Learning to Live Green by Looking at Where I Don’t
I know that Los Angeles has been having a heat wave, but where I am (and for most of the nation), winter hit hard this last month. From huge snow storms to just plain old cold weather, it was the definition of winter. Of course, when it’s cold and snowy and just plain unpleasant outside, the temptation is to snuggle up and hibernate indoors. And that’s what I did. I developed an intimate relationship with my apartment. However, I also learned that when you’re holed up in your flat wearing sweatpants, the tendency exists to get lazy on the eco front as well. And I did. As I reflected on my lazy, indoor winter period, I noted a lot of areas where I could have been a more eco-friendly shut in!
The TV Was On All Day – Every Day
Admittedly, for at least a portion of this time, I was engrossed in coverage of Tunisia and then Egypt. However, the more time you spend hanging out indoors, the more the idea of some background noise appeals to you. Unless you have purchased an incredibly eco friendly television set, simply running your television in the background to create a noise effect uses a lot of wasteful energy. Don’t forget, most U.S. electricity is coal powered right now. If your television is running twenty-four/seven, then you’re responsible for the coal that’s burning to power it. Learn to embrace the silence, or at least use something slightly less energy impactful like a battery operated radio or laptop that uses reusable, rechargeable batteries.
The Solution: Actively turn the television off when you’re done watching a particular show. That means that you’ll have to actively turn it back on when you’re ready to focus and watch it again, and it won’t just be burning energy creating background noise. If you get up to go do something in the house, turn the television off until you settle back down and the couch absorbs you for more television watching.
Boiling Water in Excess Amounts to Create More and More Water Waste
A while back, I was reading a study in The Guardian about the carbon footprint of making a cup of tea. The article broke the carbon footprint down by what would happen if you boiled only the water that you needed for your cup of tea versus what happens when you heat up a huge excess of water. Even if you don’t waste the extra water that you’ve boiled and instead reboil it the next time that you make yourself a hot-water beverage, you’re using extra energy to boil more water. With it being winter outside, the desire for tea, hot chocolate and even the occasional warm whiskey drink drove a lot of my beverage consumption. And because I was winter-lazy, I often didn’t think to monitor how much water I was boiling. If we all only boiled enough water for exactly what we were going to drink, we’d be decreasing energy usage in small amounts that added up incrementally.
The Solution: Rather than keep a constantly full kettle on the stove, always have your kettle (or tea pitcher) empty and then only pour in enough water for what you’re about to drink. If you must, fix this by using the microwave to heat individual cups (though we hate microwaves). Many companies also make individual cup coffee and tea machines these days, and while we don’t love the waste of the plastic of the packets for the individual drink sizes, it does present an option if you’re prone to being wasteful with your hot water beverages.
More Clothes – Less Turning of the Thermostat Dial
I suspect this is one that we’re all guilty of. I like it warm. I’m a west coast girl in an east coast winter. I would live in temperatures in the triple digits all of the time if I could, so when it gets cold outside, my thermostat dial starts to crawl up in order to compensate. I know how bad that is. I know that I should put on an extra sweater or sweatshirt. I know these things. However, that didn’t stop me from turning up the thermostat and then snuggling in – while wearing a t-shirt. Now, in my defense, usually about an hour after I did this, I would feel guilty and turn the heat down and retrieve a sweater (and extra socks). However, it was still my first instinct to solve the problem with the cold by simply turning up the heat – and burning fossil fuels as a result.
The Solution: I ended up writing a post-it note to myself and leaving it by the thermostat asking myself if I’d already put on extra clothes. It didn’t always stop me, but it did reduce my thermostat-happy ways!
Winter isn’t even close to finished, so there’s a real opportunity for me (and for you) to mend some of our less eco-friendly winter ways. Even if it’s white outside, we can still go green with our efforts to stay warm and happy. Green living isn’t all produce and outdoor living, it’s about making the best of being trapped indoors too! Now, stay warm out there!