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Retraining the old dogs (two-legged...) [Sep. 1st, 2009|10:42 am]
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Changing to CFL bulbs was pretty easy, though not (for me) pleasant.  I hate the colors.  But we did it, and now have CFLs all over the house.  The one I hate most is in the kitchen because it makes fresh meat look spoiled (to me.  This is idiosyncratic and I'm very color-sensitive.)

Turning lights off is apparently an XX-linked trait.   I automatically (from not wanting to heat the house, habit begun in south Texas) turn lights off when I quit washing dishes, cooking, leave a room, etc.  Someone else leaves them on--I'll come into an empty kitchen and find three lights on (over the sink, over the stove, mid-room ceiling.)  I turn them off.    Though I use the light in my study at night, once it's light enough to see I work by window-light.  I've quit listening to music as much while I work (but if I'm stuck, I need the music.  Sorry.)

Shopping bags...signed onto the idea of reusable bags easily, bought some from church, have bought them (when forgetting the others) from stores that carry them.   We now have umpty-whatsit of them.  The trick is not using them for anything else and remembering to put them back in the car, take them out of the car at the grocery store, and hand them to the cashier so groceries can be put in them.  DUH.  I don't know how many times I've gotten to the door of the store and realized I didn't have them.  I make myself go back and get them.  I've also assigned nearly all previous tote bags (other than my gorgeous Australian souvenir one) to shopping use.  So each car usually has six or so bags in it.  IF we don't leave them on the doorknob of the back door.  However, we're improving.  In the past three months, I haven't had to go back to the car for a shopping bag once.  

Food.  The stove is electric (nothing I can do about that. at the moment.)   So I make up large amounts of soup/stock/stew when I'm doing on, in order to maximize the productivity of the cooking period.   We do use refrigerators and freezers (being in a hot climate) but try to use them wisely.   We raise some of our own meat (most of it actually--beef and lamb)  so in terms of eating local...that's about as local as you can get.  We're now getting eggs from a neighbor with chickens (and providing them some bread.)   I might go back to having chickens--a meat breed--but building a chicken house has lower priority right now than the next rain barn, guttering our son's house and putting in water storage tanks there.  Despite the drought, we were able to grow some of our own beans, corn, and tomatoes this year.  Water restrictions and extreme heat made more impossible.  Cooking home-grown vegetables produces no packaging  waste (the pulled plants go on the compost pile.)   However, buying fruits and vegetables in most places involves using plastic bags (theirs) to group them, esp when they want you to weigh them and print out a tag.   Gardening and cooking aren't new for us--we did organic gardening in San Antonio decades ago.  Also kept chickens for eggs and a hive of bees.  At that time we bought only the vegetables the climate wouldn't let us grow (potatoes, for instance.)   Water is the kicker.   Can't grow food without water.  See below for water now and future plans.

Recycling.  The town does not have recycling pickups.  The church in the city collects a variety of things for safe disposal and recycling, but since I don't want aging batteries sitting out in the car in 100+ heat for days...this means remembering them late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.  FAIL.   Used ink cartridges from the ink-jet printer...FAIL.   We were re-using (for our own purposes and quite eagerly) Bluebell Sherbet 1 quart containers (plastic, good lids) for many purposes--always needing more when one finally cracked or wore out--but they quit puttiing their sherbet into those handy, wide-bottomed containers.  Now I'm nursing the survivors along as they are the absolute best freezer containers for homemade chicken, beef, and lamb stock.  Paper...gets kept until it's written all over on both sides with little notes that I should then transfer to the computer but never do.  ("Cat--vet--call."  "butter, eggs, milk, baking powder, yellow cornmeal, black beans"  "call M- about when can go station"  "business cards"  "pickles"  "BURPEE CATALOG--where?" plus the usual names, phone numbers, email addresses, URLs, usernames, passwords with and without indication of what for, names of recently (at the time of note) identified plants and insects, etc.)    Tin cans were, for a while, washed out and saved to be used as targets for plinking but it's been so dry I don't dare practice--hot brass could start a grass fire.   Wormer buckets (for the horses' feed-through wormer) are sturdy, tough, and have tight-fitting lids.  We use them as buckets (when cleaning the pond), for storage of various feeds, and for food storage in the house.  (25 pounds of flour will just about fit in a wormer bucket.  Since I bake bread, a reserve of 25 pounds isn't excessive.  Years ago I bought flour in 50 pound sacks, like horse feed.)

