Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thrifty environmentalism

I love when studies or findings by important science-like people confirm my faith. A new DNA study says most American Indians descend from just 6 women. For all you LDS people, you know what this means. If you don’t know and want to, just post a comment and I will enlighten.

There are all kinds of environmentalists out there these days. There are the ones who are totally green, who are leaving a “negative” carbon footprint (meaning they are so environmentally friendly that they help offset the carbon emissions of others). There are the “armchair environmentalists”, the ones who will be environmentally friendly if it is easy. And then there are people like me. I am going to term myself a “frugal environmentalist”.
The more I read, the more I find that being frugal and being environmentally friendly seem to go hand in hand, whether the frugal people know it or not. By reusing our items until they wear out, we are saving them from an early landfill grave. By recycling aluminum cans to make money, we are reducing our trash output. By eating leftovers and composting inedible foods, we are keeping that out of the landfill, and improving our financial and soil states. I like to think that I am frugal- no thrifty. (I like thrifty better.) As a thrifty environmentalist, I try to reduce what we buy, to save money. This helps out the environment too.
I worry about our environment. I worry about what kind of air our kids will have to breathe, and what kind of water they will have to drink. I worry about the ability of the US to continue to support her people in a healthy state, given the unhealthy attitude we have towards trash, and specifically what is trash and when something becomes trash (way too much and way too soon are my thoughts). We got a recycling bin a few months after we moved in. We had to pay extra for it (I think it was $3.00 a month or a year or something, rather cheap. Our escrow pays our trash, so I don’t think about it too much). Before we got the recycling bin, our trash can was FULL, every week! This year it is free. I like to think that we helped push that along since we demonstrated interest in it. Our recycling bin is full almost every other week when they pick it up, and we usually have a single bag of trash. So much is recyclable, and it is so easy. We bought an extra trash can (they didn’t give us one for inside, which I thought was odd) and it sits by the real trash can, so anytime something is recyclable, in it goes.
But, even though I worry about these things, we are not in a position to do much about them. I would love to buy organic fruits and veggies, but cannot afford them. I did buy a fuel-efficient car, but because it would save me gas money, not because it was good for the environment. I try to turn off lights that Alann leaves on EVERYWHERE HE GOES! But not because I am worried about the carbon dioxide output of the burning of the coal to power them, but because he WASTES SO MUCH MONEY!! (Really honey, leaving the garage light on for hours when you are in the TV room or office, not a good financial move!) We switched to CFL where we could, for the same reasons (by the way, when you buy CFL, buy a wattage-equivalent higher than you normally would. If you like 60 watt bulbs, put in 75 or 100 watt equivalents, they just aren’t as bright.) Alann thinks I am crazy because of, well many things, but in particular, the way I view paper towels. He sees paper towels as a towel, to be used at any point (even when the fabric towel is hanging right there from the oven door. He says he never knows if they are clean or not. Of course they are clean, or I wouldn’t rehang it. If it is dirty, I would put it in the dirty pile and hang a clean one. You are the one balling them up in random places: on the counter, on the stove, on top of the microwave. But I digress.) He would dry dishes with paper towels if he could get away with it. I see paper towels as a way of dealing with something that I don’t want to have to clean up or might present a food safety hazard. Yesterday morning when I started the chicken for dinner, I patted it dry with a paper towel, because using a real towel could have resulted in cross contamination. This way, it was safer and cleaner. When the dogs make a mess, I clean it up with paper towels so that I don’t have to clean it again when I wash towels. I very rarely use them to dry my hands. It just doesn’t make economic sense. If I can run my washing machine for about $1.00 a load (which I am totally guessing on. I have seen some figures that put it at about this, including laundry detergent that I make myself), and this load of kitchen towels lasts me 2 months, I would have to buy probably 6 rolls of paper towels to totally replace these. That would cost me $1.00 a roll, if I am lucky. So I am saving $5 dollars by using reusable towels. I like $5.00. Little savings add up over the long run, as do little things we can do to help the environment.
And sometimes I am just thinking about environmentally friendly options because they are cool. I am currently enamored with reusable grocery bags. I am debating if I want to buy fabric and make some, or just buy premade ones. Also, I like the idea of using collapsible storage crates (usually seen in office supply stores, though also available at wal-mart or target online). The idea being that rigid and heavy items (cans) go in the crates, which makes them easier to transport, and the other items go in the bags. I haven’t gotten Alann onboard with this idea yet. Every 4th or 5th shopping trip, we save the bags for reuse, but otherwise they go in the recycling box. We just don’t use enough of them to justify saving them EVERY time. We don’t put a bag in our small trash cans, because we don’t really put anything sticky in there. We just empty them into the big bag when it goes out. I have a Kleenex box full of grocery bags (nice recycling trick huh? Keeps them in one place and accessible) that we almost never use.
Of course, if we try to use “green” bags, then we have to deal with either packing the groceries ourselves (which most the time I wish I had done anyway since I am so much better at it then most of those kids) or trying to get the people to understand what I want. (I have noticed that if I separate my items when I put them on the belt, then they are more likely to be packed that way. Cold together, frozen together, cans together, non-food together. This is how I was trained when I worked in the grocery store, and it makes sense too.) Though I have noticed that Smith’s and Wal-Mart and Home Depot (of all places) offer reusable shopping bags (for purchase), so maybe they are getting more into it. Of course, it has their logo, so no wonder they are into it! Free advertising at work, and free advertising that also implies that they care about the environment. What more could they ask for?
The thing that stops me from making my own bags is I doubt my abilities on the sewing machine. I can sew. I do sew. I rather enjoy sewing. But if the pattern uses words that I am not familiar with, like gusset (that one scares me a lot), then I get lost if there isn’t a picture and a clear explanation. If it just says “sew the gusset along the bottom” it might as well be greek. I would love to take a sewing class and learn some more, but I have never looked into it. Plus I really hate the “easy” patterns for bags. They are canvas with the nylon webbing for handles, which HURTS after a while, and leaves nasty bruises on my arms if I carry them there. So I am stuck with gussets and harder patterns to decipher. Plus I have to decide what kind of fabric to use and where to get it and try to get a good price because if it is $5.00 a yard and each yard makes 2 bags, ok I am still ahead because the bags I really want ( if you are interested) sell for about $6.33 a bag, not including shipping. So I save about $3.00 a bag if I make it myself, assuming very expensive fabric. But I also have to create a pattern (I have some ideas) and then do the sewing. Hmm, things to think about. Man I miss having a spring break!


