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OT - RP going green

twobigdogs
16 years ago

On the October "What are you reading" thread, the topic of conservation, going green, and doing our part to help the planet came up. It all came about from a little discussion started on the book Better Off, Two People, One Year, Zero Watts by Eric Brende.

I mentioned it would be interesting to start a thread and ask RP-ers their thoughts on this book, and on the topic of going green, or green-er. Is it all hype? Somewhat hype? Do you feel any pressure from other people or even other countries to curb your use of fossil fuels, to conserve, recycle?

As I wrote in the other thread, I do grow some of our own veggies. I confess I do not grow as many as I would like to grow. And I can the excess so we can eat homegrown organic vegetables throughout the winter. I also make most of our bread and pasta. Some might see it as work, but I enjoy being able to provide homemade stuff to my family, and I enjoy making it in the first place. However, I couldn't and probably wouldn't make bread nor pasta without first plugging in my trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer. I try to recycle everything possible, from putting it out on the curb in the recycle bin, or re-using it in the house. But again, I do not go crazy. And I buy organic whenever possible.

And I won't give up my full-size station wagon, either. I will drive it at the speed limit and use cruise control whenever it is safe to do so. But I need high octane and never ever feel a stab of guilt that I should be driving a teeny tiny sardine can hybrid. If I'm on the highway with trucks, I want to be safe. I do admire those who are able to feel secure in those small cars, I am just not one of them.

What do you think?

PAM

Comments (49)

  • woodnymph2_gw
    16 years ago

    I'm in favor of going green and thoroughly admire those who are self-sufficient and manage to live off the land. I live in the city and am limited in terms of certain lifestyles. But I would love to have been taught canning as a girl and I would love to have a vegetable garden, a cow, sheep, and even possibly chickens. I am really into eating healthy, fresh foods prepared from scratch. I, too, buy organic, whenever I can. I have a large file of my own recipes which involve fresh veggies, yoghurt,rice, using very little meats.

    As for large vs. small cars, I know what you mean. Safety does still seem to be an issue with me.

  • rosefolly
    16 years ago

    This really is a difficult issue for me. I really want to live a thoughtful life, but still a convenient and comfortable one. No martyr here. We are lucky to live in a community that does curbside recycling. I'm always astonished to realize that there are metropolitan areas that are not doing this yet. Our big 'green' thing was installing PV panels on the roof last winter. We now generate almost all of our own electricity, while still being on the grid. One thing I would like to do is to capture roof water when it rains for irrigating the garden. Since our rain comes only in the winter, it would require a big storage tank. It would not be cost effective, but I wish we had thought of it during our remodel years ago when it could have been done at much less expense.

    We garden, but only produce a very small fraction of our food, herbs, tomatoes, some fruit trees. This may expand as time goes on. I recently took a canning class, because I couldn't remember much from when my mother did this years ago. The class was really lots of fun. We do buy organic food most of the time, but not exclusively.

    I drive more than I ought to. I'll probably continue to do this. If good electric cars ever become available, I would consider getting one, especially since I could charge it with clean electricity we produce ourselves.

    I do think there is a lot of hot air in the green movement and a lot of posturing. The one that annoys me the most is the concept of carbon credits. Reminds me of the Civil War draft when you could buy your way out, or perhaps sin eaters at a funeral in the Middle Ages. I'm sorry, but I think we are all responsible for our own behavior. If we do truly believe certain behavior is wrong, then we have to stop doing it. It is not okay not pay someone else to be extra good to offset our own badness, which we then go on doing.

    Rosefolly

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  • twobigdogs
    Original Author
    16 years ago

    Rosefolly,
    Yes, the rain water collection is something I want to do, too. Call me vain, but I cannot find rain barrels that are attractive enough to have plopped next to my house. Big bright green barrels are just not working for me, and I keep looking for a cost-effective wooden-look-alike, if I cannot actually get a real wooden one.

    I never heard of carbon credits. My head must be in the sand - again. The posturing that bugs me the most is the Hollywood "stars" showing up for a premier or awards show in a hybrid vehicle while the mondo-SUV stays home - just for one night. The rock group The Police recently had a concert near me. Rumor has it that they arrived in a stretch Hummer. I thought Sting was an environmentalist. The hypocritical "Do as I say, not as I do" attitude bugs me, too. At least in the book Better Off, Brende had the courage to attempt to live by his convictions. As was mentioned, we will not go back to living in caves, and we shouldn't have to. But we all have the ability to be more aware.

    Another fascinating theory that I've heard is that we cannot stop global warming because while we, through pollution, are making it worse, it is not wholly our fault. The temperature on Mars is rising at the same rate and scientists say that the Earth and Mars are ever so slightly closer to the sun, hence, global warming. And, Mars global warming as well. I do not have any evidence or links to provide for this hearsay, but hear it (or rather read it) I did.

    PAM

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    There is also the issue that as the ice caps melt, they release methane into the atmosphere. Not a good thing.

