that, considering the costs for buying improved products, the 'average' household will save $3000 over the next 20 years simply due to the tightened efficiency standards. Government action, well beyond that of the individual, truly is the driving force in terms of efficiency with then each (all) of us able to 'upgrade' to higher efficiency when possible.

Conservation is something that really is driven more by the individual and by individual choice. While there can be education and cajoling, individuals choose the length and temperature of their shower, heating levels in their homes, etc ...

These are two different paths, with the key decision points resting in different places.

Truly, we are far more powerful in impact if we pursue both paths.

Let us take the example of the shower.

Using a 5 gallons per minute (5 gpm) (in the range of a 'traditional' shower head), a "Navy shower" might last five minutes and total 25 gallons.   Roughly, per year, 9000 gallons.

At the upper end "low flow" would be a shower that uses 2.5 gallons per minute (consider low-flow, roughly, 1.25 to 2.5 gpm showerheads). Assuming that both shower head options have 2.5 gallons of wasted water in pipes to get hot water from the tank to the shower, this would put the low-flow shower at 15 gallons for that 5 minute shower or in the range of 5000-6000 gallons per year.  (And, a 1.25 gpm shower would cut that to under 10 gallons.)

So, an efficient shower head (under this model) is saving about 40 percent of the water use. Efficiency is buying something serious here.

Now, let's say that the shower 'without conservation' would last 20 minutes. With a high-flow, that would be 100 gallons. Obviously, that conservation choice cuts 75%, 75 gallons, a much greater savings than the 25 gallons to 15 gallons by putting in the low-flow showerhead. But, it is the combination here.

"Conservation" (and, let's be clear, this is somewhat an extreme example) achieves 75%.  

Conservation + Efficiency achieves an 85% or even greater savings.

Yes, conservation (actually, sensible showering) makes a huge cut.  

Making that conservation + efficiency (a low-flow showerhead) helps take that even further.

Yet, there is a basic power of of efficiency: the next person in the shower, who might not be Navy-like in showering habits, might take that 20 minute shower. Rather than using 100 gallons, the low-flow cuts that in half. Eg, going toward efficient systems provide a pay off (basically) no matter the users' behavior.

It's not just about showers

First off, bathing is only a small part of our direct water use (cooking, toilets, watering lawns, pools, ...) and a miniscule part of our indirect water use (agriculture, power generation, etc ...), thus this shower example is a microcosm of speaking about water. But, across the board of water, the 'conservation + efficiency' is a stronger paradigm.

Of course, this is true across all systems.  A well-insulated building will require less energy to cool or heat.  And, adopting conservation measures (heating less at night or when no one is in the house, wearing sweaters and not heating as high) will mean even less energy demands.

Driving a fuel-efficient vehicle uses less fuel. Driving it well uses even less. And, figuring how to drive it less means even less fuel usage.

Etc ...

Thus, a basic principle when it comes to pursuit of efficient systems and conserving behavior. It is not an either / or situation but "and".


Conservation + Efficiency.

It is not an either / or, but both ...

Not just about "Me, myself, and I" ...  

One real challenge, for all us, is to remember that we face systems-of-systems, interrelated and interacting challenges; with reinforcing opportunities; with multi-faceted complex and simple solutions.

We have interacting

  • Challenges: Global Warming, Energy (peak oil), resource limitations (water, peak top soil, minerals, etc), economic malaise, social inequities, etc ... (See, for example,
  • Solutions:  Conservation (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle); Efficiency; Renewable / Sustainable energy and resource sources; Multiple domains and levels (Individuals; Groups/Communities; Businesses; Government); Multiple tool(Procedures/Policies/Regulation, habits/behaviors, technology)

As per above, the parameters of "efficiency" are driven very heavily by forces outside the control of an individual, frequently via government rulemaking (standards setting).   And, the parameters of "conservation" are driven by individuals (even if within a social context that set standards of 'acceptable' behaviors).  

We are not going to be able to surmount our challenges and seize our opportunities acting as individuals. We are not going to surmount our challenges or see all opportunities if we simply rely on government (and large business) action.   We need both (actually, all).  

Thinking holistically ...

As we struggle our way toward a prosperous and climate-friendly future, a key element is to think holistically about our challenges and opportunities. When it comes to, for example, "energy" and human activity should be separated into three interacting areas, of which "source" is only one of the three:

  • USAGE - what do we want (or need). (This is where "conservation" kicks in.)

