J.R. Martinez, who stars as Brot Monroe on daytime TV's All My Children, thought he had "it all down" when it came to being green.
The U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq War -- whose face, head, neck, arms, and hands were severely burned when the Humvee he was driving suddenly became inflamed as he drove over a landmine six years ago - regularly practiced recycling and picked up trash off sidewalks habitually.
That is, until he met the founder of Azul Conservation Products, Florencia Ramirez, at an Earth Day event in Santa Monica, Calif., this spring. Then, as Ramirez talked about water conservation, Martinez realized he not only had a lot to learn about water conservation, but that he was regularly consuming an abundance of water.
"I would stand in the shower for a good 10 to 15 minutes, just enjoying myself, because it felt so good," says Martinez, who lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend. "Then I met Florencia at the Earth Day event, my first Earth Day event, and I really started to think about my shower."
On the average, Americans consume 150 gallons of water per day for showers, food preparation and clothes washing, according to Ramirez, a walking water statistics expert. Ramirez founded Azul when she became alarmed at data related to California's ongoing fresh water crisis and the impending world fresh water crisis.
Of the water in the world, only 2.3 percent is available for drinking, irrigation, and food production through rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers. Much of that fresh water is quickly drying up due to climate change and overuse, says Ramirez. Azul distributes water-saving products such as shower timers and water-saving buckets among other at-home water conservation items.
By shaving just four minutes off the average shower, which is 8 minutes says Ramirez, one person can save more than 2,500 gallons of water annually. Cutting down shower time also reduces the cost of water bills, says Ramirez.
When Martinez himself heard those statistics, the actor was spurred to take action. Martinez purchased an Azul shower timer -- in a cute cloud shape, which retails for about $15 -- that night from Ramirez.
"I was shocked because I thought I knew it all about being green...And then I thought, well, I can get it down below 8 minutes," says Martinez of his shower.
Instead, the next day, he reduced his shower to five minutes.
"I really started thinking about how much water we have, and how fortunate we are," says Martinez, whose war-zone showers in the Iraqi desert were kept to one or two minutes once every two or three days. "But that doesn't mean we have the right to waste it."
So, Martinez and his girlfriend began taking their water conservation efforts to friends and family members and began challenging them to reduce their shower times.
"At first, they were like, "No way," but now they're into it...it's like a game...how short is your shower," says Martinez.
He has even reduced his water usage around the house so much that his monthly water bill has been reduced by $15 to $20.
Martinez now soaks his dishes on one side of the sink before washing and rinsing them, and shuts off the water while he brushes his teeth.
"I used to just leave the water running and think nothing of it," he says.
He and his girlfriend also now only run the dishwasher when it's full and the washing machine when there is a full load of laundry. Otherwise, small clothing items are washed by hand and hung up to dry.
Martinez, a native Georgian whose family is originally from El Salvador, says he has also been affected by visiting that developing country annually. "When I go there, my family lives in a very rural area where (city) water lines aren't available,' says Martinez.
Just this spring during a family visit, he found himself bathing in a nearby creek with a bucket. "Water is so available to us in this country that I think we have a tendency to take it for granted, " says Martinez.
"Talking with Florencia really shed a light on it (water shortage)," says Martinez. "And I want to do everything I can to keep America beautiful."
Martinez is now challenging America to do the same.
"If I can decide to take a five minute shower one day and do it the next," says Martinez, "So can everyone else."
"We have to do our part to keep this country beautiful," says Martinez. "At the end of the day, it falls back on us. We have to take care of our own homeland."