Convenient isn’t always best

Recently, a friend who was visiting my apartment, asked me about a low rumbling noise she heard off in the distance. It sounded like a stove top burner had been lit and was turned up full blast. A few minutes after it started, you could hear the sound of water rolling to a boil. What seemed odd to her about this was that the sound wasn’t coming from my kitchen. In fact, the sound she referred to came from a closet in the nook area of my apartment, which is a small off shoot of my living room.

In anticipation of company, I jumped in the shower and had just gotten ready when she arrived. The sound she heard was my water heater doing what it does best, heat water, in anticipation of it’s next use.

Before the creation of the water heater, people would heat water on a stovetop or over an open flame. When it came to bathing, most people wrote hot water off as a luxury and skipped it altogether.

Two years ago I visited the house that another friend of mine grew up in in rural El Salvador. For most of her young life, she bathed in an outdoor, unheated “shower” next to the well. As you can imagine, the water was unheated. During my visit, I was fortunate enough to bathe at an indoor shower, still unheated.

Now that we are into this multi-year drought, I am hearing from more and more people who are collecting water at the beginning of their showers while they wait for the water to heat up. There is clearly a disconnect here. A disconnect not with what these people are doing to conserve water, but with how the water is heated and transported to its destination.

What is the purpose of heating water after I shower if I have to flush cold water out of the pipes before my next shower? The same thing applies to washing the dishes. I drink tap water whenever possible, but the water in my apartment is so hard (with calcium) that I typically filter it first. I try to coordinate refilling my PUR filter with washing the dishes, but it doesn’t always work out as planned. In case you are having trouble following me, I open the hot water valve to fill my water filter knowing that at least a gallon of cold water will come out before hot water for dishes is available.

Convenience isn’t always convenient.

Police officers and virtually all other first-responders and emergency personnel are on standby around the clock. I’m sure we have all, at one point or another, seen firefighters shopping at the supermarket with their 100 foot long truck in the parking lot idling at the ready, just in case they are needed.

We tolerate this inefficiency because, when a first-responder is needed, a delay of even a few moments can be the difference between life and death.

As you reflect on all the things you do in your life in the sake of convenience, take a step back and try to see the big picture. That single use coffee cup [straw, napkin, baggie, etc] was more convenient than the reusable version, but at what expense? This earth in which we share in on loan from our children. Do you want to leave it better or worse than you found it?

Read more stories on how you can reduce waste in your life at