Thursday, November 17, 2011

Earth, Water, and Fire

We all know the stories of the three little pigs; each one built his home in a different way.  I come from a story of the three little sisters, each of whom is nuts about conserving a different kind of thing.

One sister conserves earth (or, at least material stuff).  She lives in Ithaca, on the edge of a lake.  Everything that gets into her home comes down a long (lonnnng) hill, from the edge of the road down to her home by the lake.  Everything that goes out of her home goes UP the same hill.  She's a master of low-waste living, making my own garbage organization system look simple by comparison.  She's the one who hunts for recycling bins for our rented condo on vacations.  

Another sister conserves water.  She lives in the dry desert of San Diego.  She keeps a bucket at the base of her kids' slide.  When her neighbor up the hill waters (or over-waters) the lawn, she and her daughters run outside to put buckets in the gutters to catch the run-off.  She weirds her husband out with the "if-it's-yellow, leave-it-mellow" non-flushing routine.  I try to conserve water (low-flow shower heads, special hand-washing techniques), but I don't have the same environmental pressure to do so -- this year, my area is getting so much rain that we're fighting mold in the home (ew!).  

My favorite money-saving tool.
And me?  I'm the light-switch dominatrix (that's sort of like conserving fire, right?).  The year that my husband was in Iraq, I spent about $25/month on electricity; when he returned, that figure doubled.  I follow people around the house, turning lights off after them.  I trained my sons to do the same thing -- I'm sure we're annoying.  I like to think I'm Christian, but I bet if Jesus came to tell me it was time to go to heaven, I'd tell him I have to turn off the lights in the dining room first.    

Like the three little pigs, we have a great time being together in one place, and we all have our own stories about what the big, bad wolf really looks like. 


  1. Sounds like a very responsible family. Some good suggestions. We recycle, and I'm better now at opening the curtains during the day for natural light as opposed to turning on the lights (and, okay, sometimes I even stumble around in the dark at night), but we get about 28" of rain a year, on a slow year, so water conservation is less of an issue. And with all the flooding this year, nobody even wanted to see more water.

    On the lights issue, you might want to think about a relatively inexpensive fix for your rooms to save on all that switching. The grocery stores now use these little sensors that turn on the lights in their display cases when it senses motion in front of the case, then they fade out after the motion has passed. They have similar sensors and timers for home room lighting too. Just a though to conserve some of your time too from having to monitor light switches.

  2. Susan, thanks for the suggestions. We tried motion sensors in some of our rooms several years ago, and they didn't really seem to work well for us. Either they couldn't detect movement in the right place (our kids had to dance around the room to get the light to turn on), or they'd turn off by themselves while a kid was reading quietly. It might be worth revisiting them to see if they've gotten more user-friendly in the last decade. - MM