Monday, December 29, 2008

Enviro Brag!

So a while back I posted about all the little (and not so little) things I do that I know are bad for the environment: overuse of the car, extravagant long showers, and more - and some of you shared yours, too. Now as the new year approaches, it's time to focus on the positive. Here are some of the things I do RIGHT for the Earth, and I want to hear about yours.

1. Bike! Okay, this one isn't really me so much, although I do ride my bike to the vegetable stand once a week or so. But Josh (remember Josh?) rides his bike to and from work every day, about five miles round trip, rain or shine. He is great about it, and really likes the bike commute. 10 points to Mr. Takes Tokyo!

2. The lights. This little baby, which is packing a compact fluorescent bulb, is our only light source in the living room. It draws almost no power and the ambiance is better than the bright overhead, so win-win.

3. The laundry. I'm really proud about this one, though I recognize it's only possible because I'm not working at the moment. We have a cold-only washing machine, and I won't lie, I miss the hot water terribly. But once the clothes are clean, they go outside on a sunny day:and inside on a dreary day:There are so many upsides to this that I can hardly name them: the inside rack keeps our bedroom humid enough in the cold winter. Our electricity bills are much lower. The sun miraculously kills all the stinks left in Josh's workout clothes and bike gloves after multiple washings. It's more work, but while I have time it's a great thing. Oh, and the towels really aren't that scratchy, swear.

3. Japanese heating. Okay, it sucks a LOT that our house (like most in Japan) isn't insulated. And we haven't even seen the coldest month yet; it's typically February. But there is no central heat in Japan, so we use these little guys instead.There is one in almost every room, and we really only use the one in the living room much. We cordon off the living/dining/kitchen area and I usually have something baking, so one heater set at 20 C (about 68 F) is more than enough. We're usually both wearing a sweatshirt and flannel pants - as Josh says, "we already paid for the sweaters."

4. Bed heater! You've got to get one of these.Oh my goodness. A couple hours before bed we crank this baby up, and when we get in the bed is already warm and cozy. We usually shut it off before we fall asleep, and until recently it was enough to keep us warm all night. Now we have to keep the wall unit set at about 59 F to keep the chill off, but that's still pretty good I think.

5. Water heater. This, like so many of the others, is a function of our Japanese home. We have a small wall unit instant water heater in the kitchen - you turn on the hot water and a little gas flame appears behind a heatproof window, and the FIRE heats the water. No big tank kept hot all the time. The downstairs hot water works the same way, only we can't see the big flame. But we do turn off the gas to the big one whenever it's not in use.

6. Grocery bags. You know, this is one of those things that seemed like a huge pain until I got in the habit, but now any other way seems like lunacy. For real: why on earth do we use dozens of new, sterile, petroleum-based plastic bags every week for carrying groceries?! Can anyone explain it? I still slip up sometimes and forget to bring my totes, but then I feel wasteful and perplexed at the double bags, the mostly empty bags...ugh. Anyway, most times my grocery haul comes home in a bunch of strong canvas and cotton bags. And I only use the plastic produce bags for veggies which are really small (green beans), really wet (fresh herbs) or meant to be eaten raw with peel.

7. Miscellaneous. There are so many little things that I try to do to even out my impact on the world, tiny little efforts that I hope will add up like buying the local Japanese produce whenever possible, recycling, finding uses for worn out clothes, containers, and the like, and giving lightweight, easy to ship gifts. Oh! And I think buying and cooking my own beans counts, because it uses less fuel to ship dry beans than cans.

I'm sure you have tons of things to add to the list - please do!


Bethanyivy said...

I think my only big enviro brag would be natural cleaning products rather than all those nasty chemicals. And, we reuse the spray bottles and use concentrated stuff so we don't waste as much plastic. Thanks all to Melaleuca.

KCB said...

Well, now that I've been invited to brag [settles in for a long spell]...

Solar panels. We have a rooftop PV system that has cut our bills by 40 percent and allows us to feed excess power into the grid during the summer.

Veggie garden. It's not as big as I'd like, but homegrown produce requires no truck fuel, just a walk across the yard.

Having an insanely thorough energy audit and upgrade of our thirty-year-old home--the city sponsors these and it's made a big difference.

Having our pets make our fertilizer. No, not the dogs, But the chicken, fish, parakeet and rabbit waste all goes into the garden beds or the compost pile.

I still feel bad about using the dryer, though. That Japanese drying rack in the photo is too cute.

EmilySullins said...

Redneck Mother wins! I was so impressed and inspired by the solar panel post two years ago - and I guess I've been lurking at her blog that long! Read it yourself here: