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In a surprising turn of events, celebrities are opening up en masse about a particularly intimate part of their lives: how often they shower. While Jake Gyllenhaal swears that sudsing up less frequently is better for your skin and Dwayne Johnson insists on showering a minimum of three times a day for maximum cleanliness, Kristen Bell’s bathing routine for herself and her children is less about her family’s hygiene and more about the environment.
The Veronica Mars alum told Daily Blast Live, “California has been in a drought forever. It's just like, responsibility for your environment. We don't have a ton of water, so when I shower, I'll grab the girls and push them in there with me so we all use the same shower water."
Do someone’s bathing habits really make an impact on the environment? Gregory Keoleian, director of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, tells Yahoo Life that showering accounts for 17 percent of the average American’s water use, and that it’s not just the water itself that is the issue in terms of sustainability.
Related video: Kristen Bell also doesn't bathe her kids until they 'stink'
“Less is simply better for sustainability and particularly in water-stressed regions,” Keoleian says. “Energy is consumed in treating water, pumping it and heating it in your home and at the wastewater treatment plant. In the United States, 2 percent of total electricity use goes towards pumping and treating water and wastewater.”
He adds, “Your carbon footprint will depend on how much water you use, whether you use an electric or gas water heater, how efficient they are and what is the energy source for generating electricity. Increasing renewable sources on the grid is critical for reducing carbon emissions and addressing our climate crisis.”
Kurt Schwabe, professor and Associate Dean in the School of Public Policy at the University of California Riverside, notes that there are simple ways you can cut back on your water usage.
“Baths typically use about twice as much water as showers given peoples' current showering and bathing habits,” he tells to Yahoo Life. “So, if all else is equal, showering likely uses less water than baths." As with everything, there are exceptions and caveats, he says, for example, a very small bath versus someone who spends half an hour in the shower would likely reverse it.
The flow of your showerhead also makes a big difference, says Keoleian.
“You can estimate how much water you use in the shower simply by multiplying the time you shower by the gallons per minute (GPM) of your shower head,” he explains. “Standard showerheads today use 2.5 GPM so a 10 minute shower would use 25 gallons. Many states mandate 2 GPM and 1.5 GPM low flow showerheads are available.”
As for whether it’s environmentally friendly to share your shower, Schwabe says, “Not sure showering together really saves that much more water and helps the environment relative to simply efficient showering habits. There are other reasons people may want to shower together that are justified, but saving water for the environment — especially if you already engage in efficient showering habits — probably has a negligible impact on the environment.”
In fact, there are certain times when trying to use less water while showering may not make much of a difference at all, depending on where you live.
“If you're trying to really save water indoors and that water goes to a wastewater treatment plant and gets reused already, then this might reduce the benefits of indoor conservation some since the ‘downstream’ users of that recycled water may need to look elsewhere for water,” Schwabe notes. “In the case of water use, local conditions really matter in terms of how much of an impact your behavior has on water savings and the environment.”
Of course, while Bell may not have to worry about taking a daily shower solo, Schwabe says she’s in the right state of mind when it comes to conservation.
“It's good to have that mindset, and we need more people to have the mindset of, say, Kristen Bell in terms of looking for ways to conserve water and be water conscious,” he explains. “The degree to which one engages in water reduction strategies should be weighed against the benefits of those actions and the costs of those actions.”