  • EFFICIENCY - how efficient are the devices/systems used to achieve what we desire
  • ENERGY SOURCE/TYPE: Where does the power come from and in what form.

If one looks at the problem in this way, it helps avoid silver bullet solution and other stovepiped thinking and fosters holistic (and realistic) paths toward a better, more sustainable tomorrow.

Let's get wet again ...

For a moment, let us return to the shower and water use.  Cutting that shower from 100 to 10 gallons doesn't just impact "water" supplies but has a chain of implications

California ... water-related energy use consumes about 19 percent of the state’s electricity, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year. Energy is consumed along the entire water value chain, including conveyance, storage, treatment, distribution and wastewater collection. The study concluded that a "major portion of the solution to water and energy efficiency is closer coordination between the water and energy sectors."

Now, California is an extreme case (needing to move vast amounts of water vast distances) but illustrative of the linkages. Roughly, the water system requires 8 quads of energy each year or a little more than ten percent of US energy use.  

Now, that electricity and other energy requires massive amounts of water in its production process.

Slicing that shower's water demand lowers energy demands (not just for heating the water) which lowers water demand for supporting energy generation which ...

Our problems and challenges are interrelated ... but so are the opportunities and solutions.

And, well, once again:

Efficiency:  good
Conservation: good
Efficiency + Conservation:  best

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Originally posted to A Siegel on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:44 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Re the water for electricity use, it is in many (6+ / 0-)

    areas of the process.
    For coal in ash handling, condenser cooling, demineralised water make up.
    Nuclear I am not completely familiar with, but certainly the cooling water use would be high, but the processing of the mined ore into a finished concentrate let alone completed enriched fuel take a lot of water.

    95 Litres for 1kWh is probably about right.
    And yet in Australia we are building desalination plants because of shortages of potable water, whilst our main means of power production requires the use of similar quantities as above.
    Robbing Peter to pay Paul, but charging consumers at every point.

    So many things could be done differently if we only think about how a impacts b.

    "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

    by Unenergy on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:12:22 AM PDT

    •  Many nuke plants take river water, use it for (5+ / 0-)

      cooling, pump it to cooling ponds and then put it back into the river when it has cooled, so they use it, but they recycle it.

      Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

      by SpamNunn on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:28:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The analysis of water (6+ / 0-)

        in power use is a complicated issue arena.

        In this case, not 100% of the water is returned to the waterway(s). There is evaporation -- the clouds above nuclear power plants can be impressive.  Now, that water isn't "lost" to the overall system (it comes down, somewhere, as precipitation), but it is removed from the local water system. (Note: I've seen numbers on this before, but can't recall totals/percentages.)

        •  I do think the mining and processing of nuclear (6+ / 0-)

          fuel does not get much air play.
          There is a significant waste stream as well as significant water consumption.
          BHP Billiton currently draws about 35 megalitres of water per day from the GAB for mining purposes.

          I can remember having a discussion with someone about the Great Artesian basin who indicated that the water table had apparently dropped by 2-3 metres in a few years. The artesian Basin covering 25% of the land mass of Australia, this seems like another short term decision based only with profit in mind.

          All the money in the world is no good to anyone if there is no planet to spend it on.

          "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

          by Unenergy on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:58:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Every means of attacking nuclear power... (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Odysseus, A Siegel, Cofcos, Joffan

            gets a lot of air play in this community.  There's much less is the way of balance.

            For example, if the issue is water usage, the production of solar panels uses far more water per unit energy produced than does the entire cycle of mining and use of nuclear fuel.  Coal mining, gas and oil production also use more water.

            To work from a reality based position means that in a diary in which it is correctly indicated that we should be considering whole system approaches, we should not be attacking one energy conversion process in bits and pieces and free of comparison with all others.

            It's fair game to challenge the use of nuclear power, but it's not so good to do so without full comparisons with the alternatives.

            "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

            by LookingUp on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:08:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Since Olympic Dam is primarily a copper mine (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            your invocation of "mining for nuclear fuel" strikes me as trollish, Unenergy. Proper regulation of fossil water is a worthwhile topic, but hijacking that for other purposes is less respectable.

