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Can we save water, pennies and time during the drought?

How do you save water in a drought?

Showers can use up to 200,000l of water a year, cut the time to save money...

Courtesy of The Independent Blogs.

I have to admit that I am a self-indulgent when it comes to showers. There is nothing I like more than to stand under hot water, washing the sticky sleep out of my eyes, preparing for the day ahead. It is also the easiest cure for a hangover.

With the South East and Midlands in a state of drought, I was shocked to learn that my power showers could use as much as 136 litres of water each. Radox estimate that a family of four could use up to 200,000 litres a year in showers, which could fill a swimming pool in less than two years.

The cost is staggering as well. An eight-minute shower every day can cost the average family £416 a year, whereas a power shower not only uses nearly twice as much energy and water as a bath, but could cost consumers £918 per year.

In light of this, they’ve offered a series of tips to save water and money during the drought. But how far are you willing to go to save both water and some pennies?

Some of them seem pretty obvious. Halving your shower time will save on average 45,000 litres of water per year. Every minute less you spend under the hot jets will save 17 litres.

If you are worried about taking an egg-timer into the shower with you, or are unable to accurately estimate the time you spend there, Radox are here to help. They have come up with a shower app that will choose a song of appropriate length for you to shower to – singing is purely optional – so that when the song is over you know you should be towelling-off your intimates.

The one issue with this is, how long do you have to spend in the shower to be clean by the end of it? It’s all well and good using less water, but if you smell like last nights beer and doner kebab you might not be too popular.

A novel idea for some will be turning the shower off when you apply shampoo and conditioner. Radox estimate that a family could save £104 a year if they switch it off when they shampoo, condition and shave.

I remember staying in a hostel in China, where they had the tiniest bathroom I’ve ever seen. What was even worse was that slap-bang in the centre of the shower, was a hole in the ground. Now I’m all for brushing my teeth in the shower to shave a few minutes of my schedule, but the idea of urinating at the same time could be taking things a little too far.

It turns out that consumers in Brazil have also indeed been encouraged to wee in the shower, so maybe it is simply my British sensibilities being tested here.

As well as washing your face and hair, brushing your teeth and going to the toilet in the shower, are we about to see new showers coming with a coffee machine and breakfast bar? What about having your wardrobe in the bathroom so that you could have breakfast, go to the toilet, brush your teeth, and select your clothes, while showering at the same time?

It seems doubtful whether doing more in the shower is actually going to mean you spend less time in there. It runs contrary to the spirit of the water-saving advice, if not the letter.

Once again, consumers are forced to walk the fine line between practicality, affordability, and being environmentally friendly. We have to choose between saving time, money or water, and as DEFRA has officially declared a state of drought these choices could become ever more pressing over the next few years.

One day in the distant future we might be able to have all three at the same time, but for now we are left with these hard choices.

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Big Green Week (feature published in University Business December Issue)

The University of Leicester have been supporting energy saving week and pledging their commitment to reduce their carbon emissions this month by staging it’s biggest ever environmental festival – The Big Green Week 2010.

Held over the 25-31st October, Big Green Week was a festival of events to show the University’s support to the Government’s aim of reducing the UK emissions of CO2 by 60 percent.

Although it carried a serious message, Big Green Week was a fun and friendly event, intending to bring people together behind the cause. The main message was sustainability, be it in eating or travelling, or even in the home.

The main exhibit was the Carbon Cube, a 8.24m³ cube of scaffolding and mesh representing the space taken up by a metric ton of CO2, on view at the heart of campus. The Carbon Cube was a life-size monument of the amount of the stuff we pump into the atmosphere.

Environmental Manager, Dr Emma Fieldhouse commented that reactions to the exhibit were polarised: “many people were impressed with the visual representation of the tonne of carbon dioxide and others appeared to not want to know what their own impacts could be.”

Visitors to the Carbon Cube were encouraged to take part in a carbon footprint calculation, with every participants name entered into a prize draw to potentially win one of a range of prizes. There were five carbon footprint stations around campus for the week, the most notable being the mobile rickshaw darting around the campus.

Each day of the week had a different theme, beginning with Monday’s ‘use less energy’. Kicking off the week was a debate on climate change. Tuesday and Wednesday’s eating and travelling sustainability events included a local food fayre and a bicycle workshop. Thursday focused on recycling, but the main event was to culminate on the Friday.

Students and visitors came together to spell UoL Goes Green in Victoria Park. Setting people up in formation, the message could be read from roofs and this year the Big Green Statement was intended to be bigger and more powerful than any made previously.

Every day the Big Switch Off was set up at 6pm, for people to come and pledge to switch of as many appliances as possible with the aim of saving not just the environment, but also the climate. Around the Big Green Week 2007 there was a massive reduction in electricity use, with the University itself estimating its saving at £60,000. This year they continued to encourage all visitors to get behind this scheme and help attain even more fantastic results.

Running throughout the week was the open air photography exhibition, Hard Rain. Viewed by at least 15 million people in over 100 venues worldwide, this is Mark Edwards’ photographic illustration of the Bob Dylan song ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. On Wednesday the 27th Mark himself performed a presentation for free of his famous exhibit.

Environmental groups applauded the work done that week, which was sponsored by the WWF. A spokesperson for the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges stated: “the EAUC fully supports the work that Leicester do and is excited by the innovative approach.”