Car use.  Variable.  We live a long way from the things we need (groceries, lumber, hardware, church)  and though we try to combine multiple uses into every trip, there are trips to the city every week.  Not every day, more than once/week.   I would say on car use we're a moderate fail.

Water use/conservation.   Since 2002, when we put in the first rainwater storage tank, we've increased our capacity to collect, store, and use rainwater, and are continuing to do so.  Storage capacity at the house is now 13,700 gallons.  That stored water supplies the horses and the water garden.  We will be putting in at least 5000 gallons more by the end of the year, and we hope to achieve another 10,000, enough to supply the vegetable garden (maybe.)    On the land itself, the total storage capacity is 5,600 gallons, supplying two wildlife waterers.   We put in more efficient toilets this year, cutting water use for household purposes.  Ultimately, we'd like to be able to support all the vegetation on the house lots (including mature trees and the vegetable garden and fruit orchard) on collected rainwater.  On water conservation, we're very far on the green side.  But not far enough.  Ten years ago I hadn't really considered collecting rainwater--didn't know how, didn't know how much you could get.  Now I'm an advocate for it, at least for those in drought-prone areas where the rain can be high-intensity/low frequency. 

This is merely a progress report, not a statement of achievement or a request for ideas.  (I have ideas out the kazoo--it's why I'm a writer) or a way of guilting others.  Not everyone can do the same thing; not everyone has the same priorities.  We went years not using air conditioning--right now, I can't handle heat the way I used to (aging does things to the internal thermostat, but also I'm living a different life--sitting by a heat-generating computer all day--a machine that also doesn't like heat over 100F.)   So I do other things than go without AC, and when I went without AC I wasn't collecting and using rainwater instead of city water. 


[User Picture]From: caitlin
2009-09-01 04:33 pm (UTC)
Suggestion for the reusable bags:

Put the rest of them in one of the bags, put the bags by the door. remember to take them when you go out. All of the ones you don't use, leave in the car. Upon finishing shopping, throw them all back in one of the bags and repeat.

Admittedly, there are times I still forget them by doing that, but more often than not I have them.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-09-01 04:41 pm (UTC)
That's pretty much what we do. The key is "remembering." Not always happening.

You may have missed the part where I said it's been some time since we didn't have them along...

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From: thefile
2009-09-01 04:41 pm (UTC)
Turning lights off is apparently an XX-linked trait. I automatically (from not wanting to heat the house, habit begun in south Texas) turn lights off when I quit washing dishes, cooking, leave a room, etc. Someone else leaves them on--I'll come into an empty kitchen and find three lights on (over the sink, over the stove, mid-room ceiling.) I turn them off.

It's reversed here. The wife keeps complaining that she's living in a dungeon. I say: if all you're doing is cruising the net, what have all the lights on in the room? Why have the light(s) on in a room that no-one is currently occupying?
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[User Picture]From: lwe
2009-09-01 05:16 pm (UTC)
My wife doesn't complain, but otherwise, yeah, she leaves lights on and I turn them off.
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[User Picture]From: torrilin
2009-09-01 04:59 pm (UTC)
It is very difficult to have horses and keep your car use to a minimum. At a certain point, the only way to reduce car use is to make really drastic lifestyle changes... and for you many of them would involve giving up the land or the horses, which I think would cause greater problems than car use.

If you're trying to minimize travel related pollution, increasing your bus or train use *might* be more feasible. Air travel is very high pollution, and cars, buses and trains are much less problematic. (and yeah, this one is hard... where I live there is only freight rail service, and it's a 3 hour bus ride to the nearest train station)

I know putting in solar panels is quite expensive. Is it something that's worth saving up for tho? I was really surprised, but even as far north as PA, you can get a well designed house powered off the solar on less than half the roof (my parents' place will be fully solar powered once the last row of panels goes in). In TX, there might be more benefit. Something longer term and cheaper is going to a roofing material that lets you make some/all of the collected rainwater potable. Either one seems like a good long term bang for buck.
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[User Picture]From: caitlin
2009-09-01 05:04 pm (UTC)
I know of at least one person who has built a solar power shed where the solar panels are on the roof of the shed and all that. The panels also stow relatively easily in case the shed needs to be moved.
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[User Picture]From: amm_me
2009-09-01 05:03 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the LED bulbs with many LEDs simulating an ordinary old incandescent? Even less wattage and longer lasting than CFCs, and several color-temps are available. REALLY pricey, but I hope they'll be coming down. Elliott's Hardware in Dallas (my store for when I want a good selection, not just the most popular brand) has several types.

