The above photo is from a polar bear plunge close to Charleston, SC. These events are usually referred to as a polar bear plunge, but I have also heard it referred to as a splash and dash.
But the photo is misleading in that this blog post has nothing to do with crazy people running into a bone-chilling ocean on New Year’s Day.
This post is the result of reading about an initiative from the Dutch government asking its residents to limit their showers to no more than five minutes. The initiative is meant to build the Netherlands’ energy reserves, following Russia’s squeeze on gas supplies in response to Western sanctions for invading Ukraine.
The subheading to the story used the phrase splash and dash, and since I had just written about dine and dash, it seemed to be a logical sequel.
The average shower in the Netherlands lasts nine minutes, according to Milieu Centraal, a government-affiliated research organization. It says cutting that to under five minutes could save a household 60 cubic meters a year of natural gas, the fuel many homes use to heat water. The speedier showers could also save each household about €130 a year, the government says.
The campaign seems to be working. About half of residents now take five-minute showers all or most of the time, according to a recent survey.
As you might imagine, the campaign to limit showers to five minutes has met with some mixed responses:
- Carla used to spend 15 minutes in the shower, slowly raising the temperature as the minutes passed. Her boyfriend, who takes one-and-a-half-minute cold showers, couldn’t fathom how she could be so wasteful. He bought her a five-minute sand-filled timer. But here comes the best part of the story. At some point, the timer broke, and the reporter noted that “There is some debate as to how it happened.” But Carla admits to now using just five minutes and sticking to the normal temperature
- Thea Derks said she has always tried to limit energy usage but has been even more conscious of the need since Russia invaded Ukraine. She takes a shower just once a week and keeps it under five minutes, and the rest of the time just uses a washcloth. Ms. Derks, 58, relies on a bike for transportation but said she doesn’t get sweaty enough to warrant frequent showers, calling them “completely superfluous.”
- Meindert cares so much about the climate that in traveling to Greece last month, he took a four-day train ride to avoid the carbon emissions involved in flying. Yet has no plans he to shorten his showers, which he said max out at 10 minutes. He said the energy saved from shorter showers is minimal, while wholesale changes, such as energy cuts to major industries, are needed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
- Relinde claims that five minutes isn’t enough for a decent shower.“I’ve gotta wash the hair, shave my legs and everything. That takes 10 or 12 minutes,” she said. Ms. van Dorresteijn said that when she stays with her parents, she rebels. Her father has a six-minute shower timer. She flips it twice.
Personally, I don’t see the problem, since my showers only last between 3-4 minutes. But I do take a shower six days a week. Compared to Thea over the course of a week, I am a water hog. There’s no way I could skip a shower after a workout that leaves me dripping with sweat.
And while I certainly enjoy that shower, I think my family, colleagues, and students may appreciate it even more…
*image from Charleston Magazine