    So whats a person to do? The best she can. I agree with you rose, I do like my creature comforts. Except they aren't comforts as much as necessities where I live. I use a ton of electricty every summer ($300 bills are not uncommon), we have air conditioning in the car because I like to arrive at my destination not looking like a bag lady, and we drive two cars, not becuase we are addicted to our cars, but because there is no mass transit here to speak of. There are miles and miles of freeways, with miles and miles of development, and bus service that is cumbersome (I would take me an hour to get to work on a bus - assuming they were on time - for a 15 minute drive. And I'd still have to walk 1/2 mile). They are just now putting in light rail, but it won't be finished till 2009. If they had chosen mass transit over freeways 30 years ago, we'd be as convenient as NYC and I'd never have a car.

    So - as I said we do the best we can. Our community does recycle, and my school district has bins at the schools for us to put in paper and cardboard items. I make it a point to turn off lights when not needed, put our air on the highest comfortable temperature (usually 75), Planting drought tolerant plants including ones that provide shade to the hottest parts of the house, use shower water (the water you use when waiting for it to get hot) for garden water, and trying to make do with what we have longer, rather than toss things and buy new (I've always done that actually). And with the new Goodwills around, Ive found it so much easier to get rid of the crap we have, to simplify our life a little, and provide needs for other people at the same time.

    I do think tho that being proactive is important in our fight for a greener earth. See who the major polluters are and push for legislation that will make them have to pollute less.

  • Kath
    16 years ago

    I am another who couldn't live without electricity.

    In our house, we do quite a bit of recycling. There is curbside recycling for glass, plastic, paper and cans, and a separate bin for garden waste. We hardly ever use the latter because all our kitchen food waste goes into a compost bin and my DH has a mulcher with which he mulches all prunings and so on.

    We have rainwater tanks - the one we had installed when we built the house 20 years ago is currently mainly used for drinking water, but we have recently bought two more - one is attached to the original, and my DH wants to plumb the washing machine and dishwasher to it. The other is strictly for the garden. Here in Australia we are in the middle of a bad drought, and over winter have not been able to use mains water to water the garden at all. This has recently been eased a bit to allow watering with a hand held hose or drippers for 3 hours once a week. So the other new rainwater tank is to water the garden. My DH has laid 'leeaky hose' (sic!!) under the lawn, and the watering is then directly to the roots with hardly any evaporation.

    We have two cars but drive the smaller one most of the time. Its fuel consumption is about 7litres/100km, so it is pretty good that way. I used to catch the bus to work, but since DH was driving anyway, I now go with him. The public transport in our area is pretty poor - if I miss the 6:10pm bus home I have to wait til 6:55 for another.

    I don't buy organic produce, but we do grow some of our own fruit and veg. DH would like it to be a lot more, but he is the gardener (I loathe gardening) and he just doesn't have the time. Once he retires I look forward to a lot more of our own produce.

    Our house is relatively energy efficient, and we don't use the A/C much, even in summer. We use mostly fluorescent lights or the long life bulbs. DH will never throw away something that might prove useful, and is a great recycler in that way.

  • Chris_in_the_Valley
    16 years ago

    I recycle; I compost. I keep the heat set at 64 in the winter, and I try to keep the air conditioner set at 80 but that never lasts long. I do keep fans running to use the air conditioning less, but I still end up with the temp around 75. I use the long life bulbs. (My lamp post bulbs, which I tend to forget to turn off, used to last 6 months, the long life bulb has been in functioning for 6 years! They do last.) I haven't bought an individually wrapped cheese slice ever. I have my own grocery bags, and when I do use plastic bags I save and recycle them.

    However, I do buy fruit and veggies that have been shipped from the other side of the world and cannot bring myself to buy a Prius.

    I should also add that I think the whole global warming brouhaha is a load of horse manure. The science isn't there.

  • georgia_peach
    16 years ago

    We use programmable thermostats and I take the train into work for half of my commute. Does that count?

    I also like to buy native plants from the nursery.

    Drought and a high density of deer in our neighborhood make growing food a challenge, but we do grow our own fresh herbs and my husband grows and cans his own hot peppers every year.

    Sometimes I think if we didn't live in such a materialistic and consumerist culture, it would go a long way to helping. I didn't realize how much junk one could accumulate until I became a parent. I grew up in a family where we had what we needed but not much more, and there was the added incentive to make things last as long as you could. My husband teases me about creating a new form of matter out of what little is left in the tooth paste dispenser, but I grew up being taught not to throw anything away until the last drop was used.

    Chris, my husband who is also an engineer, feels the same about global warming.

  • bookmom41
    16 years ago

    Be still my heart. I was hesitant to even open this thread, fearing I'd read diatribes against anyone whose "green" choices aren't exactly the same as whatever today's bandwagon dictates.

    Instead, and I should have known better, I find thoughtful commentary, reason and sense. Thank you! Like most people, my family does what we can--we recycle, are careful with resources, turn off lights, limit trips, garden, drought-resistant plantings,, etc. Certainly most of us are leaving a smaller footprint behind than the celebs/politicians squawking about being green while jetting around with a retinue to their various homes.

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    > I find thoughtful commentary, reason and sense

    Its a breath of fresh air, isn't it, to find that in today's discourse. Which is why I enjoy being here so much.

