Here is a truth that some people find shocking and gross: We don’t bathe every day at my house. In fact, we don’t even have a shower. I’ll wait a moment while all the sanctimommies quit hyperventilating and picturing the bottom of my kids’ dirty feet.
The average American showers daily, which uses up 17.2 gallons of fresh, irreplaceable, water per shower. In a time when government officials are scrambling to combat serious drought problems in the West, and when scientists and climatologists are deeply concerned about depleting sources of fresh water, the idea of taking a shower every day without a legitimate need to do so feels absolutely gluttonous and irresponsible to me. An adult human being requires between 2 and 3 liters of water to survive and needs maybe 2 gallons of water for general, daily purpose. The world is getting more crowded and our natural resources are stressed to the max, so my family made a choice to show more respect for this precious, limited resource.
I had never given our natural resources a whole heck of a lot of thought until I became a parent. And as we all know, parenting is political in that every single decision we make affects not just our children but our communities and the environment, just like decisions made around us directly impact how we nurture, communicate, and care for our young. So, when it comes to water consumption, we took up a call to conservation at our house and decided to dramatically cut how much we use, and we started by breaking our daily showering habit.
Three and half years ago, just before the birth of my second child, my husband gutted the bathroom. We were pretty certain that we were going to need more space and more stuff, and while we did need more space, it turns out that the bathroom wasn’t the area in which we needed to expand (hello, closets). When it became time to choose and install a new shower, we opted to forego the shower completely and buy an antique claw foot tub from one of those roadside antique spots that dot the coastline of our state.
The tub has dramatically changed the way we see our water consumption. Unlike a shower, we can actually see how much water we are using. We also stopped buying soaps and beauty treatments that include tiny plastic “cleansing” beads since those same beads are clogging up our oceans and water supply systems. And since taking a bath requires more time from prep to soak to clean up, it means that bathing has become something we plan for instead of just “jumping in the shower really quick,” which is how we used to exist.
So, I’m sure your wondering, how exactly I walk around the world not stinking like a giant armpit or how I deal with the realities of having a vagina and not showering every day. Every morning, I get really close and personal with a washcloth. It is pretty damn simple, requires very little time or water, and I am ready for work or play in a matter of minutes without using up gallons of water, dirtying more towels for the laundry, or drying out my skin.
About that last part: drying out my skin. Turns out that bathing every day is actually super unhealthy. What?! It’s true, according to the Atlantic web series “If Our Bodies Could Talk,” bathing every day strips your skin of natural microbes that exist solely to keep your skin, a living organ, healthy and functioning. Your skin, after all, if not there to look attractive, is there to protect your health. Healthy skin has a thick layer of microbes that beat the snot out of germs, bugs, viruses, you name it.
Since you’re probably wondering, no, my kids do not bathe every day either. They too only take a couple of baths a week, and they too get up close and personal with a wash to keep their skin clean and free from general kid shenanigans.
Water is life, and we treat it with the respect and reverence it deserves at our house. We don’t pour chemicals down our drains because we have a well, and we know those chemicals don’t just disappear when they glug out of site. We use rain barrels to collect garden water, and we even save greywater in the summer months for general outdoor use.
If we want to save our planet, then we all need to take a close look at how we use our natural resources and ask ourselves tough questions about the difference between what we think we need and what we actually need and then find a reasonable balance between those. We all want a world that is clean and safe for our children, and our family’s commitment to water conservation is just one tiny step in that direction.