Bathing in behaviour change….

Last week, I was honoured to be invited to be part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan roundtable in Toronto, with my focus being on sustainable sourcing.  Unilever, as many of my peers in the sustainability space know, have catapulted into the spotlight over the past few years for their ambitious Sustainable Living Plan, to essentially decouple growth – double the size of the business AND drive sustainability throughout the company, its products and consumers.  The one challenge that the company has had quite a bit of trouble,  is driving consumer behaviour change to be more sustainable, given that most of the environmental impacts of their products occur during the use phase.  The company published the Five Levers of Change two years ago, which I found to be highly insightful.  When companies share their resources like that, I honestly think that more benefits accrue to them (but that’s fodder for another blog).

In any case, one of the case studies covered in the roundtable, was that it is very hard to get people to take shorter showers.  For one thing, taking a shower represents the only time of the day that you have peace and quiet, and for me at least, the time when I have my best ideas.  It is also the essential time for me to wake myself up.  And of course, in some cases, it can be a bit of an indulgence.  And I have tried in the past to take shorter showers, using  kitchen timers – but they represented a huge annoyance more than anything.

So, several days post-roundtable, short of getting into unprofessional territory and turning into Pigpen:

This is taking it a bit too far.

I’ve opted instead to take shorter showers by turning off the water when I am lathering/using conditioner.  Surprisingly – I didn’t notice a huge difference.  It’s not that cold when you turn off the tap (although I am certain that some shower manufacturers have invented a warm “mist” of water by now for those more faint of heart), and the other nice thing is that the bathroom is not like a sauna when you exit.  No mirrors to wipe steam off of.  Less energy required to heat the water (let’s see when we get our utility bills next month!) and to exhaust from the bathroom.  And lastly, apparently taking hot showers really dries your skin out, so hopefully over time that means I will be using less moisturizer (sorry, Unilever.)  I’m only two days in, but hopefully I can keep remembering to do this to officially be a convert.

(Side note:   on the hot cold hot cold temperature changes – there are so many cultures – Japanese, Scandinavian, Turkish, Russian – that have a hot-cold bathing culture, that I wonder if this is actually good for us.)  I’ll report back in a month’s time…

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