  • robert-e
    16 years ago

    We were discussing this very topic this morning, and a few things came to mind. We winter in Southern California in a trailer, in a campground with no utilities. Our electricity is supplied by 365 nominal watts of solar panels. The first winter was a time of adjustments, but the last years found our batteries being overcharged regularly. Yet we were very comfortable and seemed to be doing most of the things that we would have done at home. In other words, we did not suffer any hardships. I look at it in terms of energy density; some activities, like driving a car, or using an air-conditioner requires a higher energy density, than others, like riding a bike. LIving in the colder northern climes, in general, also requires a higher energy density than living in warmer climes. It seems to me that we can make small choices during our daily lives, such as have been mentioned in posts above. Other choices are those we make years ago in different times, and they serve to limit our flexability now. For example, we may have to drive a car to get to work, or to shop because many years ago, we chose to live were we do, and that choice was made when gasoline was much cheaper and/or more plentiful. We did wonder if, in the future, people will chose differently and locate closer to their work? If so, how flexible will moving ones abode when one's work place is changed? Will mobile homes be more common, and will be be more than the mere shells that they are now? Will the concept of the "company house" become common again? Will more people work from home? I suspect the answers will be a mix of these options, but imagine we will not live long enough to see these changes, since such changes must happen slowly. I believe our energy "future" resides in nuclear power, but again, I will not see it implemented. The politics of energy tend to be very dirty, and common sense seems to take the back seat. Never-the-less, interesting times.

    Regards,
    Bob

  • carolyn_ky
    16 years ago

    I don't think we are "green" so much as frugal. Both DH and I are depression babies, and our younger years were spent raising our children in small starter houses. As a result of years of having to be very careful with money, we find we have firmly developed the habit of using things up and wearing them out, even though we are now in a more fortunate financial situation.

    I cook most of our meals at home, although all we raise is tomatoes. I do drive to meet friends for lunch several times a month, to get my hair done, to visit family, and we go on an occasional driving vacation; but we don't rack up a lot of mileage. We have two cars, one a 2002 PT Cruiser that our neighbors' kids think suit us old retired folks just perfectly, and the other a 2001 Honda Accord, both of which we fully intend to keep for years yet.

    We do need air conditioning and use natural gas for heating (this week both in the same week!), but we have good insulation and storm windows--again, both for comfort and savings--and keep the thermostat settings as low or high as is comfortable. Our area of the city does not have recycling yet, although some other portions do.

  • patty114
    16 years ago

    My DH and I started going green 2 years ago buy switching to organic household cleaners, laundry detergents and hanging out laundry on warm days (except underwear). We try to garden but in a very severe drought in North Carolina , so water restrictions are in force. We changed the lightbulbs, switched to hormone free milk and trying slowly when budget allows all dairy is hormone free. Gradually adding beef and chicken. I like the idea of rain barrels and yes they are a bit ugly maybe try to disguise buy planting shrubs. I drive a 97 Saturn that still is getting 30 miles to the gallon and has over 150,000 miles . Not bad. Since we changed the household cleaners we noticed a reduction in allergies, etc.

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    >hanging out laundry on warm days (except underwear)

    Why?

    I do miss the clothes line I had at my house in college, and wouldn't mind getting one here. Heaven knows most of the year the clothes would dry in the sun faster than in the dryer!

    We also have double paned windows on the western windows, and are thinking about getting them for the two patio doors as well.

    Oh, we have HOAs here (home owners assosciations) which forbid solar panels and xeriscaped lawns, and require the homeowners to put in winter grass each year so its green all year. These folks are obviously not goin green anytime soon.

  • rosefolly
    16 years ago

    I recently read an article in either the WSJ or NYT (not sure which) that some communities are forbidding the outdoor drying of clothes. They think it lowers the tone of the community. Alas, the world seems to be full of people who want to control those around them. If it really bothers them so much, I don't see why they don't just say to hang the laundry in the back yard.

    As for forbidding solar panels, that cannot be done here. By California state law, they cannot be forbidden.

    Rosefolly

  • Kath
    16 years ago

    Hahaha! I never thought of mentioning that I usually hang the washing on the line (a Hills Hoist, invented in little old Adelaide). On really wet days I use the drier for underwear and socks, the rest goes on an indoor mobile clothes line.

  • twobigdogs
    Original Author
    16 years ago

    We have neighborhoods around us that actually forbid the planting of a tree, the painting of a front door, or any other work unless you have written agreement from all of the neighbors that can see your house. Huh??? Makes no sense to me. That's why I don't live in that neighborhood.

    Yes, laundry on the line is such an easy way to save money and be green at the same time. And really, it is such a lovely homey display of a house that is a home.

    We've too many trees around our house and were told solar panels would not be cost-effective while we had so many branches blocking the sun. Bummer. I'd love to have them. How much does it cost? How many panels does a household need?

    I think many of us have struck the right chord in the going green thinking. We have said that we are willing to make the effort, but not go back to the dark ages. We want our conveniences, but are willing to NOT be extravagant about them. Like many of you, we keep our cars. My current big ol' station wagon is ten years old and I plan on keeping it until either me or the car dies. Which brings up another thought... how much could we actually help the planet simply by curbing blatent consumerism? If everyone kept their cars ten years or more, if everyone chose function over form in clothing, (By the way, an apropos quote by Coco Chanel: "Fashion was made to become unfashionable."), if we stopped buying all of the little "stuff" that we really don't need or want five days after its purchase?

