Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Strange Ways

As I alluded to in yesterday's post, our society seems to have divided up into 2 different camps on the environmental front.  If you listen to our media anyway, who uses nothing but extreme examples and knee-jerk reaction headlines to pit us against one another.  On one side, you're some hippy wannabe named StarFlower running around your yurt in dreds and a tinfoil cap, scrounging mushrooms out of the woods and riding your bike on your only occasional forays into civilization.  On the other side, you're some bloated Bubba running around your 5,000 square foot McMansion buying everything cheap, plastic bauble you can find, scarfing feedlot meat at every turn and throwing it all out the window next week as you drive down the road in your gas-guzzling tank.  Reality for the vast majority is somewhere in the middle, maybe leaning slightly to one side or the other.
I used 2 extreme examples yesterday, that do exist, but they are few and, in their sanctimonious clouds, they are not going to change.  I like to believe that the majority of people want a clean environment, not only for themselves but for their children, and are willing to do some work towards that end or change some of their ways when presented with real facts.  Especially if it saves them some bucks!  Money talks you know.  It's a fact also that a lot of environmental damage comes from industry and those businesses have to adhere to certain regulations to contain the damage they can cause.  But I submit that society itself, especially with it's rampant use of disposable products and the like, are responsible for a great deal of environmental loss.  It only takes a good look at Chernobyl, DDT, the Gulf Oil Spill and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, amongst many other examples, to back up both of these claims.  Earth has it's own cycles that we have absolutely no understanding of, despite our arrogance that we do, but Mankind does a horrible amount of damage on it's own.
If you look at the incredible amount of energy and products that are produced and used by the millions of people in this country alone, we have to know that what we do in our own lives can drastically affect our environment when all put together...good or bad.  So, here's my list of a few things that we can all do (there's many more!) to some extent to help our earth breathe a little easier.  And maybe our pocketbooks too!

1.  Buy local food, or better yet, grow as much as you can yourself.  I realize not everyone can do the garden thing but a great many can buy from local farmers.  If all Americans would eat just one local meal a week it would save 1.1 million barrels of oil for that week.
2.  Choose Energy Star appliances when it's time to replace or get new ones.  I bought all Energy Star appliances when I started furnishing this house, and they are pretty good, but they have even better ones now.
3.  Carpool or bike if possible and if not that, at least combine all your trips to town.  When I go to Birmingham to deliver pottery it's usually an all-day thing.  In addition to the pottery, I drop off recycling, make a run by my favorite grocery store (or 2) and sometimes the hardware store or whatever if I need materials for the house.  If Jack goes with me, we often also use it as an excuse to have a nice dinner out "on the town".
4.  Add solar elements to your house if at all possible and this can be as simple as solar powered battery or phone chargers, solar security lights, etc.  Yes, big solar is expensive but the prices are getting better and some stuff you can do yourself.  One big goal for me this year is to get the solar hot water going here.
5.  Stop using disposable containers, bags, or practically anything disposable.  Some people seem to think this is akin to asking them to pull gold nuggets out of their butt but it's not that hard.  (The disposable stuff, not the nuggets).  Buy some good glass storage or tupperware and use it!  Keep cloth grocery bags in your car!  Get a stainless steel water bottle!  It's easy!
6.  Recycle!!  Everything!  Many grocery stores even offer recycling for those pesky things like styrofoam and #5 plastics.  If we happen to get any I just rinse them and put them away in a little dedicated bin until the next time I'm going to that store.  Don't believe recycling helps that much?  Go here.
7.  Use natural cleaners that you make yourself.  Now, this saves a ton of money and you can find recipes everywhere.  Just Google 'natural cleaner recipes'.  And yes, they do work. 
8.  Compost!  Many items in our regular trash can be turned into great dirt!
9.  Wash laundry in cold or warm water instead of hot.  Clothes and color will last longer too.
10.  Open your curtains and blinds and use natural light whenever possible!  That's one thing I love about my house; we really don't have to turn on any lights until dark.
11.  Turn your computer and other electronics completely off at night.  I also recently found out that laptops use 80% less energy than desktops.  I had no idea!  I've got to look into switching!
12.  Pay bills online.  Not only does this save paper and stamps but it helps me greatly in avoiding late fees.
13.  Stop unwanted junk mail and catalogs.
14.  Hang laundry out to dry instead of using a dryer.  I know not everyone can do this but if you can it's a huge energy saver.  And yes, I know some people don't like the stiff clothes.  A little secret of mine; I do fluff them in the dryer, especially towels, for about 5 minutes to soften them (yeah, go ahead and throw the tomatoes!) and adding a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle also really helps.  Just put it in where you would normally add the fabric softener and no, it doesn't make your clothes smell like pickles.
15.  Unplug appliances, chargers etc. that are not being used.  Turn off lights when you leave a room.

