Monday, December 21, 2009

Eco Housework: Any Takers?

There's a new way to avoid housework now: "I'd do it, but not if I have to be all environmental about it!" Eco-laziness is the new learned helplessness. Well, in my family anyway....

"I'd do the laundry all the time if I could just put it all in the dryer." I am a bit fanatical about the dryer because it's the biggest unessential power-hog in the house. (I think the fridge is essential.) I keep it around for the wet bed and blankets in the middle of the night in the middle of winter washing that still happen occasionally. We have a tiny bathroom, but I found a way to hang laundry in there: big stuff on closet bars and small stuff on a rack in a closet. Nobody's as pleased as I am about this. Curious.

"I'd take out the garbage if I could just shove it all in a bag and walk it to the curb." Apparently, I'm the only person to my family's knowledge who sorts garbage. I live in an environmentally-intense neighbourhood, so I find that hard to buy. I put the garbage (mixed materials like plastic attached to foil, and styrofoam only) at the back of the under sink cupboard to make it harder to use it as a dumping ground. The composter, green bin (meat, cheese, kleenex), and bag of bags all go in front. Many people don't realize we can recycle plastic bags in the blue box, but we can. I have a sign on the cupboard door telling people what goes where, but I still end up explaining it every day, or they just leave stuff on the counter for me to figure out later. It's not rocket-science people!

"I'd totally mow the lawn if we had a gas mower, or clear the walk with a snowblower, or rake with a leaf blower." First of all, leaf blowers should be outlawed for being the most inefficient and obnoxious way to move leaves and dirt around. And this is all good exercise in the great outdoors, right?

"I'd do all the dishes if we had a dishwasher." Some people still think dishwashers are more environmental than hand washing because of this study. They looked at how the average European washes dishes and found dishwashers use less water and electricity. But I'm not average, and you don't have to be either. I wash dishes at home the way I was taught to do camping which takes about 1-2" of water in the bottom of our small sink. And I use cool-ish water. To be hygienic enough to stop food-borne illness, Health Media Lab insists the type of soap and the temperature of water don't matter as much as the rubbing. Scrub the dishes, sink, counters and your hands with mild soap and warm water. Some further issues with the study: For the average person, the dishwasher uses less soap, but the soap it uses is much harsher for the water system. It takes a lot of resources to make each automatic dishwasher whereas I came pre-assembled. And the Bonn study project partners were dishwasher manufacturers. Need I say more.

"I'd volunteer if I could get a ride there." I grew up with eight people and a pink Volkswagon Beetle. Mom didn't drive us anywhere. But nobody's mom did, so it wasn't an issue. If you want to take lessons or go to a friend's place, you have to get there yourself. But I also remember quitting piano because I got attacked by kids as I walked home alone every week. I tell my kids to walk in groups.

Driving, dishwashers, dryers....: they all save a bit of time, but how fast do we need to move? I have the best conversations with the kids doing dishes or while we're walking home from the grocery store. And don't get me wrong, I'm dead lazy. I don't own a vacuum cleaner or an iron. I'd always rather read than clean, so if I can muster the time to do it, surely others can too. It's easier for me, perhaps, because I see the rewards so much more clearly than the punishments: the lower electricity bill, the fresh air, the camaraderie of working together...

After watching No Impact Man together, I think I've been able to convince my guy to do a couple things: turn off the computer (and power bar) when he's not using it, and use a travel mug. Not only will the travel mug be great for the environment, it'll save me from kicking away all the non-recyclable Tim's cups from my feet whenever I'm a passenger in his car. Teenagers are a different hurdle.

Part of the problem in our world is what we consider acceptable cleanliness. We have an obsession with the immaculate. It's much easier to be an environmentalist if we lower our standards of cleanliness. If we can tolerate or even learn to appreciate that little stain on our shirt, or the few lines of grass that keep hiding from the push mower, or how the sunlight is filtered through the cats' nose-spots on the windows, then we can get a lot more reading done.

No comments: