Thursday
Jun282007

« Walk The Talk? »

Lest anyone think of me as a dreamer/idealist and possibly a hypocrite when I speak for the need to be more sensible in our daily habits, here is my report on certain efforts to pinch my pennies (not pinch my penis—that's a whole other activity) and possibly steal a little less from the future than others who don't yet see the point and therefore don't really do anything to conserve.

I got my truck when it was about 79,000 miles old, but let's call it 80,000 for this demo. It turned 200,000 on the last day of 2006, and I parked it that day when it read 200,006. How clever, eh? Anyhow, that date was only a few months after my anniversary date of purchase. For the ten years I had it, it was driven about 12,000 miles a year. As for this year's driving—half a years' worth at this point—I have driven about 3,300 miles only. If that trend continues out to about 6,600 this year, that will be about half my average for the previous ten years! Of course, I didn't just cut my driving down by almost half in just the turn from 2006 to 2007; I had been paring it down rather well for the past few years, with 2002 being the first year when I became sensitive to conservation enough to start to practice it. In the recent past, I found my mileage is about 23 miles a gallon, with a slight variance. Recently, I got 326 miles on what seems to be a 14 gallon tank. People talk about getting a new car that uses less fuel because they can't bear the thought of using their existing car in a smarter, more intentional way. I don't consider it a good idea to sign up for debt for the next several years. I never liked that idea and hate it more given our rocky economic picture ahead. To me, it makes better sense to just drive less, drive smarter.

As for water habits, I don't ever use a dishwasher at all. Never have except maybe as a guest at someone's house. So call me old fashioned. I fill a sink (if I fill it at all) with some water, then do a bunch of dishes, and turn the rinse water on as little as possible, often turning it off between dishes if I can't smoothly move them through fast enough. More and more, I try to capture cleanish rinse water (or water for boiled eggs) and use it to throw to the garden. In the shower, I have low flow hardware and take the three minute shower if possible, though shave days are a bit longer since I have yet to really change that habit. But I do it only twice a week if possible. I am quick at the sink with hand washing, and turn off the tap when I brush my teeth. Some may think it is gross, but the toilet habit (possibly the worst offender, both in redundancy and volume) is to flush less when it is not obviously necessary. So it can be a bit unflattering to the uninitiated. So what. This is more important than image. The site at Humanure.com tells us there are only two types of people in the world: those who shit and piss in drinking water and those who don't. So, at the risk of being a little uncivilized, but possibly in a good way, I try to cut the flushes a bit. An open window is always a great help too.

Now that I have a garden, almost all the scraps of food that can be composted, are. And interestingly enough, I eat more food now that can be composted. I've not actually turned vegetarian or anything, but there is far more plant matter around the house now, some in the garden and some on my table. The veggie scraps are compost delight. So are the recycled paperboard egg cartons, bread, coffee grounds, and egg shells. So it all goes in. I got some nice looking rich compost now. It is a far more useful way to use garbage than to just send it to Miramar. The garden does take watering, but whenever I can, I try to claim back water from partially used drinking glasses, sink rinse water. (And one day, when I actually do so, the shower water while waiting for it to heat up, but mercifully for me, the water heater is just outside the bathroom and so therefore it comes on hot in less than a gallon or so.) The garden usually gets watered in the morning, hopefully not timed so that it all evaporates before it actually does any good. I open up the soil a bit periodically so it has some inroads.

I personally only do full laundry loads, and still use the dryer a bit more than I should (usually because I do laundry at the wrong times of day), but Kelli has taken to using lines outside for more and more of our laundry. There is something nice about that task of putting it out and taking it down. It is sort of meditative time. I don't have a problem doing it, but for the clumsiness of sometimes dropping things to the dirt and therefore needing to rewash things. Whatever I do of the laundry, I usually do heavy loads so things aren't running forever. Still a work in progress though.

I have all my lights running the compact fluorescents now, but for one little 4x20 watt halogen swivel bar, which equates to less than one 100 watt bulb, so I let it slide. It's my mood light/spot light for wall art. I try to be attentive to things being on, but admittedly there is some slop. My whole house now is a lot smaller so it takes less to light it. So far, we've only turned the heater on a time or two to see what it would do, but we find that closing the doors and windows is good enough to keep it comfortable. Two of the three computers sleep; one refuses to sleep without crashing in the process, so it stays awake, but has an LCD screen which is a bit more sensible than a CRT, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately for us our oven is a classic electric oven and energy pig, but we don't use it but for things that simply don't fit in the far more commonly used toaster oven. Our microwave went on the fritz a few months ago, and after cursing our luck, we decided to put it in the garage and see what happened. Life did not end. Suzanne has one in her space, but we hardly ever use it, and when we do it is to defrost some meat or something. I still think we need to plan to use fewer appliances, but the ones we do use are pretty direct in their heating—a tiny George Foreman grill; a veggie steamer; coffee maker; toaster oven; rarely used blender; almost never used Crock pot. I find that I prefer a side-by-side fridge because more stuff can be put at eye level, but that is not the type I have now, so I admit to some bad fridge habits of having to search by opening the thing too often. Since I have mostly abandoned my musicianly alter ego, the studio is not put together now and therefore, there must be several pieces that sat idle for long periods of time that now are in crates and boxes.

So, there it is. A work in progress and still more to do, but I think I am off to a decent start. I think that if further conservation is called for, it will be less shocking to have accepted it and practiced it to some degree than to just start from a lifestyle that made no prior concessions to sensible use.

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