So, there is a partial list that I'm sure most of you already know about but maybe we all need reminding sometimes.  There are lots of other things you can do too but these are some of the easiest or most noticeable.  Any of you have any other great energy/ resource saving tips?

Oh, the photo of the bread has nothing really to do with the post but I finally made an edible homemade yeast bread the other day and was super excited about it!  I used to could easily do such years ago but had apparently fallen severely out of practice! 


Sissy said...

As the saying goes "the proof is in the pudding" and your bread tells me you haven't lost your touch. Scrumptious looking.

If you switch to a laptop, will you dump your older computer? Isn't that just adding to the mountains of computer trash? Stunned was my reaction when watching videos about discarded computers. How can there be so many trashed! I reckon they are built to fail/crash in a short period, so people will go buy a new replacement.

I don't have answers to the critical garbage situation but do consider every decision I make about disposables. Crushing cans (yeah, I have to eat the schtip (canned food) and compacting, breaking down throwaway stuff saves me a lot of garbage bags and keeps many out of the landfill. Hmm, I have a sister-n- law who never squashes anything for the garbage; she can fill up to 3 bags a DAY! My suggestions/advice never has fazed her. Still throwing unbroken-down boxes in with abandon. Son-n-law very guilty too; and highly resentful of my advice. Darn it; so many non-thinkers out here. I'm sure makers, such as the Glad company, are thrilled by users such as my sil and sil.

I'm so disgusted with those who don't think and have not a care in the world about polluting. Really pissed finding shattered bottle glass in the driveway today - ah, some drivers don't want to clutter their vehicles, so I receive it quite often. Wish I lived in a dead-end hollow - with NO traffic passing by. Too much work and anger cleaning up the trash of passing motorists

Thanks for the tip about vinegar; will now use it. I never use commercial softeners. I make and use laundry soap, yet it doesn't get my clothes clean. I do tend to get them really filthy though. Also, I wonder why my soap always curdles?

pamit said...

I love this post, as I am always thinking of ways to use less energy and recycle more. And here in the drought-prone west - to use less water! I save "gray water" and dump it on flower beds; flush toilets sparingly; and have a low-water-use washer. (I also take only about 2 showers a week, but that's kind of a personal preference more than anything.) Things I'd like to do: get a solar hot water heater, enlarge my garden, get a hybrid car, downsize my house. Best thing I may have done for the environment: not have kids :-)

edifice rex said...

Hey Sissy! When I switch to just my laptop, and if I decide to get rid of the desktop, I will simply recycle it. There are many sources for electronic recycling in most cities, especially Birmingham.
We have to clean up our road by the driveway quite often too. Some people are trash, just like what they throw out. It is disgusting.

Hey Pam! Glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, catching rain water, etc. is also a great thing. And I never really thought about it but yeah, not having kids probably does help a LOT.

Hayley said...

I agree with all of what you are saying, ALTHOUGH :), if you don't use your post office, then a lot of people will be out of work (including my mother)! I think as citizens we have to think about all aspects of the world we live in and as you know, not only is it important to conserve, but it's also important that we have the money to pay those bills online! That's coming from someone who actually does pay their bills online. But I also encourage my daughter to write letters often, not only to hang onto this nearly lost form of communication but also to keep those good postal workers working! After all you can send a letter all the way to Alaska for 49 cents and no matter how far we've seen the postage go up through the the years, that's a heck of a long way for a incredibly low price. :)

edifice rex said...

Hey Hayley! Oh yeah, I'm not in any way campaigning for not using the post office. I was mainly suggesting that tip for the saving of paper and helping avoid late fees. Sort like, save the paper for more important mail or mail that you just can't email, you know? I actually use the post office a fair amount through shipping pottery and I like real, old-fashioned letters and postcards too! Junk mail and bills are just one thing that I think we can do without and I don't think their absence would really affect postal jobs that much. In fact, I've been wanting to do a post on one way I use the post office now that I really enjoy. And yeah, despite how people complain, I've always thought the price of a stamp is very reasonable for what you're getting.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Some good tips in this post, Annie, many of which I also knew about and which we also practice. In some respects you may be preaching to the choir, but there's always something new to learn and I did not know about adding vinegar to the rinse although I use it for so many other household projects. Baking soda is another favorite here for other than cooking. I agree with bill paying online, but still get the paper statements for some but don't set up automatic withdrawals. We limit disposable trash to a single bag a week and make frequent trips to the recycling center here.