            This is not a sig-line.

            by Joffan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:59:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  To Answer Dfarrah - (3+ / 0-)

    If you use a "low flow" 2 gpm shower head for a regular 5-minute shower, you are using 10 gallons for the shower portion.  (Leaving aside the warm up, etc.)
    If you use a "high flow" 5 gpm shower head for a "lather up" shower you use only 5 gallons if you have the water on for only a minute during your 5-minute shower.

    So, Dfarrah is doing better than most "low flow" shower users by changing behavior.


    I may be an old geezer whose father used to pound on the bathroom door yelling, "Five minutes!" but I cannot help but notice that people seem to take much longer showers these days.  Not that I am a pervert or anything, but I do spend a lot of time on bike tours and have had more than my share of campground/gym/hostel/YMCA showers.  On the one hand, folks have been active and may shower longer for that reason, but on the other, there is often a wait which would tend to reduce time - if people are polite, heh-heh.

    No, I don't sit outside each shower stall with a stop watch - but I cannot help but notice over the past twenty-five years that the average length of a shower has increased markedly.  Does this apply at home? I would think so.  The sense of what is a "normal" shower has increased over the past generation.  That is as big a part of the issue as is "low flow" - if not more.

  •  For years I've done the same as DFarrah (11+ / 0-)

    I started doing it not because it saves water, which it does, but because I read that the Japanese bathe this way.  In their case, it's taking baths:  they do not like to sit in their own effluvia, so they soap up, rinse off, and then get into the soaking tub.

    In Australia, a country I visit fairly regularly, they're taking 4-minute showers.  They also take a plastic bucket into the shower with them, to collect water for watering their garden plants.  They take the water shortage seriously Down Under.

    Equal "rites" for ALL Americans!

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:30:45 AM PDT

  •  Systems vs. individuals (7+ / 0-)

    thanks very much for bringing this discussion.  It's really difficult sometimes to get people to think in larger ways e.g. "think globally" and I often hear a variation of this: "well, I'm not the problem, so we don't need a bigger solution".

    Great diary, thanks.

    •  Thank you ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Land of Enchantment

      Comment much appreciated.

    •  Most people act as if it's a chore to use less (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, pattyp, A Siegel

      resources, and they expect some reward for doing so, and in some cases they just won't use less.

      What is needed as a game changer along with the understanding of systems and their interactions is the perspective that it need not be a chore to use less.  It can be a positive type of challenge that leaves us feeling better at the end of each day of finding additional ways of using less.

      Some advantages of this change in perspective are obvious.  The big one results from the idea that I've found that adding new perspectives to our thinking improves our ability to solve problems.  In particular with this perspective, I find myself asking how I can use even less energy or less of some other resource in just about every situation.  I live close to where I work, and this means that I don't have to drive much, but I also buy fuel efficient cars, use driving habits that minimize the gas I need to use and car-pool when I can.  I don't take rides for fun.  It's a lot more fun for me to run or walk long distances.  We think ahead to determine things we need to buy so that we don't need to make extra trips.

      There are still ways in which I can use less of things, but that just means that I can have more fun working them out.  My electrical bills have been dropping for years while costs per Kw-hour have been going up.  I want to keep this trend going.

      A change of perspective from one of demonstrating status by conspicuous consumption to one of demonstrating caring by always looking for ways to use less would transform the world in just about every way.  And it would result in more happiness.

      "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

      by LookingUp on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:23:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have a low flow shower head, but (12+ / 0-)

    I am pretty sure my bigger water savings is from never, ever watering the lawn and only watering the veggies mostly one plant at a time filling a watering can from the hose -- only when it is really, really dry do I give the whole vegetable garden a good soaking. Seems to work well and most years as a bonus I do not have to mow the lawn in August -- it revives nicely on its own when it rains in September.

    We are soon going to get water metering and I will probably save some money compared to paying a flat rate based on lot size and number of bathrooms like we do now.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:52:21 AM PDT

  •  Leave the car at home once in a while. (8+ / 0-)

    Driving a fuel-efficient vehicle uses less fuel. Driving it well uses even less. And, figuring how to drive it less means even less fuel usage.

