In 2005, the average American consumed about 200,000 Btus of residential energy every day (PDF). When you factor in all of our various energy costs, including transportation and the production of goods, per capita consumption rises to a little more than 900,000 Btus.
So what are you supposed to do with all those numbers? In the end, the Lantern suggests a commonsense approach to your morning ritual. Take the hot shower if you need it, but keep your time to a minimum. Avoid shaving or brushing your teeth in the shower, unless you're willing to shut the water off while you're doing it. (Look into installing a lathering valve, a showerhead attachment that allows you to shut off the flow while keeping water temperature constant—though note that they're not recommended for all households.) If you don't have one already, check to see if your municipality offers rebates for installing low-flow showerheads or those that automatically slow water flow to a trickle once the water has reached a comfortably hot temperature. The Department of Energy also has tips on how to make sure your water heater is operating as efficiently as possible.
Finally, fix your drips: The 1999 water-usage study found that leaks wasted 9.5 gallons a day, per person—almost as much as showers.
Is there an environmental quandary that's been keeping you up at night? Send it to email@example.com, and check this space every Tuesday.