Dispatch: Money Down the Drain - How I learned to say goodbye to half-hour showers.

Story by Maryline Dossou | Illustration by Kirsten Harper

I distinctly recall my sister pulling back the shower curtain and telling me that my dad was seconds from exploding. I was in elementary school and had developed a habit of falling asleep in the shower every morning—staying in there for easily half an hour. I used to stay up all night knowing I could get some extra sleep in the shower. I’ve never been a morning person, so I switched to taking nighttime showers. That worked until I got to college.

My best friend (and roommate) would blast music while in the shower, and I always found that to be weird. One day, while innocently recording her singing in the shower, I was intrigued by how much fun she seemed to be having and decided to try it out for myself. I created a shower playlist and went to town. What began as harmless fun soon turned into a wasteful, careless, time-consuming habit.

I’d stay in until my skin got so pruned, it was almost numb. There was nothing like washing off days of classes, work, gym, activities and internships with an R&R party for one.

Right around Earth Day this year I heard that the online magazine Her Campus (to which I contribute, hercampus.com) was partnering with the Body Shop to encourage girls to take daily three-minute showers for two weeks and blog about it. As if the world had caught on to my dirty secret, I was also bombarded with shower facts from green advocates around campus—like that for every minute the shower runs, we waste, on average, one gallon of water. It seemed as good a time as any to change my habits, so I started my own two-week, three-minute shower challenge.

It was awful. I felt like a lifelong smoker who had quit cold turkey. How am I going to shave? How could I possibly be clean? Will my life retain any meaning? Questions swam through my mind. I timed my showers using three-minute songs, counting the days until I could return to my beloved routine.

One week in, curled in the fetal position in bed, I tried to find meaning in this torture. Was I doing this to learn a lesson, or simply to say I’d completed a “green” challenge? The latter seemed like a poor reason.
Then I started to see the light. I learned not to waste time just standing around under the spray, and how to shave in the sink. I also realized (and I’m very embarrassed to admit this) that not only did I spend a long time in the shower; I kept it running for a long time before I even got in. Often, I would be on the phone for an hour at a time with the shower on blast. Then I’d get in for 25 minutes.

Today, I’ve turned it around, but it’s still a daily struggle—I’m a recovering shower-holic, after all. But I’ve managed to cut my shower time down to about 10 to 12 minutes, and I’m pretty happy with the progress that I’ve made. It probably all seems pretty dramatic, but, sadly, the issue of water waste was never really addressed in my world until I got to college. My schools didn’t consider it a priority and my parents were unaware of the damage I was causing because, as renters, they didn’t have to worry about the water bill. Many people don’t concern themselves and their children with these issues because it doesn’t affect them directly. Luckily, it’s never too late to recognize our faults and gradually work through them. Who knows? Maybe—maybe—one day I can upgrade to taking under-two-minute Navy showers.

Maryline A. Dossou is a senior in Temple University’s Journalism department. Read her work for Her Campus at hercampus.com/maryline-dossou.