    And, replacing car trips with walking or cycling, when possible, adds up too. When I got my bicycle, I really started looking at the places I most often frequented in my car and decided to use the bike instead now and then. My most visited destinations are my job, grocery store, hardware store, library, and ATM. All are within 5 miles of my house, which was sort of intentional, since when I went house shopping I made a conscious effort to be within a few miles of as many of those things as possible. I started slowly with the grocery store (1 mile), buying as many groceries as would fit in my basket, and gradually moved up to the other places (work, 5 miles, once a week). Eventually my mindset about traveling completely changed, and I began to automatically want to use the bike to get places, and whenever possible, to change my destinations to places that could be reached by bike instead of car. It was such a gradual change that I didn't realize it until one day when I had to get my car serviced, and my first instinct was to wonder if it was close enough to ride my bike to! ;-)

    Cycling/walking/etc. everywhere isn't a feasible option for many people, and no one's being asked to completely give up your vehicles. Most of us need cars to some extent or other. Imagine me trying to take my cats to the vet on my bicycle - they'd never forgive me. ;-) But each of us may very well be able to replace one car trip with one walk or bike trip, and it makes a difference.

    I'm really grokking the power of AND. Thanks A Siegel! Also, I love the picture of the duck taking a shower. I presume he's installed a low-flow showerhead. ;-)

    Does this internet make me look fat?

    by pattyp on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:01:12 AM PDT

    •  For me ... (5+ / 0-)

      the bike is the much preferred option for the "oops, we need milk / bread".  And, there are periods of the year where I'm able to leave the car in the driveway for days / week+.  

      Right now, in a bit of a pickle.  Rear derailleur, on a shifting, went right into tire spokes & got utterly trashed. Looking to get a bike that would better support more aggressive city use. Until figure that out, then stuck with less than ideal bike option. (Better 95+%'s bike is a bit small for me and thus uncomfortable for use ...)

      •  I've been really pleased (4+ / 0-)

        with my Scott Sub 30 (in the Transport/Hybrid column). According to the bike shop where I bought it - a locally-owned, reputable place that's been in business for years - the Subs are very popular with urban bike messengers, as they're built to withstand harsh road conditions. Which explains why I got it on clearance at half the retail price, since bike messenger isn't exactly a thriving profession in Daytona Beach. ;-) I forget where you live but maybe the Sub or the Transporter models might be worth looking into. I'm only 5' tall though, so I have absolutely no useful input on whether either of them are good for you tallies. ;-)

        Does this internet make me look fat?

        by pattyp on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:26:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, pattyp

          that is a beautiful looking bike. Thank you for tipper.

          Actually, I am considering splurging and going with a good electric bike ... trying to figure out my (slightly) difficult commute pattern and how to build up from the 'few mile' type quick trip to store or bike around neighborhood to 10 miles up/down hill, sometimes on risky roads, commute.  Electric-assist seems appealing as path to quickly jump this (with assumption that, over time, ever more the travel would be legs rather than battery).

          •  Thank you! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            This was the first bike on which I ever spent (or intended to spend) a significant amount of money. It's a pleasure to ride, although you can tell it's made for paved roads because the shock absorption is very tight. Even a small pothole can be a bit jarring. I would never use it on an unpaved trail or at the beach. Luckily in my area, we generally don't have a lot of issues with potholes (sinkholes are another story) and the county and cities keep the roads maintained reasonably well. I really lucked out when I bought it because the bike shop had stopped carrying the Scott line and that was the only Sub left. I only paid $300 for it. Imagine my surprise when I looked it up online and discovered the retail price was around $650. Even at the higher price, I'd buy it though. It's the smoothest riding bike I've ever had and the balance is unbelievable. I could be coasting at practically a crawl and the bike won't tip over. (Me, on the other hand... heh.)

            I'm starting to see more of those electric-assist bikes around here, as well as scooters. I hope it's a sign that people are finally "getting it" about reducing gas usage. I hope....

            Does this internet make me look fat?

            by pattyp on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:38:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I want to find the bike info again, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          sounds like a very interesting bike.

 is unfortunate that the opposition to the Democrats in this country now consists entirely of crazy people. - NNadir

          by RunawayRose on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:29:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  A Euro bike shop (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, pattyp, A Siegel

        had opened in my neighborhood.  I loved the cargo bikes I saw in Copenhagen last summer, and they have those.  

        We are getting more bike lanes lately, so maybe it won't be fatal to get one.

