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The clean, green thrill of a cold shower

Photo credit: Cristiano Betta (Flickr)

Photo credit: Cristiano Betta (Flickr)

JFK said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. While “the other things” he referred to almost certainly didn’t include taking cold showers, Tony Ryan thinks JFK’s famous quote can be applied to adopting this practice to reduce your impact on the environment.

I’m a recent convert to cold showers. Along with frozen cherries (the best summer treat, I assure you), they got me through Melbourne’s dreadful summer of 2013–14, when the temperature rose well above forty degrees three days in a row.

With the onset of this summer, and a recent case of energy-bill shock, my mind wandered back to the blissful feeling of those cold showers – the immediate freedom from the heat’s tyranny – and I took the plunge once more.

But cold showers relieve more than just your financial situation and the stifling heat. They also reduce your carbon footprint. Hot showers account for the majority of household hot water use, and water heating comprises about 23% of Australia’s household greenhouse gas emissions. Because household emissions constitute nearly one-fifth of the country’s total, our hot showers account for a considerable chunk of the country’s emissions.

Flush with cash? Already got a solar heating system? There are other reasons to adopt the ways of the Wintry Washers, which those who take cold showers are sometimes known as.*

Cold showers are good for our bodies and minds in a number of ways. They improve circulation, increase your alertness, and hydrate dry skin and hair. One theory has it that our lack of “thermal exercise” – cold swims and other “physiological stressors” that have been with us through our evolutionary history – could explain the prevalence of depression and other mental health problems in Western societies.

Cold showers are a bit like cycling to work – they both tick so many boxes. Do they save you money? Tick. Are they good for you? Tick. Are they good for the environment? Tick. That’s quite a few ticks.

As with diving into the ocean, the initial shock is the hardest part, so consider going in lukewarm and turning down the heat gradually.

If you’re (understandably) reluctant to part with hot showers, you can still reduce your energy consumption by installing a solar heating system and an energy-efficient showerhead. For those who tend to become hypnotised by a hot shower’s soothing lull, shower timers can be a great help.

I’ll admit it – cold showers are less than appealing in the depths of winter on a Monday morning at 7.30am. But start this summer and by winter you could be as hardened as these Shinto observers in Japan practicing misogi, a purification ritual that often involves immersion in cold waterfalls or the ocean.

Photo credit: Adam Chandler (Flickr)

Photo credit: Adam Chandler (Flickr)

* Actually, I just made that term up.

Photo credits: top, Cristiano Betta cc; bottom, Adam Chandler cc. These images were not modified.

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