April no showers

21st April 2018

Hark, the angels sing, it is Earth Week at The Overtake! What that means for you, dear reader, is that you get to read, in a level of detail that absolutely nobody asked for, how it felt for me to go without showering for two weeks.

Our MO for Earth Week was to take on a challenge that would have the most benefit to the environment. Some opted to forsake plastic or avoid gas-guzzling vehicles, but I was sure that not showering would be of the most benefit to the environment, and definitely was not just a way to shoe-horn in my questionable “April no-showers” pun.

Because of my challenge, when in a hundred years time a wide-eyed child looks up into the eyes of his parents and asks “Who did it, mama and papa, who saved the world from global warming?” they will look down upon him sweetly and say “Nobody, you little idiot. This is Mars”.

The Rules

No showers, obviously. Or baths. Just a sink wash – one (one.) sink wash, per day.

My request to be allocated a daily ration of baby wipes was poo-pooed by colleagues, supposedly on the grounds of environmental concerns.

The idea of deodorant-ban was also floated around, but, if only for the sake of my long-suffering partner, was mooted

The idea of deodorant-ban was also floated around, but, if only for the sake of my long-suffering partner, was mooted. I was under strict instructions “not to go mad” though.

But I felt the only thing that might be worse than blatant BO is the heady aroma of BO, not masked by, but simply intermingled with the sweet and tacky scent of Lynx Africa, so I decided that I’d just fuck off the deodorant anyway — really get into it.

Days 1-4

Easy this no washing stuff, not a challenge at all. All I have to do every day fulfil the challenge is to NOT get a shower, which is easy as fuck isn’t it? How often do you not got into a shower? Literally most of every day. Easy.

The only slight pain is the washing in the sink bit, there’s something deeply demeaning about standing naked with a flannel and washing myself down, like a grubby transit van or, perhaps more accurately, Fiat Cinquecento. I don’t even feel clean afterwards.

Conscious of my water usage, I don’t even let the hot tap actually get hot before putting the plug in the sink — this is actually a big factor in a lot of water wastage, waiting for water to heat up before we use it — meaning my first few sink washes are done with water that is, at best, tepid. By day four, I’ve sussed it though, I turn the tap on the tiniest amount to begin with, then wait for it to heat up, before unleashing the full flow. Take that, er… water!

Days 5-9

AJ dog
Don’t look at me like that

By day five, I am, let’s say, aware of my odour. It’s not that bad, but it’s definitely there. I’m finding it harder to get up in the mornings too, and I’m not as focused as quickly, without showering. I’m so aware of the layer of light scum that covers my body each morning, to the extent that by day nine I’m close to caving when I jump out of bed, so disgusting do I feel — but my will holds out until mid-morning and, by that point, you stop feeling so dirty for some reason.

I’m already finding that the challenge is forcing me to think more about the water I consume in other ways, but it’s also forcing me to think twice about moving around too much, and on day six I refused to run with the dog because it would mean getting extra sweaty with no shower at the end of it. I am sorry, AJ.

I wake up day nine with the beginnings of man-flu. Is this coincidence, or the consequence of basically abandoning personal hygiene? Who knows, but I feel like utter death and the prospect of slipping into a hot bath is more attractive than it has ever, ever been — but the challenge must go on.

Days 10-14

By day 10 I feel like a cartoon character, with a faint green cloud outlining my entire body and a token few flies always lingering around nearby. Friends who call round look at me with the kind of sad pity usually reserved for people going through bitter divorce proceedings.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “It’s just for an article I’m writing.”

“Sure it is,” they say, edging slowly toward the door.

The big shock though is my hair.

Now I wouldn’t go as far as to say my hair is clean by day 14, but oddly, is feels much less greasy than it did around day seven or eight

There’s that rumour isn’t there, that once you’ve not washed your hair for long enough it just cleans itself? Now I wouldn’t go as far as to say my hair is clean by day 14, but oddly, is feels much less greasy than it did around day seven or eight, at which point I would have had enough oil to golden-brown a whole turkey. This would suggest that — shock horror — the cornucopia of hair products that we are so often told are absolutely necessary to ensure our barnets don’t spontaneously combust, probably aren’t. In fact, they’re probably not helping at all.


The average person showers for around eight minutes, in a shower which pumps out roughly 8 litres per minute, adding up to a usage of 64 litres per shower. I tend to shower for a little longer than that usually but standing under my shower feels like standing under the dribbling jaws of a really large dog, such is its power and reliability, so let’s just square it off at 60 litres per day that I’ve saved. Hang on though, eager beaver, because I reckon that in being more mindful of other water usage, I definitely added to that; so let’s say I saved an extra 10 litres a day.

That means the sum of my water conservation over this period was somewhere around 980 litres. That’s a lot isn’t it? I mean that’s fucking loads of water, that. It’s 1,880 little bottles of Evian. You’re welcome, Earth!

Don’t cancel the Mars-base yet though, Elon.

Delicious food delivered directly from hell

You see, somewhere around day 10, while tucking into a burger and chips, I made the terrible decision to look up how much water goes into the production of a single beefburger.

Turns out that 980 litres is not “fucking loads of water” — not by a long shot. In fact, 3,000 litres is loads of water, and that’s what goes into making your average beef burger.

So, I could have spent the last two weeks doubling up on showers, leaving the tap running when I brush my teeth, flushing just for the sheer hell of it, the works, and levelled it all out by not eating that single fucking burger.

Worth it, then.

With the sheer futility of the last two weeks of my existence laid bare before me, I slip into a hot bath. Not even a shower, a bath. Who fucking cares, anyway?

Seriously though, the earth is pretty fucked and the wholesome message of this article is that it’s only going to get worse if we all don’t do something about it. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, or particularly difficult — like, I don’t know, not showering for two weeks — it could just be something simple, like going for the vegetarian option once in a while. It might make more of a difference than you realise.

Greenpeace’s verdict

Fiona Nicholls, Greenpeace campaigner, says: “It’s a valiant and we hope not too stinky effort from Ethan. And we hope it wasn’t too unpleasant for those around him as it will only have scratched the surface of Ethan’s real water usage, because it’s likely that only 3% of the water he uses is directly from his taps. We use a stunning amount of water every day, and we’re using water even when we don’t know it. Almost a quarter of that comes from industrial products (goods, cars, etc.) and almost three-quarters from agricultural products.

“But you don’t have to be smelly to reduce the amount of water you use. Some power showers can use up to 17 litres of water every minute. Try the 60-second shower challenge (turn off the water while you lather if that helps!) and it’ll not only save water, but it’ll save you money on your energy bill and save you time on your morning routine. Win-win-win.

Eating less meat can reduce your foodie water consumption by a third (and reduce your carbon footprint)

“What we eat is a big one. The water intensity of the meat industry is huge. Eating less meat can reduce your foodie water consumption by a third (and reduce your carbon footprint), and wasting less food is a no-brainer too! The biggest water impact of any foodstuff is beef. Bovine products in the UK have an average water footprint of 450 litres per person per day – or spending 26 minutes in a power shower. None of this of course means we shouldn’t think twice before luxuriating in the shower — but we should know that our water impact is much bigger than what we use in the home.”

21st April 2018