        The Dutch Bicycle Company

        Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

        by mem from somerville on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 08:01:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The power of "and" (6+ / 0-)

    Is truly powerful. When we get rid of binary thinking and open our minds to the levels we can use, we multiply our potential impact, for good or bad.

    In my case, my thick hair means a low flow shower head makes me stand under it far longer than I want; so I "go Navy" and figure I use less water that way.

    Pootie fan? Me too! Check out my cat advice blog.
    The Way of Cats

    by WereBear on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:11:32 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, flow does not equal pressure. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I find that many low-flow shower heads also neuter any chance of pressure.  Definitely an engineering problem, there needs to be a way to have actual PSI at the head.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 09:49:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  BTW A Siegel, my belief structure is not what the (8+ / 0-)

    manipulative, mainstream media would have us believe. That is I do not subscribe to the propaganda of "Economy OR Environment."

    It is becoming more and more evident that one will not survive without the other.

    We need to change that in people's minds so that when they think of one, they think of the other. Or if you like using your "And" in the title.

    We need to correct opinions so that it is all about
    Economy AND Environment.

    "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

    by Unenergy on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:13:24 AM PDT

  •  maybe we should shave our heads (5+ / 0-)

    the main thing that keeps me in the shower 'longer' than i would otherwise is my long, flowing, beautiful, thick blonde hair.

    i don't wash it every time i shower because that would strip it and it would lose its lustrous shine - i wash and condition it twice a week and then also condition it another one or two times a week

    but if i would shave my head, zip, bing, boom!

    the only thing that might keep me in the shower past 5 minutes is... unmentionable!


    conservation + efficiency + head shaving = super-D-duper savings

    i don't know but i feel concerned that i would get less unmentionable action if i shaved my head.

    shaving other stuff - good (according to my boyfriend).

    shaving head - odd.

    just realized i haven't had any caffeine yet this morning - what the hell am i talking about?

    Give me love, Give me love, Give me peace on Earth, Give me light, Give me life, Keep me free from birth. ~g. harrison

    by LibrErica on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:18:12 AM PDT

    •  But if you were bald (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Fabian, LibrErica

      think of the money you'd save on hair products and trips to the stylist! ;-)

      Does this internet make me look fat?

      by pattyp on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:29:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you, I was about to post the same thing (6+ / 0-)

      Low flow showerheads suck at getting you clean if you are blessed with a full head of hair. I'm not blonde but all my life I've needed a strong flow of water to properly wet my hair and get the soap out.  Like you I do not wash my hair everyday -- it's not good for your hair actually.  I also do shut off the shower as I lather up with soap.

      My household water usage OTOH is quite low.  We do NOT water what little lawn we have EVER. We do not have a pool, I've chosen plants that aren't water hogs and have a rain barrel for the veggie garden. Oh and low flush toliets -- the newer better ones work really well!

      •  Couple items ... (6+ / 0-)

        really should have emphasized, in diary, that shower use is, relatively, only a very small part of one's water demands. Thus, being very efficient showering while watering the grass an hour / week at noon isn't exactly conservation.

        As for the other, to repeat words in another comment: FYI -- I actually know someone who has a split shower head. One branch is full-throated flow with a massager and the other is to a (very) low flow hand held.  They use the first for about a minute / day on back & to wash hair (lots of it).  They use the other for rest of shower. (And, this also has the versatility of having the fixed high-flow and a hand-held for assurance about 'hard to reach' places ...)

    •  Kitchen sink. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Fabian, pattyp, A Siegel


      I often wash my hair at the kitchen sink. Much more efficient. Showers are for the rest of me.

      Wet hair, turn off tap. Lather. Rinse. Conditioner, 5 mins (I often put a towel over it so that I can accomplish other things in the meanwhile)

      My hair is waist length usually (just had my once a year haircut so it's just to middle of my back).
      And blonde. :)

      Shaving your head would be cold in the winter.

      A Creative Revolution- - To revolt within society in order to make it a little better- Krishnamurti

      by pale cold on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:39:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry, I use the shower on my aching back (4+ / 0-)

    and I hate low flow showers. They don't do the job of massaging my back and neck.

    However, I turn the shower off to soap up and shampoo and I only have the water on for a minute or too. I appreciate that water is a huge problem in the west but our water in my town comes in abundant supply from a near source that doesn't take much energy to deliver.

    I get your point of doing things for the common good but I still hate low flow showers.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:19:28 AM PDT

  •  Also, get a new refrigerator (11+ / 0-)

    I had my local electric company audit my house two years ago.  They found that the building was already about as energy-efficient as it could be; it was built during the Energy Crisis in the 1970s and already is maxed out on insulation, double glazed windows, and so on.

    They had two recommendations:  add a door between the basement and the rest of the house (split level floor plan means no door between the finished basement and the main level of the house), and get a new refrigerator.  I haven't gotten the door yet, but I did get the refrigerator...

    And my electric usage dropped 30%.

    I didn't even buy a fancy water-in-the-door model.  I bought a low-end Kenmore.  Doesn't even have an icemaker.  The savings on my bill were so great that it basically paid for itself in four months.

    I'm now looking at replacing my hot water heater with an on-demand system sometime this fall....

    •  Wow I had no idea about the fridge (4+ / 0-)

      I have a circa late 1980s refrigerator that came with the house when we bought it a few years back.  It works fine though not as efficient as modern ones. Unfortunately it's sorta "built-in", surrounded by beautiful cabinets making it impossible to put in a modern sized refrigerator in the space.  When it dies, I hope there's something reasonable on the market that will fit the space.

      •  Well ... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, pattyp, ilex, LookingUp

        You might try looking.

        Quite roughly, 20 years ago, refrigerators averaged about 1750 kwh / year in usage, today 500 kwh.  And, that 1750 is in new, working condition. Expect that your old one could be using far more.

        •  I've half looked already (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel

          But the upfront costs are what keeps me from pulling the trigger -- it's the economy -- if nobody in the household gets riffed this year, we'll breathe a sigh of relief and feel more comfortable about spending money.

          •  A core challenge (0+ / 0-)

            of efficiency: upfront costs vs long-term savings. Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs are a clear example of it. ROI can be in a few weeks, in terms of savings, but the purchase cost is $s rather than $0.10s.

            Dependent on energy savings and 'how fancy' a refrigerator you go for, electricity savings might be enough to make it sensible to go with a Sears "1 year no interest" or such. (FYI -- no commercial endorsement of Sears, just an example ...)

      •  many different sizes are available (6+ / 0-)

        including some nice ones with pull-out freezer below, much more efficient than traditional freezer-above designs.

      •  Just measure really well (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, pattyp, A Siegel

        and also measure your doors - newer refrigerators are deeper than older ones.

        When we had the kitchen redone, I got a smaller side-by-side with ice/water in the door (I'd always wanted one). I knew I couldn't fit a really big one in the space, and I measured to make sure it would be OK - but I forgot how small our interior door opening were. The refrigerator wasn't more than an inch wider than the old one - but it was considerably deeper.

        The only way to get the new refrigerator in was to take off the doors, anything that wasn't part of the body (including the icemaker line, all the exterior screws, and I forget what else), and scrape up the drywall around the doorway. It BARELY fit.

        If I ever have to replace it, I will look for a counter-depth refrigerator, even if it costs twice as much. I KNOW that would get through the door.

        •  Funny story. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel

          When we went looking for our new refrigerator, we looked at the luxury models just out of curiousity.

          They are huge!  They looked very nice too - all except the price tag.  The sales person told us that the customer is responsible for measuring and making sure that the appliance they bought is able to make it into the house and its final destination.  Sometimes doors need to be taken off their hinges to make it work.

          But the best story was the homeowner who had just finished some fancy remodeling, putting in plaster arches on the doorways.  Well, the measurements were made before the remodeling was done and the customer solved the problem by undoing the arches in order to fit the refrigerator in.  I suppose it was only money.

          Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

          by Fabian on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 09:14:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oh yeah that will be my problem too!!!! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian, A Siegel

          My kitchen footprint is circa 1964 when the house was built. I'm guessing sometime in the late 1980s a previous owner did a nice redo of the kitchen with beautiful solid oak cabinets and updated appliances but they left the two standard sized doors as it, no walls were torn down so any refrigerator will need to fit through the front door and those doors.

          But I hate the thought of having to get a tiny refrigerator as the one we have is already too small for the food we keep in it.  Hopefully when we decide to replace it there will be something reasonable on the market to fit the space.

          •  The problem isn't the width (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fabian, A Siegel

            unless the space you have for it is really limited. It's the depth.

            Newer friges have thicker insulation, and if you get ice/water on the door, that makes the door a LOT thicker. It only has to fit through the front/interior door in one of the dimensions - think of a mattress. It can be any size, and you can get it through the door, because it's only a few inches deep.

            A counter depth refrigerator is only 24-27 inches deep - even with the door. They usually have extra thin insulation to make them like that.

            Most exterior doors are at least 30 inches wide. Most interior doors are too, though you might have a few that are only 24-29 inches wide. So a counter depth refrigerator would fit through most doors, even in an old house. Added benefit is they're usually really top of the line, and they look really, really nice because they don't stick out past the cabinets.

            Our smallest doorway was 28 1/2 inches wide - and so was our new refrigerator with the doors off. We were lucky - I would have been really pissed if it hadn't fit, because that was the smallest side by side I'd found.

    •  Suprised that (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, raines, pattyp, ilex, LookingUp

      changing refrigerator shifted situation that much.  But, then I did a quick calculation.  Savings of 1500 kwh/year (about 15% of average US use) seems quite reasonable.  If you are not a big electricity user, that 30% number seems quite possible.

      The financial (pay back) savings seem a bit extreme.

      Let's say that you pay high for electricity, at 15 cents / kWh. (50% higher than US average).  That would be $225 / less per year in electricity.

  •  I'm a novice at all of this, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Land of Enchantment

    but here's my dilemma on water usage.

    I live in a small house that was built in the 40's. The sewer lines running from my house to the city system are old and a few years ago they were backing up into my basement about every 6 months. I was told that they needed to be replaced.

    I live alone and use very little water. When I started running more water through my system, they quit backing up. Haven't done so in about 5 years.

    My question is: which would be more damaging to the environment - to replace my sewer lines or to run a little bit more water through them to keep them going?

    I KNOW which one my pocketbook prefers!!!!

    •  Well ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, pattyp, NLinStPaul

      do you need to be running the water all the time?

      As for the cost / environment: depends on one's calculation time and extent of "extra" water use.  

      If you're talking life cycle over 50 years, with some serious water use, almost certainly repair/replacement makes sense.

      On the other hand, you might be talking $5-10k for piping (having spent $7k, myself, on a similar sounding repair (for different reasons)). Financially, if you're talking an extra $25 year for water, choice is clear ...

  •  Lawns, landscaping, fountains in deserts. (9+ / 0-)

    I could shower for a year in what the Bellagio fountain evaporates in fifteen minutes.

    Gov. Sanford is hiking the Appalachian Trail, and Franco is home nursing a head cold.

    by Inland on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:51:44 AM PDT

    •  Of course ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, pattyp

      And, I could drive for a lifetime with the fuel Air Force One uses to get to California.

      •  And AF one actually uses that fuel. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, RunawayRose, pattyp, A Siegel

        Obama and I have the same sources for petroleum.  Not so for water.  I live in a place where water falls from the sky and collects both above and below ground, and the water I use for all purposes is ecologically insignificant.  

        Someone who lives in a desert or semi arid climate who washes his car or waters an ornamental lawn as if he lives in a place that gets forty inches of percipitation a year is doing real damage.  

        Gov. Sanford is hiking the Appalachian Trail, and Franco is home nursing a head cold.

        by Inland on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:03:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There's just something about deserts. (6+ / 0-)

      We probably have some fountains in downtown Columbus.  I don't know any city that doesn't have a couple, but ours aren't extravagant displays.

      What we do have is many ponds and lakes, natural and artificial, that don't need to be filled artificially because we get 40+ inches of rain.  Maybe desert cities should have solar light sculptures instead?  

      Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

      by Fabian on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:00:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's meant to be an extravagant display. (5+ / 0-)

        So nothing surprising there.  

        Maybe desert cities should have solar light sculptures instead?  

        I think a lot of people want the plants and water of Ohio without the precipitation and clouds.  So it's watered deserts.  Of course, some people like the deserts as deserts and aren't living inappropriately for the area.

        Gov. Sanford is hiking the Appalachian Trail, and Franco is home nursing a head cold.

        by Inland on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:07:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Fountains can serve a purpose (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, Fabian, pattyp

        in arid climates if they are properly sited to help cool a space or a home.  Not that I think the Bellagio is anything like that.