    Like Carolyn, we try to be frugal, and in being frugal, we ended up being more green. To me, it seemed a natural fit.

    PAM

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    > If it really bothers them so much, I don't see why they don't just say to hang the laundry in the back yard.

    They are in the backyard. But they might be seen, so no dice. They also don't allow playground equipment in the backyard that can be seen from the street (aka tree houses, lofts). This is why we own an older home that does not belong to one of these things. They are run by folk who have control issues, and no life.

  • lemonhead101
    16 years ago

    I am, like many of you, doing my best to go green in the little ways. I buy organic dairy products, use green cleaning products when I can, and drive an older (but very petrol-efficient) car. I do, however, like air conditioning so that is kept higher but this is offset by having it colder in the winter I think. (Rationalize, rationalize!)

    I try to xeriscape my garden when I can, and we have drought-resistant grass so that helps. I do what I can. I don't think I could hang the washing outside - it would fade in the sunlight and the squirrels would probably steal bits.

    :-)

  • veer
    16 years ago

    PAM, almost impossible not to open a newspaper or see a TV programme on 'green issues' without tripping over some pundit, quango, Govt 'Think Tank' on the subject in the UK.
    I grew up in the Post War period where everything was rationed and nothing was wasted; I still can't throw string and wrapping paper away.
    Recycling is BIG over here with kerbside collections of cans, glass and garden waste . . . and newspapers which, rumour has it, are shipped to China as the price for old paper is so low. There is talk of fines being levied for non-compliance with these schemes.
    A/C is almost unknown over here, even central heating is seen by older people as a luxury and in the depth of winter we tend to wrap in more layers and wear bedsocks at night.
    We (ie the DH) grows alot of our veggies, some fruit and we have our own hens for eggs. We try to buy local meat, cheese, flour for home-made bread . . . Prince Charles does a good line in organics and he lives only about 20 miles from us, just waiting for Camilla to start home deliveries.
    We never buy Spanish strawberries in January or beans from Kenya but have to get our oranges etc from the Cape or Florida. I was amazed to read in today's paper that in the UK almost a THIRD of all foodstuff bought is thrown away (too much 'impulse' buying)
    All the washing goes on the clothes line or the old-fashined pulley line in the kitchen. Make a pervert happy and hang out those undies.
    A friend recently commented on how nice it was to see babies nappies/diapers blowing in the wind. Quite a debate going on about those. They take up such a large proportion of land-fill, is all that hot, damp plastic good for a child? Over here many mothers are nor bothering to potty-train toddlers because there is so little work involved in using 'disposables' which are now being made in even larger sizes so up to a four-year-old can wear them.

    In our small way we try and do our bit. What gets me is the cynical approach of 'big business' esp airlines with all the talk about air miles, carbon offset/trading, carbon footprints etc. And firms jumping on the bandwagon about wind turbines and the 'Double Glazing' salesmen who come knocking on our front door every few weeks . . . and people believe the hype they spout. How much aluminum/steel etc has to be produced to make just one turbine? What is the point of making electricity from Natural Gas from a supply that will soon run out when our country has millions of tons of coal that could be used more efficiently and cleanly than in the past, for several hundred years?
    How many of us need to drive a huge 4x4 . . . especially in the middle of London? We never park near one, too many drivers throw the doors open and crush any smaller car within a 10 foot radius.

    PAM, an interesting and thought-provoking topic.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    16 years ago

    Increasingly, here, too, we have neighborhoods which forbid playground equipment as well as clothes lines in yards which can be seen by neighbors. It seems to be a growing trend. Myself, I love the smell of fresh sheets and linens after they have dried naturally in the sun. I think I might be happier living in the country than in the city, where these rules do not exist....

    I still miss my old 1986 Toyota. I drove it for over 16 years and got wonderful gas mileage. And it was far more compact and comfortable than the Ford I have now.

    I agree, there is far too much "planned obsolescence" in American society, and the buying of the unnecessary "junque" at garage sales and then next year, selling it at your own garage sale -- another trend. So many people seem to spend so much time just shopping and buying, and not in a thoughtful way.

    I grew up in the shadow of WW II, and was trained to save items such as string, jars, sturdy boxes, etc. to be used over again. When I look at the stuff people set out on the street here for pick-up, I am often shocked. (furniture, lamps, etc. in great condition). On the other hand, one sees trucks driving around after dark and picking up these "freebies" before the rubbish collectors get to them....

  • Chris_in_the_Valley
    16 years ago

    Planned obsolescence isn't new or particularly American, although we have raised it to an art. G.B. Shaw called it "Breakages, Ltd."

    I miss the old bakelite phones, myself, indestructible.

  • bookmom41
    16 years ago

    "Like Carolyn, we try to be frugal, and in being frugal, we ended up being more green." My husband and I have often noted just how 'green" my grandparents', and his elderly parents', lifestyles are--an unintended consequence of their frugal habits and upbringing. Neither household even had a dryer until the last ten years and of course, nor the masses of clothing the younger generations can't do without. The rampant consumerism and constant buying/replacing/updating/improving
    is pervasive.