Bowles Family said...

You are such a good person. I admire you. :) I am not a very thrifty or environmental person. We did finally get our recycling can and have used it more than i imagined we would, but I still like having all the lights on. I also am not overly thrifty because convenience usually wins out with me over a couple extra dollars. This is why I will never be a great budgeter. Oh well. I have other strengths, right? Not sure what they are, but I'm positive they're there.

Teene said...

Just because it says organic does not necessarily mean it is better. I don't believe the laws on putting the label "organic" on it are very strict. But perhaps you could look into this for me as you seem to have some spare time on your hands for research. BTW I'm not LDS, but could you enlighten me on the American Indian thing?

Becca said...

Shannon, you have plenty of other strengths. And I admire you too.

According to our doctrine and the Book of Mormon, the Native Americans descended from a group of Jews who fled Jerusalem before it was destroyed (about 600 B.C.) They were lead by their prophet (who was the father of some) to the sea shore and then to America which was the promised land. There were somewhere between 20 and 30 people who left Jerusalem(best guess by scholars, it isn't specific in the scriptures). From there, they prospered, multiplied, split apart, and fought wars. The righteous Nephites became wicked, and were utterly destroyed by the Lamanites. The Lamanites then were free to populate the continent. Thus, it comes as no surprise that all Native Americans came from just a few women.