Change the World Wednesday, That One Thing

It’s time for another challenge today at Reduce Footprints, this one is giving me problems.  I’m need to ask for your help.

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This week, consider that one, green-living practice which you haven’t quite gotten to and … just do it! Take that first step, and give it a try!

 

OR …

If you’ve accomplished it all, please tell us about your most difficult, green task and how you overcame the obstacles.

 

 

Here’s where your help comes in. I’m not perfect, far from it but I think I am pretty close to as green as I can get.  Below I am going to list all the things I can think of which I’ve mastered in the last two years on my journey.  I’d like you to spot something I could improve on or haven’t thought of. I will accept that as my challenge for the week.

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  1. I am a vegetarian (most days vegan)
  2. I have less than 1 tall kitchen trash sized bag of garbage per year. Most of this comes from what guests leave behind.
  3. I save all the boxes and junk mail left at my apartment building to use in the gardens as weed block rather than recycling.
  4. I gave up my car
  5. I gave up a refrigerator and stove to live here.
  6. I have no air conditioner for summer and hold off on the fan until it’s unbearable.
  7. I have no bills mailed to me and my banking is online.
  8. I don’t save things on the cloud (unless you count this blog)
  9. I don’t shop unless it’s second-hand (or for gifts I might purchase a handmade item)
  10. I have no non-stick cookware
  11. I have no plastic in my kitchen, with the exception of the bags used in my foodsaver
  12. I store my bulk pantry foods in jars saved from food rather than buying jars
  13. When I need to travel outside my hometown I use the Greyhound
  14. I switched all the light bulbs in the apartment to CFL and LED (3 more to switch to LED)
  15. I have plants to clean the air indoors and use all natural cleaners
  16. I eat almost exclusively organic food
  17. I don’t eat out more than one to two times a year.
  18. All my beauty products are natural (baking soda, peroxide, salt and white vinegar)
  19. I don’t own a TV, gaming systems, etc. My only electronics include my phone and the notebook I am using now.

There you have the list of things I can think of off the top of my head.  Yes, I would like to have zero waste and it would be nice to never recycle, as that uses resources, but I have to be honest it’s hard.  If you followed the discussion on my post It’s happened, We’ve Outgrown the Earth, you will know I would give up anything I have to save the moon from being mined and I meant that. So please help me to come up with a new challenge for my life.

I hope you have fun with this challenge.  Maybe you would like to see me work on an area that gives you trouble mastering.  This is your chance.

what should my challenge be this week?

42 thoughts on “Change the World Wednesday, That One Thing

  1. Lois, you are a wonderful example of someone who is doing so much within your life to help the world with your decreased footprint… And your impressive list is unprecedented.. I doubt I could match it…
    And you have left me scratching my head as what else I could add..
    I know I save all rain water in many water barrels for watering.. I put a brick/stone in the toilet water system so each flush uses less water.. Although with all the rain the UK has experience this winter LOL… ;-)

    You are an inspiration Lois.. truly you are… :-)

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    • Sue, I have not gotten approval yet to add rain barrels to the building. One step at a time. :-) But I do have a filled bottle in my tank to offset the water. I am hoping the process speeds up and my bathroom remodel is done soon which would include a toilet with little water usage.

      I would rather have your rain than our sub freezing temperatures. Our lakes and streams never seem to recover to their previous levels.

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      • Yes it seems Lois that many parts of the world are having a tough time of the weather.. You with snow and sub-zero temps.. Us with storms and horrendous floods..The Floods thankfully are not in our area.. But I have had to travel through flooded roads of 4 to 5 inches of water to get to work.. The drains can not take it.. Its been raining so hard.. and the winds have been Hurricane force.. It was scary last evening.. But we are good here.. :-)

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        • Sue, so glad to hear you are safe where you are at. Between the frosts in the south and drought in the west I’m not looking forward to hearing the end results. Hope your rains stop soon and give you a break.

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  2. The geothermal heat pump system we put in has been great, it even works the hot water heater, but no one seems to know about this type of system. We did have some pipes burst in the apartment bathroom over the garage during the recent severe cold, we had been out of town and while we did not set the thermostats back because we were away, neither were we home to potentially anticipate a problem in that vulnerable area to shunt more heat there. Anyway, the homeowners insurance company adjuster who came to inspect the damage (basically confined to the ceiling of the garage thank God) had a lot of questions about the heating system as he had never heard of such a thing, but when he called the next day to say the check was coming so we could have the repairs done, he had done some research because he was very impressed with the setup and how progressive we were. Pretty funny since it was installed 16 years ago. The best part for me of this system is how well it cools the house in summer for just enough electricity to run a whole house fan. I am very sensitive to heat due to the spinal injury, I can hardly stand it over 70°, I rapidly overheat, so this system is wonderful. If more people had it, there would be no brownouts from ac use, no propane or heating oil bills, much less money for utility companies. Hmm, is that why no one hears about these systems?

