showering on the road, and in life.

Ask anyone who’s lived with me – I take really fast showers.

Back when I was a preteen my dad challenged me to take a four minute shower. Today that’s my norm. My showers are anywhere from three to six minutes. Depending, of course, on whether I’m late for something or it’s a winter night so cold that I require time to thaw.

I just don’t see any reason why a shower should take longer. Sure, it feels great… it feels great while I’m washing, but then it’s time to get out. I don’t believe in wasting water. Four minutes is all I need to shampoo, condition, and wash my entire body – including my ears and my feet (I shave outside the shower, it’s easier to anyways). I lived in a sustainability house in college that allowed an average of two minute showers a day. Now that is a struggle. So, I showered every other day because hey, long hair takes a little time.

Showering on the road is an interesting challenge. Showers are hard to find, free showers are even harder. Luckily, we’ve stayed with friends and family on the road so sometimes free showers are available. Usually it’s a few days between available washings, nothing I can’t handle. Sponge baths fill the days in between, but it’s pretty hard to sponge bath a head full of long hair.

Along the road from Texas to New Mexico to Arizona we found a handful of reasonable showers. Most charged 25 cents a minute. Put in a dollar for four minutes and then add quarters as you go. Not too bad, especially compared to the costs of doing laundry… It makes sense, the campground doesn’t make a ton of money off it but I bet they save a whole lot of water because of it. Four minutes, just what I need.

But then, oh man, Bryce Canyon National Park. I really needed a shower when we got there. We left Zion National Park early in the morning and I wasn’t in the mood for a cold shower in the windy, 50 degree, morning. So we waited for the pay showers at the Bryce General Store.

First of all, the showers only take gold dollars. WHAT. Who has gold dollars!? Why would you fit a quarter machine with gold dollar slots!? Every single person who wants a shower has to use dollar bills in a change machine for gold dollars. Sorry I came with quarters. Ridiculous.

But then. Oh man. They charge TWO gold dollars for an EIGHT MINUTE shower. I marched right into the store and asked the cashier, heatedly, “Do I have to take an eight minute shower?”

He looked at me, confused, “You don’t have to…”

“Do I have to pay for an eight minute shower?” I clarified.

Turns out, yes, I did.

So I did something very unenvironmentalist of myself – I stood under the water for the four extra minutes because, damn it, I paid for it! But in all seriousness, they should at least provide the option for people to save water – god forbid anyone wants to conserve water in the desert.

So, drama aside – I challenge you to take a six minute shower! If you’re successful – or daring – try four, maybe even two. It’s really not that hard. Showering is one of the easiest ways for the general public to save water. Every minute counts. Really. Every minute you don’t shower you could be saving five whole gallons of water. Let me know how it goes.


endearing and useless: splitting with the teardrop.


times of transition.


  1. Carrie

    Addressed this very issue with my students earlier this year. It’s *amazing* how much water we use when we shower! Here’s a cool link to National Geographic’s Water Usage Calculator we all used to learn a bit more about it. Thanks so much for this post, Emily. Hang in there!

  2. Michele

    i love following your newest adventure. Enjoy this time. Love you.

  3. Barbara

    I take really short showers! I would say my showers are 5 minutes long. When I was growing up my dad enforced short showers so we could save money (we also had to deal with no AC and very cold winters!). I don’t understand people who take super long showers. It’s just not for me.
    The short shower habit follow me to this day. Even if I go on vacation, I still take short showers. As an adult I see that not only does it save money but it helps the environment too!

  4. Elizabeth Zinda

    Thanks for the challenge! I don’t know how long my showers are, and now I’m inspired to time myself and see. I know I overindulge in the winter when I’m chilled. I do commit to skipping showers on swim days in the summer (we live near a miraculously clean lake in the city). Another commitment I have this summer is limiting the watering. If plants with deeper roots are looking okay, I’ll trust they’re okay and save the water.

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