Yesterday (Friday) it was Earth Day… except… on Thursday I was online and saw mention of it, and thought I had missed it, and thought “Oh well!” Then yesterday a friend said “you know it’s Earth Day, right?” by which time most of the day was over. So I kind of managed to miss Earth Day twice this year!
The thing is, I feel like I’m doing so much already that it’s hard for me to make an extra effort… which feels like a really bad excuse. But nonetheless, I was going to write about my electricity usage or lack of – I had this post in my Drafts folder for a month – then I saw the ‘Vlog’ over on become-nika about what she does (and what we can all be doing) on a daily basis to contribute towards the environment, and I felt compelled to produce my own sort of reply by way of sharing what I do on a daily basis. And then yesterday I read Stephanie’s “16 Simple Ways to Honor Earth & Help the Environment” on her Earth Day blog post and I wanted to bring that on board too. All links are below.
So yeah, my electricity.
For the coldest months of the year I had been shamefully heating my house with computers – this sounds really silly I know but I’ve been a keen participant in SETI@home for 15+ years; it’s a way of using our computers to contribute towards the search for ETs… extraterrestrials intelligence. I’ve been justifying my taking part during the winter months by using my computers (for which I have a handful) to keep my home warm, instead of using my oil-fuelled central heating.
I decided to only do this until the clocks went forward, so as soon as the end of March arrived I had switched everything off. It was still a little chilly back then to have no heating, but I gradually got used to it, and now the weather has gradually become warmer – on the coolest morning it was 10 degrees C in my kitchen, but this past week, with all the spring sunshine it has reached 15 degrees.
So while Earth Day should have been about switching everything off and using as little electricity as possible (amongst other things), I had already been doing this, and below is a typical daily routine that I have developed with mindfulness of how I treat the planet, but first a list of pointers:
- Some things I take for granted but others who have yet to develop their own routines might think they’re somewhat OCD.
- I’m one guy living on his own – with a house-full of people it’s not so simple to implement new practices; it’s best to start small (target the biggest things in a gentle way) and get everyone on board.
My typical daily routine and considerations:
- Wake up at sunrise to make maximum use of the hours of daylight and minimise my use of electric-powered lighting.
- Make a note of electricity usage, taking into consideration what I did the previous day to contribute to particularly high usage (use of oven, lots of time on the computer etc)
- Wash/shave with cold water, don’t leave the tap running when brushing teeth, don’t shower/wash hair every day. people who do are probably in the “that’s gross” camp, but really it’s not, and unless you work down a coal-mine it’s probably not necessary. I find a kettle of hot water is sufficient for hair washing (washing hair in ice-cold water is not particularly pleasant) and a shower uses less water than a bath.
- Breakfast – I typically have a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea. Porridge seems particular minimal with regards to packaging, and even the black tea I’ve recently opted for bagless, because, well, what are teabags made out of? – Put them on your compost heap and check on them in a year and tell me they’re biodegradable!
- Washing dishes – I recently bought a new ‘mega pack’ sized bottle of dishwashing liquid (Fairy-branded), and was somewhat alarmed by the warning label on the back: “Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects” – and to think that virtually every household across the land is using something similar… it all ends up down the drain, is then processed and eventually ends up back in our water supply. I need an alternative, we need an alternative.
- Washing clothes – as mentioned above, I’m one guy living on his own, therefore I have no need for a washing machine; I find I can wash everything by hand either in the sink or in the bathtub, and mostly things dry on their own too – no hungry tumble-drier.
- Recycling – My sister once asked me why I keep my recycling containers in my kitchen (I have one for paper/card, one for glass/milk cartons/recyclable plastics/metal cans, and bag for carrier bags and that type of plastic, all these get collected once a week by our local council, and then a sack for all other plastics which I personally take to the recycling centre every once in a while – not all this get recycling but I avoid directly sending it to landfill. My sister thought it was a weird thing to have all these containers in the kitchen rather than leave them outside or in the garden shed or something, but to me it seems logical. The kitchen is the centre of food creation and food and packaging waste, to make correct disposal of things as convenient and routine as possible it makes sense to have the containers at hand to sling things into; there’s no hiding the waste away or throwing it all in the general waste bin out of convenience, where it will only end up in landfill. I also have a food waste bin which I tip in a compost bin at the end of my garden.
