Long before “green” was fashionable, I conserved water.
The other day at my health club, three girls – ages about thirteen, twelve, and nine – were stepping into a shower stall, giggling and shouting. Ten minutes later, the water was still flowing.
I saw no adult – parent or otherwise – nearby.
Without hesitation, I spoke through the shower curtain: “Girls, you might want to consider wrapping it up,” I said. “You’re using a lot of water. Remember, it’s important to conserve.”
One girl asked another, “What did she say?”
“That we should conserve water.” They laughed and continued showering. Ten more minutes passed.
I’d showered, dried my hair, dressed, and was ready leave. The girls were still in the shower.
I approached them again. “Girls, seriously, you’re taking a really long shower.”
Two of them emerged, wrapped in towels. The water kept pouring out at a rate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, of about two gallons a minute.
“Hey guys,” I asked, “do you learn this stuff in school, about conserving water?”
“Yeah, we learn about it in science,” the oldest girl answered.
“It might be a good idea to teach your younger sister what you’ve learned,” I said. “Remember, it’s not just about the water that you’re using. It takes a lot of energy to purify the water so it can be used again.”
An oversimplification, but I figured it was the best approach, given the circumstances.
The older girl yelled for her sister to turn off the shower. “Eve, get out! I told you to turn it off!”
Another few minutes passed and Eve finally turned off the water. The shower had lasted twenty-five minutes. Approximately fifty gallons of water had gone down the drain.
The middle child asked me, “Do you work for a water company or are you with one of those water conservation organizations?”
No, I answered. I was just a human being, like them, who thought it was important that we take care of the earth.
The girls were obviously open to talking with me. I was about to explore why they didn’t apply what they are learning in science class to their day-to-day life. Their mother appeared from behind a row of lockers.
Mom was on her cell phone (a violation of club rules). She’d overheard my entire conversation. She continued her phone conversation, ignoring me ¬– and her daughters.
Suddenly, everything made sense.