Shivering and greasy

Indignity Vol. 4, No. 81

Shivering and greasy

Cold Showers to Save the Planet? Go Soak Your Head!


THE LEVEL OF carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, reached 425.22 parts per million in March, the highest monthly reading on record. That was 4.7 parts per million higher than March 2023, the greatest recorded year-over-year increase. 

In response to the out-of-control global crisis, yesterday the Washington Post—under the rubric "Climate Solutions"—advised readers to "embrace using cold water, almost all the time." Among the advice in the article was this:

A cold shower not only uses less energy than a hot one, but it also saves water because you don’t have [to] run the tap while you wait for it to heat up, said Jennifer Amann, senior fellow in the buildings program at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit group. You should also rethink washing your hands with hot or warm water for the same reason, she added.
“If you’re wasting cold water to get your hot water, then you’re really wasting both water and the energy resources,” she said. “Those energy resources still come largely from fossil fuels and so they’re adding to emissions in the environment at a time when we really need to be doing everything we can to reduce carbon emissions.”

No. There is a lot to debate about the value, or lack of value, in recommending personal conservation measures to deal with a systemic catastrophe. But those personal conservation measures need to at least make sense. Telling people to wash themselves in cold water is a waste of one of the most precious resources of all: the public's willingness to listen to conservation advice. 

Cold water is bad for washing with. It does not get you clean anywhere near as well as hot water does. As anyone who has ever washed their hands in cold water knows, it is not just uncomfortable but ineffective. Things stick to your hands. Soap doesn't work right. Your fingers get stiff and painful.

If you try to take a shower in cold water instead of hot water, it will take longer to get yourself clean—except you'll be so miserable that you'll get out of the shower earlier, with cold damp grime still sticking to you. Then you'll have to scrape it off with a towel and put the towel in the laundry. 

How should you do that laundry? "Modern laundry detergents, even those that aren’t marked for cold-water use, are typically formulated to clean just as well at lower temperatures," the Post wrote, in the section about how you should use cold water more often in your washing machine. And you should. But those modern formulations of detergents are the result of the industry working to find ways to overcome the basic fact that hot water washes things better

This is not some irrational made-up belief to justify fuel consumption. It's grade-school science. Hot water is a more effective solvent than cold water. Hot water melts sugar and loosens grease. Low-temperature commercial dishwashers, which use chemicals instead of extra-hot water to sterilize the dishes, nevertheless heat water to at least 120 degrees

A nice hot shower is also 120 degrees. Water at that temperature makes soap flow into crevices. It rinses those crevices clean. The melting point of sebum is somewhere around 85 degrees. Stick your head under a hot shower and the shampoo has something to work with. Stick your head under a cold shower and you're trying to remove congealed oils with congealed soap. 

One great obstacle to the environmental movement is that people associate conservation with deprivation. The forces busily destroying the world are counting on this. Donald Trump is thriving on the stump warning his audiences that their enemies are forcing them to use sluggish dishwashers, stingy showerheads, feebly flushing toilets. He's not wrong! At the very least, most energy-saving technologies involve noticeable tradeoffs

Telling people to take cold showers is the worst kind of conservation message, the kind that confirms the belief that environmentalists are plotting to make you live in a shipping container and eat bugs. As part of a package of advice, it taints all the rest. Are modern laundry detergents really so advanced you don't need to use the hot water cycle? Probably! If you're telling me that while also arguing that a cold shower is a perfectly good substitute for a hot one, though, why would I believe you about the detergent, either?

At the same time the message is too aggressive, it's too small. On the way to proposing a life of greasy hands and shivering mornings, the Post noted, in passing, "there are home improvements that can help you cut back on the energy it takes to heat water, including installing a heat pump water heater." Tearing out your existing water heater and paying $2,000 up front for a drastically more efficient one is the kind of sacrifice that could make a real difference if enough people did it. And you could reflect on the good you'd done while taking a nice, long shower. 

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A really gray sky with clouds on both sides and a tiny bit of daylight so still somehow there's blue in it but not much

New York City, May 12, 2024

★★ Once-fluffy sex parts of plants lay soggy in the street, with more rain falling on them. It was not a violent downpour but a steady, indisputable rain. Under its influence the morning slid torpidly yet somehow swiftly by; everyone had slept in, and the free hours of the weekend seemed dulled and purposeless. It was supposed to be chilly outside, yet even lowering the top sash of the window couldn't lift the stuffiness indoors. Maybe the damp would keep stray bugs from finding the un-screened gap. By the end of lunch the rain had stopped, but the light was still uninviting. A step out on the balcony to figure out which jacket the afternoon demanded, though, found a blue window in the gray overhead. Down in the subway there was water puddled on the yellow warning strip on the platform, with electric light reflecting off its surface and flecks of submerged matter moving when it was disturbed. The patches of brightening sky were outmatched by a cold west wind for a while. Sunshine arrived when the errands were done, then faded out again, only to return in the dinner-cooking hour, when there wasn't time to do anything with it. 

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CLICK ON THIS box to enjoy today's Indignity Morning Podcast:

Indignity Morning Podcast No. 272: A particularly Times-ian register.
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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS in aid of the assembly of a sandwich selected from Mrs. Ericsson Hammond's Salad Appetizer Cook Book, by Maria Matilda Ericsson Hammond. Published in 1924, and now in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Sandwiches au Saumon fume a la Diane

Cut six slices of well-cured bacon very thin, press it out still thinner, fill and roll. The roll should be about two inches around. Leave in the ice-box until cold, then dip the knife in warm water and slice the rolls in very thin slices; from each roll cut about five slices across. Butter round slices of bread and spread them with smoked salmon; put five of those little slices on each sandwich, one after the other, and trim the bread in between each leaving it in the form of a star. With a paper tube fill a little cream in the center and on top of that decorate a large daisy of truffle with a center of lemon peel. Arrange on a platter in the form of a ring and garnish with parsley.

Filling. Put in a saucepan three tablespoons of very fine chopped salmon; add two tablespoons of dissolved Cox’s gelatine and three spoons of whipped cream; pepper and salt.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to 

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Supplies are really and truly running low of the second printing of 19 FOLK TALES, still available for gift-giving and personal perusal! Sit in the gathering heat with a breezy collection of stories, each of which is concise enough to read before the sun gets high.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm DailyThe special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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