Thursday, May 31, 2007

Goals for Low Impact Week

My picks from Crunchy Chicken's suggestion list:

1. Reduce energy consumption -

I'm already pretty good about keeping everything turned off or unplugged, because we blow out fuses if we don't! I don't run the A/C during the day when Brooks is gone, although we've just started to hit our 90-degree weather so I might use it a little.

And as mentioned below, I don't have a dishwasher or washer and dryer.

For gas use, though, I'm going to try not running hot water when cold will do, and turning off the oven/burners sooner, using the residual heat to finish cooking. This is more comfortable when it's so hot anyway.

2. Reduce water usage -

This is my big wasteful area, since I don't pay the bill. It also means I can't really measure it because I don't see the readings, but I know I can cut back quite a bit.

taking shorter showers

turning off the water when you're brushing your teeth

being aware of water usage when at the kitchen sink -
turn it off in between tasks and don't wash dishes with constantly running water

saving in a bucket the water that is discharged while warming up the shower and use it to water plants
YAY for my PLANTS! Brooks laughs at me but I love them so much that I go out to look at them several times a day. (and no offense to Crunchy Chicken if she sees this, but I had to laugh at the original image of a bucket being discharged from the shower.)

3. Change your food habits -

try to buy organic and/or locally grown food
the farmer's market and strawberry-picking!

use cloth bags at the grocery store instead of getting paper or plastic
I've been wanting to do this for a while.

try eating vegetarian or vegan for the week (choose your level from egg/dairy acceptable to no animals products at all)*
We were already planning to do this for a few weeks starting Monday so I'm going to leave it as previously scheduled.

4. Reduce your dependence on paper products -

don't use paper towels
I don't promise to give them up forever, but I did just cut up some old sweatpants for rags and got fabric for napkins, so I can do without for a week and minimize thereafter.

5. Reduce your garbage output -

recycle everything you can (for your area)

donate used items to a charity (many have pick ups and drop off locations) instead of throwing them out or taking them to the dump


6. Reduce Single Occupancy Vehicle usage -

We can't really reduce this any more right now...but we are down to one car, Brooks takes the metro to work, and I am going to give up my 140 miles/week teaching commute in August.

7. Do something that lasts more than a week -

I don't think any of those additional things were particularly feasible right now, but besides some of the above things that may last, I did recently stop cleaning with chemical products. Baking soda and lemons do a beautiful job on my stained old white sink/stovetop/bathtub, and vinegar-water spray and castile soap take care of the rest.

Any other ideas?


Brooks Lampe said...

I am guilty of A.C.-dependency syndrom, probably because of growing up in muggy Florida (which I am still embittered about, not that there is anyone to blame).

I might add that energy conservation, if we are doing it to try to reduce energy consumption, needs to happen on large-scale industry as well as small-scale domesiticity. I know, for instance, that the luxery-home building explosion in central Florida is consuming huge amounts of energy. My personal opinion is that we need to stop building new homes, offices and churches and start fixing ("recycling") the old ones.

But if we are going to make an impact, shouldn't we be out advocating for pollution reduction and other green policies? We can't just save the world with our household conservationism, can we?

Travis said...


Let me know if you want any vegetarian suggestions, since Katie is one and about I'm about 90% vegetarian now (eat meat when I go out). So we've got plenty of recipes and ideas!

You sound sooooo much like Katie and me. Guess what? We've only had to use the A/C a handful of days this year (b/c of bad wildfire smoke). We open our windows all night and close them in the morning to lock in the cool air. Doing this, and all our dishs by hand, plus making sure to unplug appliances, has cut our energy bill in half from it was for Katie last year!

Yes, you can save the world ... if we were to all think this way!!

Brianna said...

Interesting post, Dana. I admit I'm unwilling to adopt all of those ideas. (My family has never used a dishwasher, and I'm frankly sick of spending all my time elbow-deep in suds. After 26 years, the planet owes me one. *wink*)

However, I do have a suggestion, since you asked. Going to sleep earlier can drastically reduce your energy consumption. Most obviously because you'll shut off the lights, the computer, the tv. But also, as Travis mentioned, you can also shut off the air conditioning (or heat in the winter). Because you're not moving around your body will stay naturally cooler (or warmer because of extra blankets in the winter).

Yes, I did just argue that sleeping is good for the environment. ;-)

Brianna said...

Oh, and if we adopt Brooks' idea of recycling old houses, we may be able to make air conditioning a thing of the past. Many old homes have full basements, which stay naturally cool year round.

I was quite comfortable in our basement yesterday, despite 100 degree weather outside. :-)

Dana said...

Brianna... are you telling grad students to go to bed early???

I agree that basements are great for natural cooling. Even the hillside half-basement of my parents' house was ten degrees cooler than the upstairs in summer, and we didn't have a/c in the house at all... the northwest doesn't need it much! But there doesn't seem to be enough land space for everyone to live partly underground, alas.

Travis, I'm in the market for a good vegan cookbook or recipes, if you know any. Orthodox fasting guidelines plus my issues with dairy are offering a challenge to my cooking skills!

Brooks, we do need larger structural changes, and some people do advocate for them. I'm not inclined to it personally, by temperament and situation, but conservation is definitely a two-pronged project. My attitude toward social advocacy is much like my attitude to evangelism...partly laziness of disposition and partly a philosophy that prefers personal and community interactions. Actually I should stop writing about this before I put a whole 'nother post in the comments. Remind me to get back to it sometime, though.

Brianna said...

Yep. ;-)

I have a vegetarian cookbook suggestion, actually. It's not vegan, but I'm sure some of the recipes are or can be easily modified. It's called Laurel's Kitchen, and it has some quite tasty recipes.

Travis said...


Cookbook ideas:

Vegetarian Planet (we use this one a lot)

Vegetarian Cooking, by JG Press

Veggie Meals, Rachel Ray

(We use all three, especially the first one. Also the food networks' site is great and the cooking light site)

You'll have to talk to Katie to about vegetarian cooking - she's a pro at it, of course :-P

Your Tuesday update was great. Sounds like a successful week.

P.S. Sucks to be us - it's been raining all day for a few days and very muggy outside :(

Dana said...

Brianna, I've seen Laurel's Kitchen; thanks for the reminder! I love the long introduction about the Berkeley hippies in the 70s and how stay-at-home moms are going to save the planet by how they feed their families. :-)