- Cycling – I own a car that hardly gets used, instead, I cycle most days, visiting clients and the shops by bicycle, covering hundreds of miles a month. Not only does this keep me fit and healthy and afford me some fresh air, but it keeps me acclimatised; during the winter I don’t feel so cold inside after I’ve been out for an hour or two and during the warmer months I suffer less from hayfever because pollen isn’t suddenly inflicted on me.
- Computer use – I’m trying to cut back my computer use further and this is tricky. I use my computer for work and leisure; I socialise online, I watch ‘TV’ on it, I play music on it – some of these can be addictive and I feel they form part of a bad habit – just logging in and randomly clicking away rather than switching on with some key purpose in mind. This was easy to do when I had a computer on all the time, but now that I try and keep things switched off I instead create a list of things I want/need to do/search for when I do switch on. I switch my broadband router off at night – some advice is to not keep switching it off and on throughout the day because this can make the exchange perceive this as fault and lower your speed to try and compensate.
- Reading and Writing – okay, some people will find this concept instantly dull, but I find reading and writing very fulfilling, either from the whole absorbing stuff instead of passively watching stuff on a screen, to actively collating my thoughts on various topics. From a green perspective the act of reading and writing with pen and paper are pretty green, while the topics are what I consider to be healthy and helpful to all. I’ve largely moved out of my warm little winter office and away from my computer into my kitchen where I have a table to sit at and ample daylight (it’s not warm enough in there in the winter).
- Food and Cooking – I think I’m pretty mindful about the food I buy, from both a healthy eating perspective, to a healthy packaging perspective. I’ve cut out a lot of stuff from my life, like little plastic-wrapped snacks. Sometimes I will make justifications based on cost, and while to some plastic-wrapped food means clean and sterile, to me it screams unnatural, harmful and ultimately unhealthy. When it comes to cooking I’m a very un-fussy eater, since I cycle a lot and see food as fuel, and since accepting that I’m largely anosmic, I struggle to enjoy food based on what others would find appetising; I have to ponder for a little while to try and decide what my body needs today. I also try and limit my use of the oven and when I do use it I try and use it for more than one thing, such as throwing in some scones to bake while the toad-in-the-hole is doing. I also have a bread oven, although I’m not sure if this is a great deal greener than buying a loaf from the supermarket.
- Bed time – There are a few ways that I try and make this time of the day healthy and mindful. Firstly by not staying up late (see #1), then by not sitting in front of the computer until I pass out – instead I prefer to read quietly in bed, but before bed I like to do some gentle stretches and exercises – these not only help my body with its cycling, because so much can leave me feeling pretty stiff, but also by warming me up before getting into a cold bed while the nights are still a little cool. Before all that, at least an hour before, I have a bowl of porridge and then I go round my house and switch everything off – the only thing left on is my fridge.
As one final note, I think it’s best to start with the biggest things, and cut those back as much as possible, such as car use, leaving computers on, and the use of the oven. Then work your way through the smaller things; leaving a TV on all day is certainly not good – some people “like the company” or need something to drown out some background noise, but perhaps these practices can be trained out of our lives. Leaving lights on is a bad habit, but for me I find the decision to switch a light on to be a vast consideration, like: “do I really need to use my car today” – it’s intriguing how mindsets change. Then it’s about habit-changing, such as sending everything to landfill instead of recycling.
It’s easy to think “what’s the point?” particularly when we don’t see any harmful effects, the financial cost, or the burden these things can put on our lives. We might replaces all of our light-bulbs with low-energy LED equivalents and then see less of a reason to switch them off, or what effect a mobile phone charger has when it’s left plugged in but not charging anything. But when we scale these things up to the whole world the effects ARE meaningful.
And as a second final note, I think all of these things work together, it’s about changing our lives; some people will target their recycling, others will target their electricity usage. I suppose I have gradually looked at each area of my life, and continue to do so, and in addition to these things I find it all boils down to mindset; being mindful of all this stuff, and then also that stuff if ‘material’ and all this stuff expresses just how materialistic we are and that changing this is at the core of it all.
Links to others:
Further reading on my blog: