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Showering The Green Way
The environment has been in the news constantly for years, but never more so than now with the COP26 summit taking place in Glasgow.
World leaders, government negotiating teams, global financiers, climate activists and a fair slice of the world’s media have descended on the city for the event as agreements and details of agreements are thrashed out in a bid to keep global temperatures rises to no more than 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.
While much of this work will involve huge changes to methods of generating energy, powering vehicles, producing agricultural products and managing water, forestry and the built environment, it is not just for policymakers, scientific researchers or international finance to make the difference.
Householders may wonder just what they can do to help and while you might already recycle, eat less meat or drive a hybrid car - and in a few years they will all be electric anyway - the fact is that showers can be part of the solution.
The first factor to consider is water use. Showering uses less water than a bath, so this is a big plus straight away. According to US website Green and Growing, the typical bath will contain 36 gallons of water when full, so if half-full that will still be 15-20 gallons. A shower, however, will use between ten and 25 gallons depending how long you are in there. Overall, the figure is less.
While these are American figures, the devices are the same either side of the Atlantic, so they will be relevant to Britain too. And while it might seem that climate change is more likely to give us problems of excess water as winter storms bring extra rain and floods, hotter summers could bring more droughts.
These figures can be reduced further using a low-flow shower head, which is one of a number of water saving measures that may be the norm in our homes in years to come.
However, when it comes to being green, water usage is not the only factor. The shower hardware parts themselves can be more eco-friendly.
For example, the use of glass for shelving, for shower doors and handles is both very stylish and also a better alternative, as is the use of aluminium in handles, and roller racks. Some showers will use a lot of plastic in their doors, handles and other fittings, which potentially means more plastic waste in the long run.
Of course, plastic does have its advantages in some respects. Using vinyl liners or plastic inner coatings in door tracks is a good idea because these are parts of the shower that get very wet and the waterproof properties of plastic come into their own. In this respect, the durability of the material, just as when it is used in water pipes, is an asset.
By contrast, having more external elements like handles made of plastic, or show panes made of Perspex instead of glass, will add to the eventual problem when they come to be replaced in the future.
While plastic can be recycled, this has limited benefits. Prime minister Boris Johnson caused some anger in the plastics sector before COP26 when he said: “Recycling isn’t the answer. Recycling... it doesn’t begin to address the problem.” Instead, he argued, plastic use needs to be reduced.
A key reason for this, he said, was most plastic ends up missing the recycling bins and ends up in landfill or, worse, in rivers and ultimately the sea.
In practice, reducing use does not mean doing away with plastic, but using it only when it is the most appropriate material, and finding alternatives the rest of the time.
These considerations can be used when seeking shower hardware materials, alongside the benefits of showering itself. In addition, many more measures can be used to make bathing greener. For instance, microplastics in shampoo have been another area of concern and while many manufacturers are phasing these out, you may wish to avoid them.
Of course, bathrooms can be full of plastic bottles containing soaps, gels and bath salts, with a recent survey by weDO finding UK bathrooms have more than 152 tonnes of empty plastic bottles in them.
A spokesperson for weDO said the findings were “shocking”, but added there was much people could do, stating: “Reducing and reusing have proven to be more sustainable than recycling, so why not start there?”
Being green might require all of us to do more, but the good news is that it’s eminently possible to manage this while enjoying wonderful warm showers in stylish, luxurious bathrooms. After all, greener choices are about making life better, not worse.