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One Fish, Two Fish

Monday, Jun. 3, 2013
The best student comment on "One Fish, Two Fish" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, June 16th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
College freshmen Josh and David live together in an on-campus dorm. They share a communal bathroom with two other students. Halfway through the school year, Josh begins to notice that David takes unusually long showers. With each passing week, David’s showers have increased to 45 minutes each and every day.
Josh knows that running water ultimately goes down the drain and into the sewers. Of course, everyone just assumes there will be more available the next day. However, Josh realizes that David is consuming huge amounts of water as well as enormous amounts of energy.
Bothered by David’s actions, Josh talks to David and calmly points out that his water and energy consumption is not good for the environment, as well as being extremely expensive. David, however, doesn’t see it that way and replies with, “Whatever. I just pay for room and board. I don’t pay for the utilities. That shouldn’t be my problem.”
This is a common problem among college students living in dorms. Since the bills don’t go directly to students, it is easy for them to lose track of how much they are actually using and assume that water and energy are unlimited resources. If David actually saw how much water he was using and paid the bill himself, he might think differently and be inclined to reduce his water consumption.  But because he pays only a flat rate for room and board, he feels it is not his concern and that he can use as much energy as he likes without a second thought.
How can a university encourage students like David to be more environmentally conscious of their water consumption when students do not pay for utilities directly? How can students hold each other accountable for being responsible about their individual water and energy consumption? What incentives could there be for students to care about how much water and energy they use other than the fact that it can cost more money?
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Photo available under a Creative Commons License on Flickr from Joost Nelissen.

Comments Comments

Josh said on Jun 3, 2013
The school should install an egg-timer style light switch, so that the lights automatically turn off before David can waste too much water. If he is inside the shower, he will be annoyed when the lights turn off and it will force him to be more conscious of his consumption. Instead of trying to change hearts and minds and hoping to win the battle philosophically, they should seek more practical solutions which are more likely to get the results they desire. The honest truth is that Josh is going to annoy David by simply asking him to be more conscious, and instead should just start turning off switches himself. If the school also installed monitors to determine how much each room consumes, then there could be positive incentives towards saving energy, such as rebates on housing costs, extra meal points, striking an infraction from the records, or other rewards that actually interest the average student. - Like - 4 people like this.
Dave said on Jun 3, 2013
For a young man like Dave, if he's in the shower more than 7 minutes, let's face it: he's probably been focusing most of his scrubbing on one area. But can you blame him? He's been living with a nightmare roommate who times his showers and he can't seem to get even a moment's privacy. It's only natural that he should seize the opportunity for a little "me time" when he's in the shower. Of course, when Dave gets out after one of his 45 minute rub-a-dub-dub sessions, his friends are sure to make a crack or two. "Hey Dave, what exactly were you doing in there?" "You know you don't have to go through all that to check yourself for testicular cancer..." I would argue that these jests are the single most effective way of reducing the amount of time Dave spends in the shower. Although his friends mean no harm, they tap into the guilt that will forever be associated with that favorite adolescent pastime. The school might find success by tapping into this guilt as well. They could start a humorous advertising campaign in the dorms with the catch phrase, "Watcha doin' in there?". Or perhaps they could avoid the problem altogether by setting up small rooms where students might enjoy the privacy that is so lacking from a dorm room or a public bathroom. Either way, the university needs to forget about timers or monetary rewards and really get down to the real problem. The "rub", if you will. - Like - 18 people like this.
Willy said on Jun 6, 2013
We are so spoiled here at Santa Clara with our shower stalls. As "Dave" pointed out, they provide an excessive amount of privacy. All my life I showered with the other folks in the commune back home and thought nothing of it. When I got to Santa Clara I was shocked to find that I had the shower all to myself (here I have to say that I did find out the hard way: my roommate was pretty angry when I tried to share his stall during orientation weekend...). Once I got over the novelty of it all, I started to realize how much you miss out on when you shower by yourself. For one thing you waste a TON of water. With community showers you can share a spigot, alternating who's lathering and who's rinsing. One man can be washing his face while his buddy scrubs his back for him. The cooperation that I see in the shower back home is truly a beautiful thing. And that brings me to the next thing you miss out on by showering alone: companionship. There's just something about being buck naked with your buddies that forges a bond that can't be broken. Now I know some people here are probably uncomfortable bearing it all in front of their floor mates. We often have the same issue with newcomers back home, but we kill two birds with one stone by showering in cold water. This way, we save a bundle on our energy bill AND it takes care of everyone's fears about being seen in their birthday suit by showing them that, at least under a spray of freezing cold water, all men really are created equal. - Like - 3 people like this.