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  3. Hmmmm… well, you are certainly putting the rest of us to shame.

    I think that for me the biggest thing I still haven’t mastered is going to bed earlier and getting my days more closely aligned with actual sunlight. Most people don’t think of that as an eco-thing, but I know I’d use less electricity if I wasn’t such a night owl. I do pay extra to get all of my electricity from wind power, but still…

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    • Well, Cat you just gave away the only challenge I have come up with. I may only have one lamp on which uses 13 watts but still that’s electricity I could save by going to bed earlier. I am going to give it another go but trying to go to bed 1 hour earlier each day or at least every other day to get my body used to it. Wish me luck.

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        • Well, I failed last night. :-( I was reading a book that was almost to the end, so I thought and read losing track of time. I may have to set an alarm to remind me a half hour before the time I intend to go to bed. I did wake up earlier this morning, 9am because the sun was out shining brightly which lit up the room.

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  4. Wow! You are a great example of how a person can actually do all these things without spending a fortune. Have you ever written an ebook of helpful hints or your story of how you were able to accomplish this life style? That would be about the only thing I could think of to add to how you are helping the environment, educate others as to how they can do the same. You have already done that with your family and with your blog, but maybe expand on it? If you came across a solar charging flashlight that charges your phone too at a yard sale, you could add that on, I have a flashlight that opens into 3 panels that can charge a cell phone. I keep an emergency radio/flashlight on my window sill that has a solar panel as well as a crank for cell phone charging, emergency reports and light source for power failures. I always take it when we travel. I splurged and bought my son a biolite stove for his birthday for his primitive camping, it uses any dry twigs or biomass for fuel to cook plus the fire runs a charger for your cell phone. He had a dangerous situation last year where he and a friend got lost on a winter hike and were out all night. They used survival techniques and were fine, no hypothermia or frostbite and when rescuers found them they were nearly back on their own and walked out with the rescuers, but their cell phones had died while they were trying to find a signal to call for aid. I like having some backup for my cell phone to charge in a power failure. A bit off topic but like I said, finding a small solar power charger for your cell phone cheap at a yard sale and using it would be a small benefit for the environment. But I think you are already an inspiration.

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    • Just want to offer a quick thought on solar charging devices. Having purchased a few of them, I’ve now decided that the better way to go is to get standard battery operated devices, but use rechargeable batteries, and get a solar charger. I don’t think it would work for cell phones, but for anything that takes standard batteries, it’s the way to go.

      The reason is that when you have to leave something like a radio or flashlight in the sun to recharge, the expanding and contracting caused by repeated sun exposure causes the internal circuitry to fail much quicker than it otherwise would… Ask me how I know… yes, I have a pile of dead solar lanterns, radios, flashlights etc that I still haven’t quite been able to bring myself to toss because they seemed like such a good idea at the time!

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      • Cat, thank you I never thought of that. Too bad you had to learn the hard way. I have been looking less at solar chargers and more at a crank option as I only have one window and it’s east facing. I only have direct sunlight in the summer months until just shy of 2pm and earlier than that in winter.

        Could you find replacement parts for your lanterns? Maybe turn them into holders for candles? I don’t know what yours look like so I’m having trouble coming up with solutions for you.

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        • Well… it might be possible to repair them… the one that really broke my heart was the camping lantern. But CatMan says it would require taking out the circuit board and testing each solder joint to see if it’s making a good connection (apparently that’s where they tend to fail) – in prior years he would have had it fixed in an hour or so, but because of his neck problems he can’t do that sort of work anymore, and I’m not exactly um… skilled in that area!

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          • Could you hire someone? We have a company a few miles away that does that kind of work and due to cutbacks the employees are finding outside work to supplement their income by taking on little jobs like you have.

