Cut Your Hair, Conserve Water, Save the Planet
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for something you fervently believe in? Would you believe me if I told you that I cut my hair to conserve water? Well… don’t. That’s not why I did it. I’m a new mom with a child that requires just the right amount of attention that doesn’t allow me to give much attention to my hair. I don’t have time, nor do I like, to comb my hair. So… I had to cut it ✂
The true goal of cutting my hair was to conserve time. In thinking more deeply about this life-changing moment in my hair’s style, it reminded me that time isn’t the only thing that I waste when I deal with my hair. I waste water, and a lot of it! It’s time to dive deeply into the correlation of hair as I know it and water waste. I want all of us to get serious about saving water while still having a cute ‘do.
The History of Cutting My Hair
I was born practically bald. My dad likes to say that I didn’t have hair until I was 4 years old. The first time I cut my hair, I was too young to remember. I’m sure I used safety scissors and was as happy as could be that I cut something. My dad saved the ponytail that I cut off in a photo album – that’s how momentous this action of cutting my hair was to my family.
The first time that I purposefully cut my hair as an adult, I was scolded by family members. I was then read the Old Testament bible verse about hair being our crowning glory. Someone in my family also told me how disappointed my great-grandmother would be in me. Y’all… I rolled my eyes so hard. As much as I loved the Lord and my Great-Granny, my neck was hot. I say all of this to tell y’all just how importantly hair has been viewed in the African-American community. Before then, I was so used to being policed for everything that I did. But I was finally in college and felt like I could be a real adult. I could cut my hair!
The Sacredness of Hair in the African-American Community
In the black/African-American community, we are often taught that “good hair” is something to be treasured. I’ve heard countless stories about my white and Native American ancestors who contributed to this good hair that I should be proud to own. Let me tell you, I’m over it! It has basically taught us to value one type of hair over another. It also shows how European hair has been valued over natural African-American hair. I won’t go into the history of slavery and how white slaveowners and their wives would make their slaves cover their hair out of jealousy and wanting them to seem less attractive… There is SO MUCH packed into understanding black women and their hair.
I stopped straightening my hair long before the natural movement took root, circa 2003-2004. I had gotten perms/relaxers for about 5 years up until then and stopped before I started high school. My reason for stopping was because “I want to scratch my own head and not cry.” The process to successfully perm your hair was brutal. You couldn’t scratch your scalp for a week without the risk of getting chemical burns once the perm touched your scalp! I was so over that.
I was mercilessly teased for donning my organic curls, though. However, now I’m proud to say that the natural hair movement is here to stay. No matter what type of ancestors we have, black women are wearing their hair however they want to, and doing so loud and proud. It is no easy feat, though! Maintaining natural hair requires a lot of time and work. We simply call it “wash days” and “head rags.”
Black Hair Washing & Styling
In my family, black women typically don’t wash their hair more than once a week or once every to weeks. Washing our hair too often results in extremely dry, brittle, flaky, and damaged hair and scalp. When we do wash our hair, it is considered “wash day.” We don’t often just “wash and go.” We pre-treat (condition), wash, deep condition, detangle, style, and then sit under a dryer or wear twists and rollers all day/weekend. It is only after this very methodical and intentional pre-styling phase that we can take down whatever method we used for styling and enjoy our hair.
After the day is done, we have to put it back up into a protective style under bonnets and head rags in order to maintain the results of all the hard work that we put into it. Black hair is magical, but black hair is work, y’all! This is one of the reasons why we say, “Don’t touch!”
The Afterthought to Conserve Water
It dawned on me that in this major life decision to cut my hair, I didn’t really give much thought to the sustainable implications involved. I mean, I use natural products on my hair, and many of them are ethically sourced and support people around the world (shea butter, essential oils, etc). But I waste countless gallons of water each time I shower on wash day.
A few years ago I tracked the amount of time I took in the shower. It was a ridiculous 16 minutes. I timed myself a few times after that, vowing to use less water. How quickly that was forgotten, though. On stressful days where I actually get to bathe now (yea, stay at home moms can have an iffy bathing schedule), I take as long of a shower as I want. Water conservation and sustainability be damned. It is my escape. Sustainability is an afterthought.
This lead to another revelation. For many, sustainable living isn’t a thought, at all! Sustainable living is often times assumed to be a luxury afforded to people with expendable income. That’s just not true. Sustainable living can start right in your shower on wash day.
My Ultimate Mission – Sustainable Living For All
What started out as a simple hair cut has led me right back to my mission in life: to let the world know that sustainability doesn’t have to be an afterthought; that it isn’t relegated to the rich; that an eco-friendly lifestyle is, indeed, attainable for every race, gender, and socioeconomic class. Whether it is conserving water or purchasing local produce,
As an imperfect human being, I definitely will still take 16 minute showers (and apparently leave too many lights on, according to my husband). It is what it is. But as a person that is constantly striving to form healthy, eco-friendly habits, I will check myself. A 16 minute shower is not necessary everyday.
I will call myself out and challenge myself to conserve water when I take a shower – especially on wash days. I will remember to turn the lights off when I am not in a room. If I forget my reusable water bottle at home and have to purchase a plastic water bottle, I remind myself of how important my reusable bottle is to the ecosystems that are affected by plastic litter and pollution. Once we know to do better, we can hold ourselves accountable and make better choices for the planet. I hope that this post inspires you to do just that.
- Americans use 2,000 gallons of water every day, on average. This includes the water that it take to make our clothes, food, and more.
- 29% of the world’s fresh water is underground, and only 1% of fresh water is easily accessible for human use.
- The US spends $61 billion on bottled water each year.
- A rural African woman may need to walk up to 10 miles each day to access water, but an urban American only needs to walk a few feet.
Facts via Save the Water.
What YOU Can Do To Conserve Water:
- Take shorter showers.
- For cold people who run the shower to generate steam and heat: turn on the bathroom heater on so that when you detangle your hair, you don’t waste water by running it unnecessarily.
- Flush the toilet less often. Sounds gross, I know. Flush when you poop. Flush every other time you urinate.
- Cut 4 minutes off of your shower routine. Taking 4 less minutes in the shower can save 30 gallons of water.
- Use less disposable plastic bottled water. Buy a reusable water bottle and an in-home water filter, instead. See how I do that here: Bottled Water.
I Love My New Hair Cut – And I Conserve Water!
This shorter hairstyle still requires work (ugh… I wish I had magical hair elves to wash, comb, and style my hair. They’d also have to remind me to wear my head rag at night lol), but it is so much easier to tackle. I know I’ll probably grow my hair back out very soon, but for now, low maintenance is best. Plus, I conserve water in the process! It takes less time on wash days, and that’s what I needed. Less time washing = water conserved. My goal for now and in the future is to always monitor and reduce my water usage on wash days, no matter how long my hair is.
What other ways have you noticed that you are wasteful? How can I help you to change those wasteful habits? How have you become more mindful of how your actions impact the ecosystem? Let me and everyone else know in the comments below.
Everything can be done sustainably.
xoxo dolls & dudes,