Kelly said on Jun 9, 2013
I think if there were some way the university could look at the individual rooms/floors water use on campus and alert them when it is too high, they could be most effective in regulating water consumption. People respond well to incentive, yes, but I think in this case the only way to really solve the problem is tighter regulation. The first alert would serve as a warning, the second an official note in their housing record, and the third a fine with higher fines if the water consumption does not go down. I - Like - 2 people like this.
Chris said on Jun 9, 2013
The university should publicize the amount of money they pay for each residence halls' utilities, namely their water bill. That way, Josh could bring those numbers to David as a concrete example of how he is contributing to the high costs and waste of energy, and hopefully other roommates will do the same to the person in their suite taking too long in the shower. It may even be effective to post these in the residence halls, especially in the bathrooms, so students are thinking about the water and money they are wasting while they are in the act of showering. - Like - 2 people like this.
Elizabeth said on Jun 10, 2013
My current housing uses a light timer that goes off automatically after 5 mins. It is amazing and acts as a reminder to get out of the shower quicker! The university should install these or just have the water go cold after about ten minutes. No one wants to shower in an ice cold shower! - Like - 2 people like this.
Niki said on Jun 10, 2013
That's an awesome idea Elizabeth!! Just wondering, does it automatically reset if you just turn the shower off for a few seconds and then turn it back on? I wonder if people on campus would do that or if they would take the warning the first time. I love that idea though, that would definitely be a good reminder for me I wish I had that in my house! - Like
Alena said on Jun 10, 2013
Eye opening! - Like
Gabrielle Dougherty said on Jun 10, 2013
Oh David, so naive and so unaware. We have to realize as citizens of the United States of America, that we are fortunate enough to have running water (not to mention it's hot)! As David uses this appliance he calls the shower, David must think about the amount of people in our world that do not have daily access to a shower. As we continue to grow as a country and more importantly as a world, our resources are becoming more difficult and more expensive to access. The dorm should keep track of the amount of water each floor is using and make it a competition. No one wants to be the floor using the most water. If we all are keeping each other in check with weekly updates on the water usage through means of competition, the entire dorm's water use will decrease as a unit. As my sister likes to say, "Save some for the fishies!" - Like - 1 person likes this.
Garrett said on Jun 10, 2013
My roommate says the same thing only about A/C. He blasts it on even when it is cold outside claiming that he wants to take advantage of it to get his money's worth due to the excessive cost of on-campus housing. If there were variable costs or dare I say fees (which Santa Clara Housing already has too many of) for excessive consumption that would probably be a good deterrent for students, although I don't know how much I like the ideal either. I remember the 2010-11 Energy challenge when my RLC Unity won due to a kind of collective action took place. Signs were posted in showers telling them to shower with the lights off, other signs posted next to light switches said, "How would you like it if I turned you on and left?" These were shockingly effective. Natural light and fresh air are the best light bulbs and A/C. Facebook was another tool utilized. Although this was short term, perhaps it should be done quarterly instead of annually. But it certainly must be incentivized if you want us students to play along. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Niki said on Jun 10, 2013
That's an awesome idea Elizabeth!! Just wondering, does it automatically reset if you just turn the shower off for a few seconds and then turn it back on? I wonder if people on campus would do that or if they would take the warning the first time. I love that idea though, that would definitely be a good reminder for me I wish I had that in my house! - Like
Andrew said on Jun 10, 2013
If the School is really going to solve this issue, it is going to have to be faced by an array of strategies. First each RLC should educate their residents on how much water they consume, and outline the consequences (monetary and environmental) of unregulated water use. Have competitions between RLCs to encourage smart water use (water slides for the winner perhaps?). After education, SCU should invest in some sort of method to softly coerce students to take shorter showers, or use less water. One way is to time the amount of hot water used by each shower head. I bet most students would cut their showers quite short if they only had 10-15 minutes of warm water. Motion sensored lights could also present a solution, as it would not only save electricity, but if the lights were to go out when a student is showering, that would prompt a quick end to their shower. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Rachel Davidson said on Jun 10, 2013
My first reaction to this comes from my roots in Portland, the country's leader in recycling, and my own experience in environmental studies courses at SCU. I personally believe that our school is behind the times by not requiring every student to take a sustainability class as part of their CORE. My second reaction to this comes as a student who has seen her roommates do the exact same thing that David does. It is selfish and ignorant of him to think that his own water use doesn't affect the community or larger environment, especially when the Bay Area and Alameda County have some of the highest rates of homelessness and impoverished people in the country. Students could collaborate with the school to raise awareness of this issue by tabling in Benson, posting signs with stats in bathrooms and around the RLC halls, and have more sustainable and water-saving events either on campus or for each individual dorm. California is a state very used to droughts, and we must serve our community and the larger eco-system as a whole by not only reducing our own water usage, but encouraging others to do so as well. - Like - 1 person likes this.