(Advertisement -- if you are in Dallas, visit Elliott's at Maple and Motor Streets. If you are like me and like to browse practical gizmos, you won't get out for a couple of hours.)

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[User Picture]From: gwinna
2009-09-01 05:34 pm (UTC)
I'll be going to LEDs hopefully sooner rather than later. CFCs give me migraines and the flickering really bothers my eyes. I can't imagine what I'd do in the countries where incandescent bulbs are being banned, I already can't go in most shops or work environments without getting a migraine. Unfortunately LED technology just doesn't seem to be up to par yet, all the reviews I've seen have been pretty poor.
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[User Picture]From: serenadefarm_05
2009-09-01 05:42 pm (UTC)
This is a great check-list, and good for inspiration and motivation. We're doing well on food--raise most of what we eat, meat and vegetables and eggs, and buy most of the rest locally, or at least Texas-sourced. Not doing so well as far as water goes; we need to get busy on those rain collecting barrels this fall! We have to take our recycling to a local waste processing center, so that costs gas; not sure about the balance of payoff there. I always use shopping bags, and recycle the occasional plastic bag I seem to end up with from time to time. Our house and barn are both all-electric, so I'd love to add solar panels, if it weren't so darned expensive. We drive a lot, partly because we live outside of town (which is why we can raise most of our food--another payoff), partly because I commute to work about 70 miles one way, some days. I do drive a Prius, so it could be worse. But our other car is a truck.
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From: autojim
2009-09-01 05:48 pm (UTC)
There are now CFLs in a variety of color temperatures. Here at Nuevo Casa del Crider Sur, I've gone with a lot of the "daylight" (6500K) ones in much of the house because of the color of walls & trim, and the bluish cast from those works better (yellow cast looks dingy). Except in the kitchen, which has a bit lower "cool white" 4100K color on the flourescent tubes in the overhead fixture. If I was doing it over again, I'd probably go with the 4100K color temp throughout. It's a good "true-color" bulb and meat, etc. look good with it.

This house is a rental and thus I'm making do with the wall colors (though I have a lot of time on my hands right now being between jobs, I don't have cash for paint).

My stage/video lighting designer pal here likes the yellowish stuff in his own house, but their color scheme lends itself to that, whereas it looks really dingy and jaundiced in my house. He gave me crap about my 6500K bulbs until he came over here and saw it and decided I was right for this house. :)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-09-01 06:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, no two houses are alike in terms of room shape, whatever color the walls are now, ambient light, etc. I was sure I'd hate replacing the curtain on the window by my desk and am now delighted with the new one--but it's white sailcloth and the city water has gone dingy yellow-brown with iron and sulfur bacteria, so all my whites have turned beige. Hate beige. Not a beige person. Anyway--the white curtain, instead of the red-and-white curtain, makes the light in the room good for working.

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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2009-09-01 06:00 pm (UTC)
Here in the UK the shop assistants have all been trained to ask whether you really want a bag, rather than automatically give you one; the major supermarket chains give you points on your loyalty card for bag re-use, too.

Yesterday we were in the supermarket on our way home from a few days in the country, but only had one shopping-bag - the others were full of my mother's home-grown fruit and veg, and some frozen trout and raspberries wrapped up in newspaper to keep them from thawing out before we got home. So trying to fit the normal 2 bags of grocery shopping into one was a touch tricky - ended up with me carrying the bread separately. "You could have a bag!" said the checkout operator, but we didn't really need one!

I find I now feel guilty if I go to the supermarket unexpectedly and don't have a bag with me - the only time we ever take the car there is if we are on the way to or from somewhere else, as we have two within walking-distance, so bags in the car don't work for us.

