Getting heated

Hey there. My name is DJ, and I’m a big fan of rethinking the everyday actions I take towards being a more responsible member of society.  I normally don’t post or prod too much in other people’s personal choices, but this seems to be an open minded community. I’m aware that people get up each day intending to be their best selves, and I don’t mean  to make myself sound better or above anyone else. We all have ideas and thoughts to share, so here I go!

I’d like to discuss a daily carbon footprint issue that is not related to plastics. Most of us are attentive to proper hygiene and take daily steps to ensure that we are healthy and clean. The most basic and ingrained of these activities are actions such as brushing our teeth, washing our hands, taking showers, washing and drying our clothes, and sanitizing our dishes. In the modern world, we have made these tasks so simplified, that we can maintain a clean body and environment without much physical effort.  Let’s look at one factor in all of these activities that could use some re-evaluation. Heat. 

Do you use warm water when you wash your hands? What about when running a load of laundry? Do you turn the tap to warm when brushing your teeth? Do you let the water run hot before getting in the shower, or run the dishwasher on it’s normal cycle?

Most of the warm water we use in these instances is solely for our comfort or out of habit. When washing our hands, for example, the temperature required to kill bacteria would scald our skin.  Antimicrobial soap and room temperature or cold water will do the trick. One study here Warm water may feel good when we rinse and spit after brushing, but it serves no other purpose.

Washing our clothes in warm water may be a fraction more effective at removing stains, but most of the time, we wash our clothes to remove body odor, or just because we wore them for a day. Much of the energy used to wash our clothes comes from heating the water. I haven’t used hot water to wash my clothes for at least 2 years, and I am not a stained, smelly mess. (at least no one tells me so) You can also set an extra spin dry cycle so that the dryer uses less time, heat, and energy. EPA study

I had the experience of living in Port au Prince, Haiti for a few months, and grew fond of taking bucket showers.  (there were no other options) I simply filled a 5 gallon bucket with water from the cistern, and used a cup to pour water from the bucket over myself to lather and rinse. There was no hot water involved, and usually, I had water leftover in the bucket when I had finished. My father came for a week, and found this method to be so effective and logically simple, that he recreated it for a bit when he returned home. I understand that in a tropical environment, cold showers are far more acceptable than in the midwest or climates where cold showers would be intolerable. I don’t practice this anymore, and that’s something for me to work on.

Washing dishes with hot water is very effective for removing grease and caked on food. Of course there are scenarios where hot water is the best choice to fully clean your dishes for health’s sake. Sometimes it’s not necessary. I personally just use cold water and soap to clean most dishes and utensils if they have just been used for serving or stirring.  (spoons for mixing ingredients or plates and cups that can be easily rinsed clean.)  Rinsing and cleaning kitchenware before food can dry and cling on is another little step in the right direction.

What do you think? Are there other seemingly commonplace actions where I can rethink my energy use? I want to eliminate small carbon uses on a daily, long term basis, so please share your ideas and thoughts about this topic. Thanks for reading, and thinking twice about our choices!

–DJ Hohmeier

“Anyone who thinks they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room”    -Christine Todd Whitman

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