aeelliott said on Jun 10, 2013
This is such an important concept that really needs to be worked on, especially at Santa Clara. I'm glad you guys brought this up! I loved Elizabeth's idea on the five minute light timer! It would make people much more aware - Like - 1 person likes this.
Breanne said on Jun 10, 2013
As a representative on the University of California Student Association's Sustainability Steering Committee and attending UC Merced, one of the few LEED Gold certified universities in the nation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), I understand that methods of conservation in a fast-paced environment can be easily forgotten. As the numbers of water shortages rapidly increase, I believe the key to rethinking usage of such a limited resource, is likely in something called a real-time monitoring system that my own university uses. Founded here in the Bay Area, engineer Sharam Javey created Aquacue, a company that developed hardware and software for real-time monitoring of water use for cities and campuses (sold this past April to Badger Meter). When given bimonthly water reports, building directors had to detect specific areas of usage for themselves, while if there were any problems, inquiring with all the users of the building made for an unorganized and hectic sense of monitoring. Javey's program provides factual data facilitating quick response solutions in a friendly dashboard any student or faculty member can access online or through their smart phone. This provides information in a painless, easy, and convenient way, and I believe this current feedback is the key to influencing behavior, especially among students. Every few months, my university does 30-day competitions to reduce water use in the 11 residence halls (with a nice incentive, of course) by taking shorter showers, flushing the toilet only when needed, etc. A single competition last year saved over 90,000 gallons of water and reported 15 leaks (I would post the sources if allowed). When students are able to see how much water they save, it can provide them with a sense of accomplishment without the stress or pressure of flashing lights or other methods. Additionally, a friendly competition between residence halls, or even floors, is always healthy! - Like - 5 people like this.
Severus said on Jun 10, 2013
What I like to do is play music while I shower. It helps me practice my singing and gives me a sense of how long I have been bathing. For instance, I typically play Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors" when I shower, which is about 8 minutes long. So, when that song is over, I know that I have already been showering for 8 minutes and that I should begin to wrap up! Also, guys, you should use the 3-in-1 shampoo/conditioner/body wash. It saves me so much time! - Like - 1 person likes this.
Dana Schroeder said on Jun 10, 2013
College students are often the epitome of the addage, "out of sight, out of mind". David's water use serves as a prime example. When striving to change any kind of behavior, education is key. I would suggest that the university make an effort to SHOW students just how much they are wasting by quantifying their waste in amounts they can understand. For example, periodically, displays could be set up on the lawn in front of Kenna, in Benson or in front of the library to demonstrate this senseless waste. Perhaps get large clear containers filled with water, and have signage that says "If you shower for 20 minutes... this is how much water you are wasting" (Obviously the water in containers would not go to waste and could be re-purposed). This concept could also be used to physically express and demonstrate concerns about paper waste, ewaste, electrical usage etc. But by directly showing the students just how much waste they are creating, you would have a more profound impact on their habitual behavior. To supplement this visual display of waste and reiterate its impact on the community, the university should expand the required Arrupe program to include local environmental and sustainable organizations and projects as an option for service. This will remind students that their waste and flippant attitude is affecting their community, neighbors and friends. Additionally, I also agree with the idea of the timers and lights. If the University seeks to change this behavior then perhaps they too could lead by example. For instance, the library lights do not need to be on all day every day. Turning them off on nights and weekends when they are closed would be key. The University could also increase incentives by creating a scholarship or grant for the student or group of students which demonstrates their commitment to keeping water and energy usage and waste low. This could be a campus wide competition that would draw from the innovative spirit of the student body. This would also help to quell David's upset in how much he is already paying for housing.I think that if a variety of methods are utilized to approach the issue you will be able to reach more people and put this problem to rest quickly and with ease. - Like - 2 people like this.