But it is very awkward when travelling, as I try to pack a plastic bag to put in-car rubbish and dirty picnic cutlery and crockery in, and sometimes I have trouble finding one!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-09-01 06:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we used to have a plastic bag full of wadded-up bags, whenever we needed a nice clean (but used) plastic bag. Now...we don't.
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[User Picture]From: kk1raven
2009-09-01 06:46 pm (UTC)
I find "cool" CFLs to be a lot more likable than the "warm" ones that are commonly sold. The cool ones are a little harder to find and a little more expensive but not enough to matter much. Where I have more than one bulb, I pair a cool bulb with a warm one which gives results that I like better than either type of bulb alone.

For buying produce, it is possible to get light-weight mesh bags meant for that purpose. I used to have a couple of them and they worked nicely until they got lost.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-09-01 07:01 pm (UTC)
In my study I have a pair of CFLs (still less wattage than one incandescent bright enough to do any good) of different colors and that does help--except that some cast shadows are blue and some are pale orange, which looks weird. I try not to see it.
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[User Picture]From: martianmooncrab
2009-09-01 07:23 pm (UTC)
Used ink cartridges from the ink-jet printer

there are several stores that recycle ink jet cartridges, I get mine refilled at Walgreens, and they support a program.
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[User Picture]From: mayakda
2009-09-02 01:01 pm (UTC)
Hi! (Delurking)

We have mostly CFLs, except in the kitchen & study we have the old-fashioned fluorescent lights (aka shop lights) under plastic diffusers. I guess I am used to them -- can't tell the diff about food colors.

We are looking into replacing some windows this year (some are double paned where moisture has seeped in between) and hopefully we can use the federal credit (although I understand that it's pretty strict about the quality of the new windows).

I tried composting and I ran out of space (have to do it in plastic bins because of HOA rules) but the batch I did do seems to be coming along nicely.

I have the same problem remembering to bring the reusable bags to the grocery. I think I just have to train myself to throw them into the car as soon as they're empty. Btw, I love aluminum lined grocery bags (to keep things cold).

The rain water collection you're doing is awesome. That's on my wish list, to collect rainwater for garden use.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-09-02 02:32 pm (UTC)
We still have a few old-fashioned fluourescent lights--bathroom & over the sink, and I hate them--they flicker and buzz (sometimes the CFLs buzz or hum and that also drives me nuts--I have to put in earplugs.)

Windows--I would love to be able to replace our 50 year old windows with double-paned high-quality ones. That's not on the budget list for this year, though. Stuff happens. (I think I posted months and months ago about how the supposedly quick and easy and inexpensive toilet replacement turned into the week-long and expensive home repair project that required replacing sections of bathroom floor...) Then there was the emergency dental stuff for someone in the family and then...etc.

The thing is, a lot of us try to do what we can, and we choose the project that fits a) the budget of time as well as money, b) the space available, c) the perceived benefit to both the environment and ourselves. It's the mindfulness that counts, I think. Being aware, thinking about it, finding the small ways that add up but are doable for you, in your life, with your schedule/budget/space. Most people cannot afford to put in enough solar or wind generation to supply all their electricity. Most people do not have the space (or expertise, or time) to grow all their own food. Some people live where rainwater collection is prohibited (I think they should lobby to change the rules/ordinances/laws, but some would disagree.) So within the limits life already puts on us, a lot of us are trying one little thing after another. I'm opposed to guilting people (well, except a few people I would happily pile guilt all over, but that's another topic!) and constantly telling them what they could and should do...there are plenty of suggestions out there floating around, and the tendency is to pile on more. If someone says they're doing X, someone will then say "But you could also do Y!" (You can see it in the comments here, though I stated up front I wasn't looking for suggestions.) And maybe that person couldn't do Y...it's not a possible choice for that person. Instead I think we (me, you, the world at large) should be offering "Attagirls" and "Attaboys" to the people doing *anything* helpful to the environment, thanking them for what they do. Telling them it's not enough is likely to rouse resistance, defensiveness, even denial.

Decades ago, back in the 1970s, I had a prof in grad school who was already concerned about the garbage problem and mentioned (but without laying guilt on the class) that his family put out only a certain amount every week, because he had become concerned. Some of us in the class (I among them) looked at what we put out and made changes...just because we had learned what was possible.

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