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      • Thats good to know about the solar. I haven’t had a problem with mine yet. I do use rechargeable batteries but I have not been using a solar device to charge them, I will have to investigate that. My husband is an engineer but he works long hours between being the only wage earner, taking care of me and running the household since I can no longer do the cooking, shopping, laundry, cleaning. I hate to bug him too much about the technical stuff. We are trying to investigate alternative energy for the new house. Solar will be more feasible when we move to NC, where we live in NYS is considered one of the cloudiest places in the country, I found it amusing that in the Twilight book series Rochester and Ithaca, both close to where I live, were cited as places the vampires chose to live because there were so many overcast days. We do have lots of wind turbines. There was a lot of opposition to them, but I have seen them in Europe when my husband was working there, and I don’t find them to be the eyesore others do. I realize they are possibly a risk for birds, but the experience in our area seems to be the birds aren’t getting into them. Maybe our birds are better at dodging, IDK.

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        • Ha! I went to school in upstate NY… Colgate U – it’s about 45 minutes south of Utica, so I’m familiar with the never ending gray skies in those parts!

          I saw a documentary about the horrors of wind turbines… and I’ve gotta say I’m not sure I’d want to live in the shadow of one. Fortunately out here in the west we’ve got miles and miles of empty ranch land where the windmills can spin to their heart’s content and not bother anybody (except maybe the cows and the poor little birdies.)

          I’ve thought about rooftop solar, but it’s still pretty expensive, and since I’ve lost 2 roofs to hail over the past 15 years, I worry that solar panels could easily get wiped out. But I’ve heard they’re making great advances in terms of making them more efficient, so maybe they’ll come up with a way to make them stand up to golf ball sized hail too!

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          • It is a dilemma trying to decide how to go to capture energy in a way that is cost effective and bothers the environment as little as possible. The house we presently live in and built over 16 years ago uses a heat pump/geothermal heating and cooling system that had paid for itself many times over, it takes a little electricity to run but not much. We would like to do something similar in the new house but are having trouble finding someone who knows what we are talking about. We are considering the rocket mass heater but my husband isn’t sure he is comfortable with the idea. We try to keep energy use to a minimum but he works from home so some things need to be kept running. He is a television addict so we have to have at least one tv on at all times. I manage to turn it off after he falls asleep. For my part, I no longer watch tv unless I watch it with him, I turn off all the lights in the rest of the house once he retreats to his home office(with the only tv that is newer than the house) and I use my galaxy note tablet for nearly everything. It is interesting how this technology has eliminated the need for multiple gadgets, it is my computer, radio, alarm, camera, library (with cookbooks/recipes, patterns for knitting crocheting and crafts, as well as books for entertainment and education) tv/video viewer, even mostly replaces a phone with skype and hangouts for IM. My tablet even has handwriting and voice recognition. The ability of one small device to do all these things has allowed me to get rid of all the other stuff, in fact I find it ironic that this advance in technology has allowed people to pursue living in smaller houses and to telecommute, both better for the planet because of downsizing. I would have to sit down and calculate out the electrical savings of using just this one device in place of others, but it does not include the energy used for manfacture, purchasing and upkeep of multiple devices. I can see with my son and his wife how they use their laptops, they each have one from college plus my dil uses her for grad school. They do not have radios, stereos, alarm clocks, tvs, video players or game players, just the laptops.
            A final comment on rising and retiring with the sun. We followed that more closely when I was growing up on the farm. My husband spent 2 years working in Netherlands about 7 years ago and he still rises early and retires early since that shift in his body’s clock. He mainly works from home but feels he gets more done if he is up at 4 am and has quiet time before the phone calls start at 9 am. Since I follow his schedule I get up early too, I don’t sleep much at night but find my eyes adjust to the dark if I am up to the bathroom and if I need to be occupied my tablet provides plenty of light. The long dark of the NYS winter makes it difficult, you would be in bed 12 hours a day!

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          • Yes, we have some really gray days around here. It’s not as bad where I am as in that particular NY area. But today the sun is shining brightly for which I am thankful for.

            I’ve seen and read about the dangers of wind turbines. I love seeing the wind farms out west they look beautiful but like you don’t know if I would want one in my back yard. Of course I don’t want high power electrical lines or a cell phone tower either. The funny thing is if we cut back enough (and changed zoning like that will happen) people could go back to the smaller ones on their own property that we used to see on farms. I don’t think they would generate enough power to run some houses today on their own.

            The other thing that was very popular in areas with water, like where I live, were personal watermills. There is an old mill which is slowly falling apart but through the collapsed walls you can see the watermill still in place. If it could operate a mill it could generate power for one off grid on the right location.

            I have always wondered about solar panels on rooftops in areas that get a lot of snow. It seems to me you would have to be up there shoveling them off at a minimum, but what about ice storms how would that affect their ability to capture? I noticed in the one picture you showed of Smoky climbing your patio door that you don’t have a very large yard so a stand alone array is probably out of the question.

            Some thing you may want to check into are the new windows with solar cells built in to the glass. They are supposed to be opaque since you say you need to replace your windows at some point. There was a company that started in Ohio that made a film for windows with cells built in and marketed to the government and power companies. They were turned away but found a market in Germany and now other EU countries. I can’t remember the name of the company but you could probably do a search and find it.

            Since you are so good a DIY, you may be interested in this. http://www.instructables.com/id/Foil-Solar-Panels-for-Windows-VERY-Easy/

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    • Maryalma, how fortunate your son was fine after getting lost on a hike! My oldest son was very interested in survival skills in case he ever got lost as well. He read every Tom Brown Jr. book he could find. I can’t tell you the number of journals he filled with sketches of animal prints or scat and the research he did.

      As for a crank flashlight, that is already on my wishlist. I want one that has the ability to charge a phone on the one I get. Soon.

      I will have to think about an ebook. I know there are quite a few books out there on living a greener life so if I do it I want it to be different and be of good value. Thanks for the suggestion.

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      • We didn’t know about them being lost until after they were found, his wife didn’t want to worry us. Our son went to a Christian college where many students come from missionary families and many go into the missionary field, so they routinely are taught survival skills. One semester our son lived for a month in the woods around the college, which is in rural southwestern NYS. His only shelter was a tarp, no tent. I think he did get to take showers at the athletic center. He has spent 4 weeks in Nepal working in a leper colony and in an orphanage. He said he took the coldest shower of his life while there. His wife has been to Tanzania several times where she teaches disabled people how to make beads from paper and then make jewelry to support themselves. She teaches other crafts as well using available materials that would otherwise be considered trash. She went to the same college as our son, they met there. They are a great match and had a beautiful outdoor wedding, no fancy gown or tuxes, the flowers all came from my mothers garden, they used river stones to line the aisle, the rings they exchanged had been my parents wedding rings(my dad died almost 30 years ago and my mother gave them the rings to use when she heard they did not plan to buy rings, they were delighted to have rings that meant so much), the wedding favors were lemon thyme plants the bride had grown and planted in salvaged tin cans decorated with strips of fabric, and they washed each others feet as part of the ceremony. It was a beautiful wedding and definitely fits with being environmentally friendly as well as being frugal. I can hardly wait to see how things go when they have kids.

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        • Your son and his wife sound perfectly matched. Their wedding must have been beautiful and so much nicer because of the little touches they made themselves and added.

          I don’t even want to imagine living outside without a tent in cold weather but it was good your son had that training.

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  5. WOW, Lois! I am beyond impressed with your list! You are one of the deepest-green people I know. You left off two admirable things on your list that I know from reading this blog that you do: taking military showers, and trying to wear warmer clothing instead of turning up the heat higher than necessary. (I just want you to get full credit for your remarkable style of living.)

    I also think it’s beautiful that you are setting this example of how to live for your grandchildren. To be honest, it troubled me to read a few posts back how your son thinks the earth is beyond repair at this point, so he doesn’t bother. (I’m paraphrasing–I know it wasn’t exactly that.) To me, that’s like saying “we’re all going to die anyway someday, so let’s just smoke cigarettes and eat burgers & fries all day, every day, instead of being the healthiest we can be.” Although we human beings have done an awful lot of irreparable damage to the earth (hole in the ozone, melting icebergs, etc.), I do think that if we each do our part to slow the decline of the planet instead of hastening it, we are doing something more than worthwhile for ourselves, the generations to come, wildlife, and the planet. I’m so glad you have a blog to spread your message.

    I’m 100% with you on the second-hand shopping. I’m not a shopper in the least, but when I do shop for the kids, I use consignment shops. (I’m going to write about that soon at my blog.) I’m a huge believer in not creating more new clothes in foreign countries with questionable working conditions, and then adding in all the pollution from manufacturing and delivery.

    As for suggestions, you are far greener than I am, but since you asked for some ideas, how are you doing with paper products, other than paying bills online? One of my biggest areas of concern is deforestation, so that’s always on my mind. My guess is that you are probably already on top of that, though!

