Baths are out! – My shower has a carbon footprint
A carbon footprint is an estimate of the amount of gases, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), that are released into or removed from the environment as a result of a defined action over the life cycle of a project or over a specified period of time.
There are four main types of gases commonly referred to as green house gases (GHGs) that contribute most to a carbon footprint:
Nitrous oxide, and
Fluorinated gases like perfluorocarbons.
Each of the cases has a different capacity to heat up the atmosphere. CO2 is not as potent as the other gases, but it is produced in such high quantities that concentrations of all GHGs are commonly converted to equivalents of CO2 gas.
So why do I think about water having a carbon footprint?
The water in my shower comes from a supply that has originated in a river or other surface water. From that source it undergoes treatment. This process requires energy to operate the various pumps and aerators etc. The energy consumed comes from electricity that is generated by fossil fuels usually. Burning of these fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere. The water is then pumped to our homes and that also uses energy and releases CO2.
The more water we use – the more CO2 equivalent has been pumped into the atmosphere. When we use hot water, of course, we are increasing that footprint even more. By heating the water we are using electricity and this means more CO2 is released due to that electricity production.
Reports suggest that 10 minutes in the shower and no longer is good for our health. Shorter, cooler showers are generally better for the skin. Overusing soap or showering in hot water can negatively impact your skin and hair. An average shower uses about 10 litres of water per minute. Showers are responsible for 30% of our water use. Some showers can use a lot of water, particularly power showers. A very simple shower timer can be used to help reduce the time you spend in the shower.
Taking shorter showers is one of the best ways to help save water AND reduce our carbon footprint. Baths are not recommended…well, maybe sometimes?
 Fine painting depicting an Italian family and a baby getting ready for a bath. Eugenio Zampighi (1859 – 1944)