    My driveway exits onto a main street and we've often gotten rid of children's play equipment or old furniture by putting it up at the end of our driveway--often gone in 30 minutes or less and much better than going to a landfill. I still use my clothesline when convenient but now that I have a son with terrible allergies, not as much as I did. I did dry undergarments and all and once an elderly neighbor, watching me hang laundry, asked me if we didn't have a clothes dryer.

  • lemonhead101
    16 years ago

    ALthough I don't hang out my washing to dry, I do remember the SMELL of it from when my mum would hang it out to dry in England. Lovely. Plus the laundry gets a bit stiff which I enjoyed, esp on the towels.

    My DH and I are avid recyclers although for some unknown reason, I always seem to be the one to take it to the bins.

    Hmm.

  • carolyn_ky
    16 years ago

    We heated with coal when I was at home (stove, not a furnace), and clothes drying on the line outside were sometimes covered in soot on a damp, windy day.

    I used a clothesline for some things until DH retired and took over the back yard for his flowers. Now, I'm allowed to go out to admire his handiwork but not to actually use the yard! Bath towels are one thing I much prefer soft and fluffy from the dryer.

  • twobigdogs
    Original Author
    16 years ago

    It's interesting to me how many of us use a clothes line! I, for one, do love line-dried bath towels. Yes, they are missing the chemical-induced softness that dryers and dryer sheets use to poof them up. But they dry ME so much better when I dry THEM outside.

    As for drying underthings outside:

    Neighbor, neighbor,
    Do beware.
    I'm about to hang out
    My underwear.
    Not bra straps slipping
    Down my sleeve
    Or waistbands peeking from
    My jeans
    But with good ol' clothespins
    and a nice breeze
    They'll snap and flap
    For all to see.

    Sorry - just had to write it. Forgive my total lack of meter, rhyme scheme, and every other poetic term.
    PAM

  • patty114
    16 years ago

    I dont like neighbors seeing my underwear and dries quick in dryer. I love sleeping on sheets dried outdoors...the smell is wonderful no substitutes for that. I had a terrible time finding good clothespins. Walmart brands were pitiful. Finally found good plastic at Family Dollar and cheaper than Walmart wooden clothespins that just broke..couldn't hold up a bath towel.

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    I dunno, guess I never cared if my neighbors see my undies hanging up. Now if they see my undies when I am dressed, thats another matter! (love that poem Pam!)

    >A/C is almost unknown over here

    Hee, yes, I remember that during a horrible heat wave you guys were having several years back. Nobody had air! And of course we brought heavier clothes with us because it was always cold on our other trips....Ah well, made the trip eventful :)

    >My husband and I have often noted just how 'green" my grandparents', and his elderly parents', lifestyles are--an unintended consequence of their frugal habits and upbringing.

    Ditto my parents. But there is a down side to being frugal. When we had to clean out the house my mom lived in most of her life, we found drawers filled with soap heels, rubber bands, string and old nylons.....There's frugal, and just downright silly.

    And I think one can be frugal and still be comfortable.

    Time Magazine had an article a few months back about appetite, and it showed what different people eat for a week around the world. Its eye opening, and telling. Others live much simpler than we do. Tho I suspect if they had our choices, they wouldn't.

    It is interesting how ones consumerism grows with your house. First married, we lived in a 900 sq foot apt, and did just fine. Moved to a 1400 sq foot house, and of course the closets and shelves were soon filled. Moved finally to our current 1800 sq foot and we are complaining about closet space (much of it filled with my husbands toy collection....)

    Neither of us are big shoppers and its rare that we buy something that we regret later (but it took a long time to learn to do this), No matter, somehow our house is full. We have made an effort to get rid of junk the last few years, including tossing my college notes from 25 years ago. Taking stuff to a charity like Goodwill is great because someone often can actually use whatever it is you are giving away.

  • twobigdogs
    Original Author
    16 years ago

    Cindy, Do you know what issue of Time that article was in? I would like to read it.

    veer, I was struck by your mention that central heating and A/C are not common in England. Can you tell me, are the winters chilly? Our coldest temps are usually about 20 degrees F, but we do get cold snaps that go down to zero and that necessitates central heating. And although my house has it, we usually heat the whole place (all little 1600 square feet of it - I am a small house person.) with our woodstove.

    Thank you all for your intelligent wonderful responses. Words cannot say how much I am enjoying this conversation. I sometimes can't believe how much we think alike.

    PAM

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    PAM, I couldn't find a date, but I found a link below

    My biggest frustration is having to use a car to do anything in this city. The development of the last decade has been detrimental to any alternative. These cookie cutter homes are built on acre after acre. Amenities such as shops, grocery stores, post office, library are at least a few miles away. at the edge of the development. In some cases you can walk, but usually you have to drive just to get to these places. If you want to take a bus, you have to walk to the stop which is outside the develomnet, often a few miles to get to. I'd love to get rid of my car and take a bus everywhere I go, but its not logistically possible where I live. And you take your life into your own hands if you try riding a bike. Plus for about 5 months out of the year, being outside riding, walking, or waiting at the stop for a half hour for a bus is not in the cards. Very frustrating.

