Envir-one-mentally responsible

Posted: April 1, 2012 in Musings, Nature, Personal, Political
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As a Christian, I want to take care of the earth I believe God made, but I admit that all the ideas, suggestions and downright orders  get overwhelming, tiring and annoying.  Seems like every day there’s a new idea or a contradiction to a previous “sure” thing.  I can’t put a windmill in my backyard and I’m not going to get rid of my Toyota Sienna mini-van for a small car that takes less gas but won’t carry anything worth talking about and will never make back in gas savings what the car cost (since my van’s paid off.)  So what do I do?  Here are some small things I do that are easy to and make at least a small difference.  Multiply them, or other small things like them, by every person and the difference becomes meaningful.

  • Since we live in an old house, I run the water in the kitchen sink for 20 seconds in the morning to be sure any impurities are out before I put it in my Brita, but I put the runoff into old milk jugs and use it for watering my indoor plants.
  • I pour the water from our basement dehumidifiers on anything outside that needs watering (although not in winter, when it can also be used for indoor plants or other things.)  I store some, too, and if there’s a water stoppage for any reason, I can use it for “flushing” the toilets or whatever else.
  • I wash and reuse Ziploc bags when I’m washing dishes.  I use fridge magnets to hang them on the side of the fridge to dry.  They last forever!
  • I do use the dryer since I don’t (yet) have anywhere outside to hang clothes, but I take things out before they’re completely dry and hang them on my little dryer rack or on hangers to let them finish drying.  Besides using less energy, they don’t need ironing, saving my energy and time which can be better spent elsewhere.
  • I don’t water the grass.  Period.  It comes back.  I do use water, preferably from the saved water I mentioned above, for vegetables and flowers if needed.
  • I mow high and I use Good Nature organic lawn service because I’m just not going to get it done myself.
  • I rake, not leaf blow.  The only energy it uses is mine, it’s great exercise and doesn’t make noise.
  • I use wet newspaper to mulch, covering it with either dirt or regular mulch.  It keeps the weeds down fairly well and decomposes.
  • I don’t use special cleaners in the bathroom.  I wash the chrome with water and polish it dry with an old towel.  I use a wet sponge on almost everything else, squeege the shower when I’m done, and just use the toilet brush, not anything extra when cleaning the toilet bowl.  Works fine.  There are lots of places that have recipes for homemade, green cleaners for the times you need something a bit stronger.
  • I use club soda in a spray bottle for cleaning windows.  A squeegee followed by either old towels or newspaper cleans perfectly.
  • I keep old dish towels on hand to dry fruits, veggies, etc.
  • I generally bucket wash the van, with just water and a chamois, maybe some bug remover, and dry with old bath towels.
  • I either re-use brown paper bags with handles or cloth bags when getting groceries.  We have to put our recycling in blue plastic bags, so when I shop somewhere that uses those, I’ll take them if I’m running low.
  • In our house, I am the automatic thermostat.  Before everyone else gets up, I turn up the heat (but not as high as they might like) and I turn it down when I go to bed.  When we leave for vacation or for a few days, I turn the heat down.  I don’t turn on the AC if at all possible and finally gave in to the fact that although I’d love to leave the windows open all day, if it starts getting hot, it will stay cooler if I close them when the heat starts to rise.   If we’re gone for awhile in the summer, I set the thermostat at about 80.  When we’re home and it’s really hot a/o humid, I only use the AC if absolutely necessary and then bump it up slightly as it gets hotter outside, keeping the difference livable but not, like the grocery stores and most other businesses, like the deep freeze!  We use ceiling fans in our upstairs bedrooms, although I’ve never figured out how to make them go in reverse, which is supposed to be useful in winter.
  • I recycle everything I can and try to pass on anything I don’t use if at all possible, rather than throw it out.  I keep things I’m clearing out in garbage bags until a group like Purple Hearts calls and then enjoy having them pick up my “treasures.”  But I don’t pass on junk!  Anything that’s trash, goes in a garbage bag that ends up in the garbage, not a rummage sale or the Salvation Army store.  Anything good I have to get rid of, I put on the tree lawn early enough so that it’s likely to be taken.
  • When the girls were little, we used to pick up trash on both sides of our four-block street one day a week.  Now my trash pickup is mostly stopping on windy days to pull garbage cans out of the street and put them back on the tree lawn and bagging the litter blown into our yard.
  • I recycle paper at our church.  Instead of buying fancy note pads, I cut up paper to use to write my daily reminders on.
  • I combine trips while running errands.  Once my treadmill bit the dust, I decided I’d combine exercise and errands, so I either walk or ride my bike to places like the post office, shopping at a nearby grocery store, even the library if I don’t have too many books to carry.
  • I take the Megabus to and from Chicago if I’m not taking along a van-load of things.  That conserves money as well as gas and wear-and-tear on the van!  I’ve thought about taking the bus here in Cleveland but the schedules are so approximate and not often enough, there aren’t enough buses and it’s too difficult to get anywhere that’s not directly on one bus line that it wouldn’t be a good use of time.  We do take the rapid downtown sometimes.
  • For a number of winters, we’ve burned wood in our wood-burning stove, which is inserted into our fireplace.  All the wood we’ve used and have currently stacked in the backyard has been scrounged (but not hauled illegally.)  When I hear the whine of a chain saw, I go out to take a look and if possible, ask if I may take some of the wood.  The guys from the city have started calling me “The Wood Lady.”  Our woodpiles are full now but when driving, I always keep an eye out for wood sitting on the tree lawn.  I’ve also been known to stop when I see a tree being taken down and ask if I can take some of the wood.  I kept our house and that of a friend stocked that way for several years.
  • And don’t hate me, but I admit that when I heard about the phase-out of 100-watt bulbs, I stocked up on about a bazillion of them.   Yup, it’s true.  I know, Al Gore­­ won’t send me a Christmas card this year because of that, but  I’m not convinced of the truth of the length of time the new bulbs last (or I wouldn’t have to replace them for years, instead of as often as I do) and I don’t appreciate the bit of mercury in them, which we’re told we should treat as hazardous if the bulb breaks.  What about when the bulb’s thrown out, which will happen to a lot of them?  Where can you even take them to recycle?  What happens to the mercury when they’re recycled?

Well, that’s what I’m doing.  I may have forgotten a few things and I’m sure I’ll add more as I find ones that work for us.  Feel free to share your tips.  I love to hear what works!

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