        •  I believe fountains (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, ilex

          were sited inside enclosed courtyards for just that purpose.

          Not an effective place for Grand Public Display though.

          Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

          by Fabian on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:45:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  We just got a fountain a couple of days ago (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, pattyp, ilex, WereBear

          In fact, we just did a major re-landscaping after taking out an old swimming pool in our back yard, a major portion of which was to install very low-flow drip irrigation. But the fountain (smallish: three-tier, 46" basin) serves several purposes: the appearance, which ties together some other elements of the landscape, the noise, which reduces traffic noise and increases privacy of conversations near it, and definitely the cooling effect: we've been having 110ºF weather lately, and the little fountain corner, with a stone table & benches, under the shade of a palm tree, is noticeably cooler than elsewhere in the garden.

          Greg Shenaut

  •  My "and" (8+ / 0-)

    We live in southeast Texas... and there's just no getting around A/C.  Our original tack was to keep the thermostats at 79, and buy our electricity from a wind utility.

    However, this year, one of our pumps failed, and the A/C guy was called out.  The other unit was on the verge of dying (we have two, one for each story of the house).  He said he could do one more refill of the freon (at $900 each) but given that there were leaks, we were going to eventually have to change over to the Puron system.  

    This prompted some research into A/C advances.  The gov't currently recommends a SEER rating of 13, I believe.  We looked at what might happen if we were to get a new Puron system with the highest available rating.  The answer was that our savings in electricity bills would pay off the new system in 7 to 10 years.

    We were re-financing the house anyway (locked in a 4.5% fixed rate for 30 years, no payoff penalty!)... so we tacked on the staggering cost of the highest end system available.  Our SEER rating is now TWENTY ONE, and the electric bill, as promised, has gone way down.

    It was a big investment (I call the units my BMW and Jag in the backyard), but it works well, has kept us sane during this ridiculous heat wave, and we've reduced our footprint to a great degree.

    Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

    by Dem in the heart of Texas on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:15:43 AM PDT

  •  I would agree with the "and" except for (2+ / 0-)

    low flow shower heads. I tried one once, it turned the shower into a useless mist. I think if one really wants to save water, it's better to use the cup-and-bucket, or pitcher-and-basin method of washing rather than any kind of shower, since you can measure out exactly how much water to use.

    "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

    by Alice in Florida on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:21:53 AM PDT

  •  Happy medium (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Fabian, pattyp

    I've always thought that the best flow rate for a shower is just enough (but not less) to rinse soap off quickly. I really dislike it when the flow is so feeble that you have to stand there waiting for the soap to be rinsed away. This is especially true in the hairier portions of the anatomy.

    This ties into the second advantage of taking quick showers: the conservation of lifetime. In the long run, saving even one minute of showering per day buys you a whole 24 hour day of lifetime in four years. And most people can save much more than one minute per shower.

    Greg Shenaut

  •  My clothesline. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Fabian, pattyp

    Has been in constant use for about a month now.

    I have used the dryer for a total of about 3 loads when it was raining. (And hung what I could inside)

    Larger household here on a septic system so I try to space it all out anyway. Water levels set appropriately for the size of the load.

    A Creative Revolution- - To revolt within society in order to make it a little better- Krishnamurti

    by pale cold on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:44:41 AM PDT

  •  Just had to post (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, Fabian, A Siegel

    that now I know what to call my showers...Navy showers.  Now what to call my DH's extended length showers...any nominations?

  •  I gave it up for Al Gore! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, A Siegel

    Several years ago I notified my office that I was giving up blowdrying my hair... for Al Gore.

    We are in the ADK Park of NY, where conservation is taken seriously. So I show up each morning with semi-dry hair, and within half an hour I'm looking normal.

    I realize not everyone can do that. But this is something I can do.

    Pootie fan? Me too! Check out my cat advice blog.
    The Way of Cats

    by WereBear on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 09:41:30 AM PDT

    •  Al's hair (0+ / 0-)

      Do you think he would give it up for you?  Or anyone else, for that matter?

      The idol worship is sickening...........

      Ostriches have survived for a long time. So can you.

      by Tom 11 on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 09:08:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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