THE BLOG
02/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tip #3 for the 44th Prez: Time Your Showers

The economy needs help, "stimulus" if you will, and Washington is thinking big—just yesterday Obama called for doubling the production of alternative energy in three years, a sorely needed boost to the industry.  But thinking small also has its moments, such as in the shower (more on showers later).  Small changes add up, something Obama raised when talking about annoying questions during the debates, such as what he'd done personally that's green: "What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective.'" First point: There is some drama to Obama, it just took CFLs to bring it out. Second point: Simple actions add up when everyone gets involved. When your house is the White House, you can set the pace on environmental causes as has been done over the previous three decades.  Just consider a fraction of the green improvements already made at 1600 Penn Ave:

  • Energy-efficient HVAC—check
  • Native plants on the grounds—check
  • Reduced pesticide use indoors—check
  • Yard waste composted—check
  • Energy-efficient refrigerators—check
  • Low-VOC paints—check
  • And, of course, compact fluorescent lightbulbs

This is old hat today, but the White House started most of these changes back in the mid-nineties when CFLs were scarcely to be found on store shelves. Now, they could go big and put a windmill on the White House roof, but that probably wouldn't fly with the preservationists. No, where Obama and the presidential family can stand at the forefront of the global warming fight is in the shower.

The Obamas have exercise routines that put the nation to shame and that means time whiled away under the tap. Heating all that water generally requires energy from coal-fired power plants, major contributors to global warming. But with the help of a simple egg timer at home or a tile-adhering shower timer at the gym, they could cut the average 8.5-minute shower to five minutes, saving nine gallons of water each time and about 2,400 pounds of greenhouse gases annually for the whole family. Supposing only 10 percent of adult Americans joined them, we would save 6,814,503 tons of greenhouse gases every year and 2 billion gallons of water daily. And if you can't bear the thought of losing those extra minutes, get a low-flow showerhead like the Delta H20 Kinetics, which cuts water usage down to 1.6 gallons per minute without reducing water pressure.