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   Date: 10/16/09 Bookmark and Share

Sustainability in the Shower

Saving Energy and Money with New Showerheads

By Julie Colatrella ’12

At a school like Smith, where those who carry plastic, brand-name water bottles feel like a scrutinized minority, sustainability is a major issue. We have environmental scavenger hunts and sustainability video contests—even our convocation went “green.” At Smith, students passionately police their light bulb purchases, food waste, and even (sometimes) toilet flushing habits in an effort to conserve.

But a recent sustainability initiative on campus translates into water conservation even in the most intimate of spaces: the shower.

That’s right. Nearly every showerhead in every house on campus—500 new installations—has been replaced with a new low-flow model in a project overseen by Frank Perman, plumbing and heating supervisor in facilities management .

The total cost of the project was $40,000, but the conservation benefits are substantial. Three million gallons of water will be saved per year because of the new showerheads. And because shower users will use less hot water, the college will also save on heating bills and energy.

In only one year, the college will have redeemed the initial cost of the project through savings.

Some students may be nostalgic for the retired shower heads. “You could adjust where the water pressure went, so it was like a free deep muscle massage,” reminisces Katrina Dugan ’11J about the old, inefficient showerheads.

But most students are ready to accept the loss of their liquid masseuse in exchange for environmental friendliness. “We have nice, hot showers here, and if it’s saving all that water, it’s definitely worth it,” says Emily Fuller ’12.

...And Power Strips, too

It’s not only water conservation that we are concerned with at Smith. (After all, this is the college that has a table devoted to light bulbs at Central Check-In, more signs in bathrooms that remind you to turn off the lights than ones that instruct you to wash your hands, and motion sensors that make entire rooms go black if no one budges for long enough.)

In an effort to be more energy efficient, the college replaced old power strips with new, more efficient models in the Campus Center, the offices of facilities management and college relations, and other buildings. The recently opened Ford Hall also has the power strips.

As a result of the project, which cost $10,000, a total of 125,000 kilowatt/hours will be saved per year. Payback on this investment will take six months to one year.

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