Conservation-minded undergrads in California might want to consider taking note of two students at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, who have launched a somewhat polarizing online campaign that implores their fellow students, all 15,000 of them, to answer the call of nature while enjoying a morning shower instead of using the toilet.

The duo estimate that if UEA’s student body were to collectively tinkle in the shower in lieu of the loo during the course of the academic year, they'd fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times over (with water).

“We've done the maths, and this project stands to have a phenomenal impact,” Brian Dobson, who launched the Go with the Flow campaign alongside Debs Torr, explains in a press release issued by UEA. “Imagine how big an impact it could have if we could get everyone in East Anglia, or even the UK, to change their morning habits.”

Dobson adds that the campaign has garnered a “really divisive” reaction amongst his fellow students at UEA, an esteemed public research university — motto: “Do Different” — best known for its oppressive Brutalist architecture and delightful rabbit population. “… that’s exactly what we want,” says Dobson of the either brilliant! or eww, gross! feedback from his peers. “We're trying to challenge conventional behaviour, to start a debate on a resource that we largely take for granted.”

Dobson and Torr, both representing UEA in Npower’s Future Leader’s Challenge, were inspired to launch the wee-while-you-wash awareness campaign after learning about a 2009 initiative in Brazil that called for residents to pee in the shower to help save the Amazon rainforests.

Having crunched some numbers and looked into the possible health issues that come along with urinating in communal showers — it’s fine “as long as the water is flowing,” Dobson tells the BBC — the duo estimates that UEA could save in the ballpark of £125,000 per year if the entire student population participated. The figure is based on one flush avoided per day with each flush costing 2p.

As an incentive, Dobson and Torr offered gift certificates to the first of their classmates to pledge their support online. 

Go with the Flow is an attention-grabbing conversation-starter for sure (when bodily functions are mentioned in the context of environmentalism, we tend to listen up) but I do have to wonder about the shower situation in the UEA dorms and whether or not they’re private or open (or a mix of both). If the latter, I can see the campaign getting mighty awkward mighty quick. “... we would encourage that every person using the same shower consents to the challenge and if not that they don't take part,” Dobson explains to the BBC.

Transgressive or not, this bathroom-bound form of multi-tasking is sure to free-up a crucial minute or two on those super-busy days. 

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

College students launch campaign encouraging classmates to tinkle in the shower, not the toilet
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