    Here is a link that might be useful: What the world eats

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    We also toss catalogues into the recycling bin sight unseen. The first few years of our marriage were spent paying off for some of the junk (and gifts) we got through those. I'd rather support my local stores, and not get tempted by the junk they sell. A few of them we do look through, ones like Wireless which supports Public Radio, or UNICEF, or ones like Oriental Trading that allows us to buy things for our classes without breaking the bank. Otherwise, out they go, esp this time of year when suddenly they don't come just one a week or so, but five or six a day.

  • friedag
    16 years ago

    Oh, thank you, Cindy, for the link to "What the World Eats."
    I've added it to my favorites so that I can study each photo more thoroughly. A few things jumped out immediately to me:

    1) how many times corn flakes showed up;

    2) the amount of fruits and vegetables -- the plenty and the paucity that are not directly correlated to total weekly expenditures;

    3) the amount of beverages consumed -- the last was the family from Bargteheide; I couldn't tell what all those bottles and cartons contained.

    I've enjoyed Peter Menzel's other photo essays, especially Material World: A Global Family Portrait which showed people's houses and furnishings. One of the most touching essays in that book was about the family in Russia who owned a nondescript little car. A few days (or weeks) after the photo session, the father was shot and killed by apparent car thiefs.

  • veer
    16 years ago

    PAM, you asked about the chilliness of the winters in the UK.
    Because we have a termperate climate especially in the southern areas of England and Wales with the predominating weather from the Atlantic, our winters are usually quite mild with daytime temps probably in the low 40's F.
    Of course we do get frost and sometimes snow when the wind comes out of the N East or those dreadful sunless bone-chilling days when it seems impossible to get warm.
    Many people think that England is very wet, but, although we get many days with no sun (sometimes it seems like weeks) I think our precipitation is far less than you might get in parts of the US. Our average rainfall is less than 30 ins a year.
    Of course the further North one goes the colder it gets and parts of the Lake District have much greater amounts of rain than us 'down South'.
    All new houses now have central heating included in them. When we moved here ( much too big with high ceilings, stone walls and sash windows) we had only ONE useable fireplace, the electricity supply depended on a single fuse . . . which 'blew' if I plugged in the kettle while the washing machine was running . . . a bathroom that was too primitive to use, a WC flushed by a rainwater tank on the roof and a kitchen covered in bat droppings.
    I found this most primitive and not an ideal setting in which to bring up two babies so I 'went home to Mother' while the DH did some (very) basic updating . . . but a family had lived in these conditions since about 1930 and had even run the place as a guest house for several years!
    Before that it had been the village rectory where a staff of servants were kept, an osler lived in the coach house, the horse grazed in the orchard, the bats hung in the belfry and everyone knew their place. ;-)

  • laceyvail 6A, WV
    16 years ago

    I live in the country, grow almost all the vegetables I eat, and buy locally grown meat, poultry, eggs and raw milk. The only time I have ever owned a dryer was a few years when my son was in high school. (Dryers use an incredible amount of electricity. If you want to really lower your electric bill, stop using one. You'll be amazed!) I also use compact fluorescent light bulbs in most of my lights, especially those that are on for long periods. These too lower your bill amazingly.

    Because I have to drive distances for almost everything, I make a real effort to combine trips. My 1999 Subaru and only 72,000 miles.

    I think that people who make real efforts to conserve should get tax breaks--no dryer, you get a tax break. It sure would encourage others to take the big step.

    And I too think trading carbon credits is a sophisticated scam to make people feel better while they pollute.

    While we can't stop global warming--it's gone too far and huge planetary systems are shifting fast--we can ameliorate it by our actions. Failure to do so will leave us with a barely habitable world. All the necessities we take for granted now--clean water, enough food--will become luxuries for our children. Real disaster is much, much closer than people realize. Elizbeth Kolbert in her sereies on global warming in the New Yorker last year noted that in the case of most catastrophe scenarios, it's those who know and understand the least who are the most hysterical about it. Not in this case. Here it's the scientists who are studying global warming who every year find their most pessimistic case scenarios not pessimistic enough. We're far, far down a road we will soon wish we had never started on. All we can do, and hope our governments will do, is prepare for disaster.

    Sorry to be so negative, but this is a topic I have been following very closely for at least 20 years.

  • twobigdogs
    Original Author
    16 years ago

    I live in a small town. We have many things necessary to live comfortably - grocery stores, Kmart, fuel stations, restaurants, movies, theatre, etc, are all less than three miles away. But I've longed to live in the country for years. There is simply no acreage available without having my kids switch schools, which, at this point, I am loathe to do. We do as much as we can with our yard in terms of growing vegetables, but I think of how we could be doing so much more... and wonder if it is worth the trade-off.

    Veer, I admire you and DH taking an old house and fixing it up. In the US, at least in my portion of it, most people seem uninterested in applying elbow grease to fix an older home. Unless they can hire the work done before they move in, they aren't interested. Everyone wants a new house, and my mother (who is in real estate) has had people sell their homes rather than trouble themselves to replace the carpeting. (!!!)

    I try not to get pessimistic, but to rather try to spread the word on how to painlessly go green and hope the idea grows further. There are so many people with debt difficulties right now that I think simplificating their lives would both benefit their pockets and the Earth.

    Tell me, has anyone read any other books about this subject?
    PAM

  • georgia_peach
    16 years ago

    I haven't read it, but have seen this book mentioned a few times: Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.

    The Amazon summary says this about it:

    In their eye-opening, soul-prodding look at the excess of American society, the authors of Affluenza include two quotations that encapsulate much of the book: T.S. Eliot's line "We are the hollow men / We are the stuffed men," which opens one of this book's chapters, and a quote from a newspaper article that notes "We are a nation that shouts at a microwave oven to hurry up." If these observations make you grimace at your own ruthless consumption or sigh at the hurried pace of your life, you may already be ill. Read on.

    Not so much about the environment per se, but it definitely concerns itself with some of what we're discussing above.

  • veer
    16 years ago

    PAM, probably the first and most important book on 'green issues' was The Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson a native of your neck of the woods.
    The site below gives an introduction to her work.

    Btw we cannot take all the credit for doing up our old house, although DH did the plumbing and wiring; with the book in one hand. We had to employ a so-called builder to re-do the roof and undertake a few urgent repairs, he was followed by a succession of other builders righting the wrongs of the previous 'cowboys'. We were lucky(?) enough to know an officer at the near-by Army Apprentices College where the trainees needed practical experience as part of their plumbing course. So 15 burly young men arrived twice a week and were each given an area to knock large holes in walls, rip up floorboads and bend pipes. Some proved much more adept than others. Their civilian instructor thought nothing of dropping them off from a 15 ton army truck in the morning and leaving them with me for the rest of the day while he took his wife shopping.
    I will never forget towards the end of the afternoon I would make them several gallons of tea and they would drink it in front of the TV where my daughter, then aged about two and her baby brother would be watching 'Play School' (for the under 5's). They all sat together quite happily and it probably was the nearest thing to ordinary 'home life' these lads had experienced for several months of tough army living.
    nb The last of the floor boards were finally screwed down by yet another builder friend in July. I had been waiting since 1981 for John to do it. With any luck I should get a bedroom carpet in the next 15 years. Your Mother's customers have a point!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Rachel Carson

  • rosefolly
    16 years ago

    One thing I would like to see us do as a society is to put our transportation tax money into mass transit rather than the building of new roads and bridges. By all means we should maintain the ones we have in good condition, but I would like to see a situation where people in urban areas could reduce their dependence on the automobile. How much better it would be if we reserved our cars for trips where we are hauling groceries or traveling some distance or traveling at odd hours. If routine daily travel for work or errands could be done conveniently through mass transit, I think that would be an excellent thing.

    Outside of New York, London, and Paris, I have never been anywhere where this was a practical reality. It should be so in every large city -- perhaps even medium sized ones as well.

    It's a pipe dream, I'm afraid. Too much vested interest against it.

    Rosefolly

  • woodnymph2_gw
    16 years ago

    I completely agree about the mass transit issues in the U.S. Add to that, save Amtrak and upgrade our trains so that we have the kind of fast, efficient train travel that one finds in many European nations. (Unfortunately, our rail facilities are declining through lack of funds).

    Also, I would like to see more cities with green spaces, with pedestrian malls closed to cars, and more bicycle friendly cities. We could learn a lot from the Dutch and other nations and do so much better, IMHO.

  • beckola
    16 years ago

    I hang our clothes on the line, we recycle what we can, and I recently purchased a Prius. But going green for me is in my mind's background not forefront. Saving money becomes
    the dominant issue. Our gas dryer takes Propane. It's costly to run the dryer. I see a significant savings in our propane bill when the dryer does not operate. So, I'm only happy to help the environment. Same goes for our Prius. After not spending so much at the pump month after month I don't think I could ever go back paying the gas price I did for our Toyota 4-Runner. My poor college-student daughter drives the not-so-fuel-economy 4-Runner. Our 1997 4-Runner has over 226,000 miles on and the car is still going strong.

    We lived in Northern England from 1993 - 1997 in what many called a 'posh' neighborhood. Most people dried their clothes on the line. And, when the weather was wet you hung your clothes on the indoor radiators. There was a radiator in each room. When company was coming you ran around and removed the clothes. The cost of utilities was high in England, much higher there than here in California. Again, people dried their clothes on the line not so much to be green but to avoid getting hit so hard in the pocketbook.
    In fact it was in England when hanging clothes on the line became a habit I kept.

    Another subject - I'm reading Gilead, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The writing is excellent; the plot is non-existent.

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    Oh I loved that book! And there is a plot of sorts. He is writing about events in a letter to his son before he dies. The events tell the story of this man's life. It made sense to me. BTW we should probably move to the November reads thread :)

  • annpan
    16 years ago

    I don't think anyone has mentioned turning appliances off instead of putting them on stand-by. In response to an "I can do that" TV campaign which recommends various greening options, I have been turning off the microwave and air conditioner when not in use and have noticed a lowering of my electricity bill. This saving pays the extra cost of buying free-range organic eggs!
    The problem of cutting consumerism is that we may affect someone's lifestyle. This is noticable when holidaymakers have to avoid an area because of possible terrorist activity. The subsequent downturn of income impoverishes the local community. This could also happen on the world-wide scale and cause a recession. For this reason I am a happy shopper, doing my bit for the economy!

