There are lots of things we can do as individuals to save the planet. We’re aware that we should eat more vegan food, fly less, and reduce our energy consumption to live a greener lifestyle. But another novel item has been added to the list — washing less.
Hollywood elite Ashton Kutcher and his wife Mila Kunis made headlines this summer when they revealed their rather relaxed approach to hygiene, remarking that they only bathe their children when “you can see the dirt on them”. And they’re not alone. Donnie Darko star Jake Gyllenhaal said he finds bathing to be “less necessary at times” and thinks it can help with skin maintenance.
Washing ourselves less may have benefits for the natural oils in our skin and hair, but according to eco expert and BBC reporter Lucy Siegle it’s also a good way to reduce our carbon footprint.
Sharing her top tips for reducing water consumption in The Times, she said using less water tackles water scarcity and reduces the amount of water that needs to be treated by utility companies.
She wrote: “There’s no doubt about it: if you cut your water use, you will be doing the Earth a massive favour. But I’m going to be honest here: this win-win does create one loser, and that is cleanliness.
“The truth is, you cannot have exemplary hydrology and hygiene. But we are in an ecological crisis, so it’s time to lower your standards.”
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Her tips include limiting yourself to two minutes in the shower, saving baths for special occasions, flannel-washing from a basin, and only flushing the toilet “when necessary”.
When it comes to housework, Siegle advised we should only wash 20 items of clothing a month (aside from underwear and socks), and only put towels in the washer fortnightly (and don’t tumble-dry them).
Get away with washing bedding less by dressing the bed with a sheet between you and the duvet, she suggests, so it’s only the sheet that will need to be washed when it’s time to freshen your bed linen.
Although it might seem that washing dishes by hand is more eco-friendly, a dishwasher on eco mode is actually the kinder option for the planet. Siegle said washing up by hand could create 157kg of CO2 a year for the average household, whereas a fully-stacked dishwasher might only create 142kg.
Speaking of washing dishes — you don’t need to wash them every time, she said. If you’ve just boiled an egg or some pasta, wipe the residue with a wet cloth instead of getting the dish soap and sponge out.
Siegle notes that according to The Environment Agency, adults at home in the UK use 150 litres a day — 10 times more than the 15 litres per person a day used in urban parts of Ethiopia.
Does all this mean that when you’re too lazy to shower you’re technically saving the world? In a way, maybe.
What’s your water footprint? Check out Thames Water’s water saving calculator to see how you stack up compared to others.