In an old yoga DVD of mine, the instructor suggests that as you practice yoga more, you’ll start gravitating towards cleaner things in life — cleaner food, cleaner energy, etc. I’ve found this to be true of exercise generally. Once I get into a good routine, I naturally find myself craving healthier foods. This is probably both because my body needs more energy to sustain the the workouts, and because once I’m devoting time and energy to an exercise regime I’m more hesitant to undo all my hard work by eating junk.
The same type of shift seems to be at work with our new attempts at frugality. As we look for ways to streamline spending, we are also (sometimes intentionally and sometimes as an unintended consequence) reducing our waste and energy consumption. Many of these changes feel minuscule, but on the theme of “the little things add up,” perhaps over time, they’ll amount to a noticeable difference. In the meantime, I get a little self-righteous thrill out of the small ways we’re reducing our environmental impact. Here are a few:
We insulated the exposed pipes from our hot water heater. This has allowed us to drop the temperature we heat the water to by several degrees, thereby reducing our electricity use by some amount.
We replaced all of the halogen bulbs in our house with LEDs — an up front cost that is supposed to pay for itself in electricity savings over the long run.
We’ve been closing our blinds during the day in summertime to keep out the sun, and opening them in cooler weather to let the sun heat the house. Our house is specifically designed to take advantage of the sun in winter and block out direct sunlight in summer; we’re changing our habits to give it an even bigger boost.
When we shower, we’ve been turning off the water when it’s not needed. A wimpy man’s navy shower, if you will.
We’ve been flushing the toilet less — if it’s yellow let it mellow!
We’ve started composting. This one is not going to save us money — in fact it’s costing money. We live in a city and signed up for a compost service that comes once a week to empty our bucket for us. But… given all our other environmental changes, my husband got inspired to give composting a shot!
We keep the windows open whenever possible instead of running AC. We always have done this, but have installed more ceiling fans in the house to make it feel comfortable inside even at higher temperatures.
We’re trying to cook outside on hot days. Nobody wants to slave over a hot stove in the middle of summer, but in our house you REALLY feel the heat of the stove or oven because it’s so well insulated. Cooking in the kitchen on a hot day makes the main part of our house unbearably hot for an hour or so, and I picture the AC cranking extra hard to return us to normalcy. So we’ve been making an extra effort to cook whatever we can outside on the grill. Last week, I tried grilling broccoli instead of roasting it (it definitely tastes better roasted, for the record, but it was worth a shot); we always cook our corn on the cob outside now, and try to choose meals that do not require heavy kitchen use!
We’ve been hanging our clothes instead of running the dryer. We don’t do this for everything — towels, for example, really benefit from being fluffed in the dryer. But we’ve been hanging most of our clothes on a drying rack, which should save on electricity AND make the clothes last longer to boot.
Our electric bills have been lower, but it’s hard to tell whether this is due to our habits or something else — relatively temperate weather, for example. We’ll have to keep an eye on it over time and see how we do!
Meanwhile, buying things used also has a positive environmental impact. Instead of manufacturing a new thing, we’re getting things that are already in the stream of commerce. And, used things don’t come with all the packaging new things come with either!
Will these little changes let us leave the rat race? Not standing alone, but they can’t hurt, and they feel pretty good!