  • twobigdogs
    Original Author
    16 years ago

    This one is so simple that I cannot believe it took me so long to figure it out - big "Duh" for me...

    But I JUST STARTED recycling my cereal boxes, mac and cheese boxes and all of the cardboard "things" that are in my pantry. It ended up that a family of four people and two big dogs is now only putting out one small trash can a week, and that is not even filled up.

    In response to being a happy shopper, it is good to keep the economy going, but what are your thoughts on shopping local stores as oppossed to the big box stores? Do we spend a bit more to keep the money local? Do we go to a discount box store to save money? This is a real conundrum for me.

    Beckola, congrats on the new Prius. I admire anyone who could drive a small car. I never could. I'd much rather limit my trips and drive what I drive. But I'll drive it forever.

    Chilly weather is upon us. That is good news for me. My electric goes way down. We heat with a wood stove.
    PAM

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    We've been able to recyle cardboard here for a long time. Not only cereal boxes, think toilet and towel paper rolls, kleenex boxes, cardboard from various packaging (think of the ridiculous amount in toy packages) and of course cardboard boxes (flatten first) We also recycle plastic bottles and other plastic products (just have to check the number on the bottom - anything 2-6 is considered recyclable). Sometimes our recycling bin is filled more than our garbage bin!

    >I have been turning off....air conditioner when not in use and have noticed a lowering of my electricity bill.

    Double check this one. Its always been a controversy around here whether you should just raise your AC when you leave the house, or turn it off, and then turn it on when you return. Which one saves more electricity? We generally turn ours up to 78 when we leave, turn it back to 74 when we return. I suspect that it takes less energy to cool it four degrees than it might to cool it 20 (remember tho I live in a place where 110 degree days are not uncommon in the summer. Might be different in milder climates)

    I shop local when I can - certainly the local indie (tho I still use Amazon and Borders for new books), and our Farmer's Market. Theres also this great local Taqueria (taco shop) near our house that I just love. Unfortunately, shopping locally means higher prices at times. If going local means driving 20 minutes, I have to decide whether I want to waste gas, or save money and use less gas. It is a cunnundrum. But I do try when I can.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    16 years ago

    I agree, it is a dilemna whether to shop the big box stores to save $, or to try to shop organic, and patronize the few local mom & pop stores that are left. My goal is to find more stores in our cities that sell local produce, from out-lying farming areas, however. Some of the fresh seafood and farmer's markets are located in inconvenient or unsafe areas. It really caused me to ponder when I was trying to buy "fresh" seafood here and finding it all had come from Peru or some equally far away place, when I live right on the East Coast, with fishing boats all around me! Ideally, I'd like to see more city gardening encouraged, as well as a movement to "buy local."

  • kathy_t
    16 years ago

    > I have been turning off the microwave and air conditioner when not in use and have noticed a lowering of my electricity bill.

    A probably dumb question: To turn off an air conditioner, do you just flip the thermostat switch from "cool" to "off" or does it take more than that?

    I have read about "vampire loads" where appliances continue to draw electricity even though they are switched off. For example, this article said you should unplug your cell phone charger from the outlet when you're not actively charging your phone.

    Kathy

  • cindydavid4
    16 years ago

    >I have read about "vampire loads" where appliances continue to draw electricity even though they are switched off.

    I've heard that from several sources, which is way I always unplug small appliances when not in use - not to save energy, but to keep them from causing a fire.

    >To turn off an air conditioner, do you just flip the thermostat switch from "cool" to "off" or does it take more than that?

    I think thats all you do, unless you want to try the way our elec company suggests, and turn up the thermastat several degrees.

  • annpan
    16 years ago

    In my Hitachi reverse cycle air-conditioner manual is a section that suggests that the unit should be turned off at the mains if not operating for a long time. Mine is wired in and does not have a power plug so I cannot pull that out during a thunderstorm as instructed. However, it has a power switch in the unit so I have been turning that to the 'OFF' position and only switching off from the remote when I don't want the unit operating for shorter periods.
    I don't like it running when I leave the house so I close the blinds, curtains and shutters to keep as even a temperature as possible. The manual says that the unit consumes 15W in the off position which I have taken to mean 'standby'. As I said earlier, I also turn OFF the microwave at the power point when not in use and the TV etc. overnight and my laptop is only ON for about a 45 minute session every few days. I'm mean as well as green!

  • twobigdogs
    Original Author
    16 years ago

    We live in an area that has a few hot humid days per year, but it is not excessive. I prefer to open the windows any day except those of blistering humidity. When using the a/c, I've adopted the "ten degree" rule. If it is 90 outside, the temp inside is at 80 - a big enough difference to feel more comfortable. The a/c is never set below 78 degrees. We use it just to take the edge off. But like I said, we live in an area where we can do this comfortably.

    Lately, meaning in the last few years, I've become greatly aware of the connection between going green and being frugal. It's been amazing to see how doing what I can to help rewards me in terms of savings. When I look at the benefits to the planet, to all of its people and animals, and to my pocketbook, it's a win-win-win situation.

    PAM

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