Saturday, May 10, 2008

Environmentalism is easy when you're unemployed

Environmentalism is easy when you're unemployed. I'm convinced of that.

We are on day 3 of being a one-income household with two-income expenses. We've done the math, and it's not pretty.

Focusing on the positive, there are some good things about being broke. It can have a positive impact on my contribution toward the environment. Such as:
  • Less gasoline being used, as we have one less commute (though it was short) and unemployment and job applications are virtually all done online anymore.
  • By limiting (and eventually eliminating - a cranky, cold-turkey, caffeine-addicted person is not what this family needs right now!) my Diet Coke consumption, I'm reducing the energy needed to recycle aluminum.
  • No eating out or plastic soda cups from Speeedway means less unrecyclable waste.
  • By vastly curtailing my grocery spending and making everything from scratch (as opposed to a box), we will likely be eating better in the long run. Beans, rice and pasta do less harm to the environment than the animals who have to eat the grains first. (Plus, I might lose those last few baby pounds.)
  • Fans are staying on; the A/C is staying off, lowering my electric bill.
  • I'll dust off my baby food recipe book and my vegetarian grilling cookbook that has for years collected dust and use the produce from the CSA that I thankfully bought from earlier this spring to expose my family to new tastes and a healthier lifestyle.

Don't get me wrong. I'd like to be able to afford all of my bills next month, but at least there's a small (OK very small) silver lining to all of this.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I read Sharon A's blog too.

You may already know about this, but just in case.... For further ways to save electricity, do you turn off appliances when they aren't in use? Things like the t.v., vcr/dvd player, microwave, stereo, etc. -- anything that has a digital clock basically -- is constantly drawing some power in order to be instantly ready to turn on when you want to use it (and for the clock, of course). We put some of our stuff on multiple-outlet cords so that we could turn them off and on more quickly than plugging and unplugging from the wall -- cut down by 1/5 to 1/4 on our electric bill when we did this.

And of course we're mindful not to leave lights on where they aren't needed, and trying to get up earlier with the sun and not stay up as late, etc. My husband Lyle has a mini-maglite that he sometimes uses when poking around the apartment at night, if he's only going to be in whatever room for a few minutes (kitchen for milk, for instance), rather than turn on the light.

Even though he works still and I have some bits of freelance work here and there, we don't have the time or means for replacing the bathroom light, which has 5 lightbulbs in it. One burned out and so he partly unscrewed another one, so we're only using 3 of the bulbs, which it turns out is plenty. We did it so it's every other one, to look more like it's on purpose.

If you can get candles cheap (dollar store or similar), they may be less expensive than electricity sometimes, and are good to have in case of power outage from a storm anyway. We don't use them as often as we probably should, but they're nice once in a while for dinner or when we're together reading or playing a game. I'm not sure how they weigh carbon-wise against electricity (manufacture and transport), but when you're in a tough situation financially, I think some compromises need to made. Also, if you use them at dinner or story times (when the flames will be easier to watch around the kids), it'll be like a treat not a dreary necessity. I prefer them or an oil lamp or two over an electric lamp, when possible. And on cold days they can be a welcome bit of additional warmth.

Hope these are helpful ideas, not annoying ones!

Heather G

Robbie said...

Hi Heather,
Are you using simple power strips or something else to manage them? It's a good idea - and I can't believe how much electricity you're saving.

Right now, we've been blessed with unusually cool weather, so we've not had to rely on the A/C or the heat, which will be nice for the electric bill.

Anonymous said...

Yup, just power strips.

Altho' as you might see if this post has a time stamp, here I am, up late on the computer! Sometimes I have more to do than hours in the day -- on the other hand, there's only one light on in the apartment, so not as bad as it could be...

I think our savings comes from a combination -- power strips, turning off unneeded lights, and thinking about when to do some things. For instance our pantry doesn't have a light, just a north-facing window. So I try to get whatever I need out of it before sundown and move it to the kitchen -- that means I don't have to turn on the hallway light to find stuff in the pantry.

I like the powerstrip on the microwave oven because the plug is hard for me to put in and out of the wall, and the outlet is hard to get at. We have a battery-powered clock in the kitchen anyway, so I don't need two clocks in the same room, so the microwave is off most of the time.

My computer can be hibernated, so I also shut it down every night, and for a good part of the day. Some people say the monitor's lifespan is shortened by turning it off and on, and that you don't save much energy, but so far my monitor is doing fine and it's ~4 yrs. old (knock wood!). On days when I'm busy running around doing gardening or whatever, I may only need it for a couple of hours -- doesn't make sense for it to stay on 24/7.

Way to magnify light from candles or oil lamps -- mirrors! Also if you have south-facing windows that shine into a darker area (hallway for instance), consider putting a mirror on the wall opposite the doorway, so the light can get reflected down the hallway a bit. Stretches daylight out that much more...

And in hot weather, we try to keep as many things off as possible!

Hot weather solutions that help some:
- Open upper half of windows at night/early morning if it's cool enough. When temps hit around 72F, close the windows and pull the shades.
- Heavy curtains on the sunny side of the house to keep out the worst of the heat of the day.
- Insulated wall hangings on the southern outside walls (think quilts or something similar).
- Spending the afternoon at the library/plaza/building with public space, if it isn't too far away -- use their AC/Cooling power instead of yours. A friend of mine who went to college in DC taught me that one!

Hm, maybe I should post some of this on my blog... warm weather is coming after all.