Niki said on Jun 10, 2013
This is an awesome idea, Dana! Thanks for the thoughtful comment! - Like - 1 person likes this.
Sameer said on Jun 10, 2013
Obviously, conserving our resources is an important part for the future well-being of our society. I believe the best way to resolve the problem is by making people aware of the effects their actions have on the planet. When I lived in Dunne Freshmen and Sophomore I saw several signs that informed students the consequences of skipping class. Students not only fall behind, but also waste tuition dollars and each class is estimated to cost about 150 dollars. As a student that receives no financial aid this definitely had a lasting impression on me and as a result I attended more classes unless my head hurt real bad. I believe a similar action targeted at water conservation could make a significant impact on David. That being said, SCU does charge students a ton of money for on campus housing so one can't blame David for all his reasons against his giddyness in the shower. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Niki said on Jun 10, 2013
I like your point about the signs telling students how much money they are wasting by not going to class. If they put numbers up for minutes spent in the shower in relation to tuition dollars, I feel like that could be really effective. - Like
Kathleen D said on Jun 10, 2013
As college students who live in the dorms, I agree with the stated hypothesis that college students do not care about the water and energy consumption while living in the dorms since we are not physically paying for that energy used. I think one thing that Santa Clara could do is make a presentation and show how much a week/month/quarter an average student at Santa Clara uses in energy. I really like Elizabeths idea as well. IT would allow everyone to get out of the shower quickly, especially when someone taakes a shower like in Swig when it become freezing if the water is not on. - Like - 1 person likes this.
The Big Q said on Jun 18, 2013
We decided to split the prize for "One Fish: Two Fish" between Breanne and Dana, both of whom gave several excellent, concrete suggestions for encouraging students to conserve water. - Like
Florencia Aleman said on Jan 30, 2014
As upsetting as it is, our generation is responsible for the amount of time our resources will last. I say it's upsetting because I'd say about only 5% consider the fact that something as simple as a long shower is hurting our home, Earth. Dave is an example of those who are completely unaware of what is really happening in the world, and the solution to this problem is beyond installing timing systems reminding an individual to shower faster. Those who stand as representatives of each country are responsible of making sure everybody is aware of the problem we face, even teachers and professors are responsible as this generation learns how to act from the previous one. Naturally this is hopeful thinking because revealing the truth of how limited our sources really are do not benefit politicians. People are selfish and are careless of who suffers the consequences of their actions, the ironic thing is that its also the people themselves who are suffering from them. Most people seem to ignorant to listen to these things and change their habits, so unfortunately a different approach has to be taken to fix these issues, such as the water turning cold after a certain amount of time, or the lights simply switching off. - Like
Alejandro Avila said on Feb 17, 2014
Relating to egoism in ethics, if one enjoys a "nice-long-relaxing-shower" there is nothing that should be done to stop it. However, students might cease to take long showers if "nice" and "relaxing" are taken away from the compound. Information posters about the average amount of water that spent per minute in the shower should help students reconsider the time they spend meditating, singing etc. in which case "nice" would fly of the compound. "Relaxing" would be banned simply by adding a fee to exceeding 15 or 20 minutes of running water, or perhaps by cutting hot water off after a set time. Setting a progressive fee on the amount of minutes you prefer hot water with each shower would greatly reduce energy and gas consumption in the school. Ultimately students should have better things to do than taking "long-showers" without any further merit than to be clean. - Like
ahmad said on Sep 22, 2014
Ahmad if the install the insert coin to shower thingy, just like laundry, I am pretty sure students would be much more environmental :) - Like
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Tags: bills, conservation, responsibility, sustainability, water