    I really can’t thank you enough for spreading your message, Lois. It really gives me hope.

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    • Joy, thank you. My military showers and bundling up in the winter are things I simply take for granted, along with paper products. Some things are so ingrained they feel normal to me. But yes I will address paper products in a follow-up.

      I’m with you on our over reliance on trees for our needs. I am the black sheep of my family. My sister, when she bought her house, had two 100+ year old maples tron down because she didn’t want leaves littering her yard. I nearly lost it. I pleaded with her not to cut them down. I used every argument I could from lower electric bills from the shade in summer to cleaning the air she breathes as she lives in the city. Nothing worked, but I’m the crazy one because I try not to disturb nature and enjoy raking leaves.

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      • I would have argued with that sister, too! You tried your best. That saddens me about those old trees. I grew up with a huge forest in our back yard in Connecticut, and the whole thing was cut down for suburban sprawl. It deeply affected me (actually, the very first post I wrote at my blog was about that forest and what it meant to me). We have a forest in our back yard now and it’s designated as protected land–I hope it stays that way. We have old-growth trees that are rather close to our house, but I’d rather just take my chances than cut them down–I couldn’t bear to do it. We’ve been through hurricanes and massive snowstorms, and those old Oaks are still standing, so I’ll knock on wood that they stay that way!

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        • Joy, I don’t think I could stay living in a place where my trees had been cut down. How awful for you. I’m glad you have your trees where you are now and that they are protected.

          Yes, I would risk damage from the trees before cutting them down. My grandfather had 2 soft maples that he had to have cut down after damage to the house in an ice storm. I still remember watching him in his late 60s climbing the iced covered trees to tie up the branches and keep them off the house. But with soft maples the root systems don’t go down far enough to offer stability. so down they came. He did replace them with other trees to help his conscience.

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          • Lois, I was in college when our CT forest was cut down, so thank goodness I did not have to witness it or hear all the buzz-saws. (The buzz-saws after Hurricane Sandy in NJ were dreadful, but necessary–so many trees had downed electrical lines!) But my parents were around while the CT forest was cut down and it was awful for them–my dad was like a caretaker to that forest. The story is here, in case you are ever interested in a read: http://www.joyfullygreen.com/2012/07/beyond-the-back-yard.html

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          • Joy, thank you. I was going to visit and find the post you were talking about but then I got busy. What a wonderful story of an amazing childhood. I’m so sorry your parents had to witness the destruction of the forest. I can imagine their sadness as I would feel a great loss myself.

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  6. Lois, your life is wonderfully intentional!

    I try and do what I can and some days are better than others. But I guess my major contributions to the planet are that I don’t own a car preferring to walk, bike or take public transport during the winter months.

    I also don’t own an air conditioner preferring the natural breeze. Although on those stifling hot days I do use a fan to keep myself cool.

    I also don’t use the cloud and I’m working on eating all organic eventually. I found a great organic farm that features free range animals…and they deliver!! I’ll do a post on that as soon as I receive my first order.

    I also use bus or train when I travel, and I much prefer them over airplanes regardless of the time factor.

    Well, there ya have it…I’ll hopefully add to the list as time goes on :)

    Take care Lois and thank you. My best to all.

    Lyle

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    • Lyle, you are doing great. Giving up a car is one I see as huge. There’s not just the gas we use but all those fluids a car needs. many of which leak and are absorbed into the ground.

      I was so excited to get my driver’s license and my first car I never thought I would one day willingly give up my own vehicle and enjoy life without one, but I really do!

      Congrats on finding an organic farm that delivers. Looking forward to reading what you can get from there and how comfortable you are with the prices.

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  7. You do so much … you’re a true Eco-Superstar. I guess that I would like to see you take on part two of the challenge … to talk a bit about some of the obstacles you faced accomplishing that fabulous list and how you overcame them. I’m sure that we’d all benefit from your tips and strategies.

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  8. I use cloth toilet paper. Super easy to make and saves a ton of money. I do keep it around for quests but that is all. Most people have changed a babies bum, so this is no different. I clean them. Soak in a natural cleaning solution in hot water. Still after 2 years of use they are still unstained. It drove me crazy to see a whole roll of toilet paper for us to be flushed down the toilet every day.

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  9. my gosh, Lois, can’t think of a thing.

    maybe it is time to give yourself a “holiday”….just this once, think of something you truly love to do, smile to yourself, and spend the day in bed with a good book. Grin.

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