27-year-old environment activist Rob Greenfield went a whole year without taking a shower. A man-made shower, that is. Instead, he spent the year bathing in natural water resources – lakes, rivers, rain and waterfalls. And when natural water wasn’t accessible, he used a bucket filled with water from leaky faucets and fire hydrants.
Here’s the surprising bit – while the average American consumes about 100 gallons of water a day, Rob used less than 2 gallons a day that whole year. That’s eight Nalgene water bottles. Now, that’s quite a difference. It really makes you wonder about how much water we actually need to survive. Rob said that he got the idea to live with less water during a long bike ride across America to promote sustainability and eco-friendly living.
“I set a bunch of rules for myself to follow to lead by example. The rule for water was that I could only harvest it from natural sources or from wasted sources. And I kept track of exactly how much I used, with an aim of showing just how little we need to get by.” After the 100-day bike ride without showering was over, Rob decided to continue his streak. He went ‘showerless’ for the next 6 months and then decided to extended to a year. And it turned out to be a whole lot easier than he thought.
When the bike trip was done and Rob resumed his normal life at home, his water usage increased to about 10 to 20 gallons a day. But that’s still five to ten times less than the American average. He went without showering for the next eight months and ended up saving 5,000 gallons of water. On the days he didn’t feel like swimming, he just rubbed himself down with a cloth and a gallon of water. “We have this idea that water needs to be pouring down our heads to get us clean, but there’s just so many other ways to do it.”
“You think I’m really stinky right? You think I smell like some sort of Swamp Monster,” Rob wrote in a Huffington Post article. “Actually, nope. When I say that I haven’t showered that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t bathing. I swam almost every day, and showered in waterfalls, and I used eco-friendly biodegradable soap when I needed to.”
Rob said that one of his biggest lessons was realizing that he didn’t need cosmetic products anymore. “I just used some soap, toothpaste, essential oils and found that to work real well. This compared to previously using colognes, deodorant, shampoo, lotions and all sorts of other products full of chemicals. And guess what? I had no lack of friends!”
“I realized that water doesn’t have to come from a shower head to get me clean. You can wash yourself in lakes. Rivers. Or just by sitting in the rain,” he wrote. “But when natural water wasn’t available, I found other places to clean myself without having an impact. Like a leaky fire hydrant in Brooklyn. Or this blasting fire hydrant in the Bronx.” Rob also learned that he could air dry instead of using a towel, which reduced his laundry.
“Hygiene is extremely important to me, and I want to make sure my message is getting out to people in a way that they feel they can take some of this stuff on. For me, it really came down to realizing that we don’t need all these cosmetics in order to be clean and to be hygienic. I just found that we’re really over-hyping how much we need to do in order to keep ourselves clean.”
During the shower-free year, Rob said that he never missed the relaxation that a long, warm shower could offer. “I turned my shower time into a time to connect with nature,” he wrote. “It became my favorite time of the day, when I would disconnect from the stresses of life and be present with my surroundings. Sometimes I jumped around before jumping in. And sometimes I just chilled out. Other times I contemplated life.” More importantly, he learned to appreciate every last drop of water.
Rob said that people’s reactions to his no-shower rule have been quite mixed. “I’m pretty happy that most people are excited about it, they’re excited to see that it’s possible,” he said. “But I have had thousands of people making comments about it being gross and me smelling really bad and things like that too.”
About his love life, Rob was quite bashful while revealing that there was not exactly a shortage of women who were happy to be with him when he wasn’t showering. “The times that I miss the shower the most is when I’m with a woman and she wants to get in the shower with me and I can’t,” he admitted.
For those of us who would like to save water but can’t do without a daily shower, Rob does have a few other ideas on water conservation. He tells us to: flush the toilet less often, take shorter showers, turn off the water while soaping up or scrubbing down, wash clothes in less and in full loads, use water efficient showerheads and toilets, get your leaks fixed, harvest rain.
“It’s really simple,” said Rob. “It’s about the idea of not following social norms and showing that you don’t have to do things the way everybody else does to be a contributing member of society.” Now that doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?