Fascist Plumbing and Other Ways to Save Electricity

In a choice between the fight-or-flight response, I come down on the side of flight every time. After two days of contemplating the unbearableness of the state of the planet I moved straight into distraction mode. I finished reading a book on the historical roots of feminism that I didn't get through at university... twenty years ago. I did an editing job for a friend. I have discovered some lovely new blogs. I have counted the petals on the chrysanthemum in the vase on our dining room table (fifty six). I am stuck in that place between terror and action where nothing at all I could do seems relevant, sensible or likely to make any difference at all.

But, if I have learned anything at all in forty two years (forty two? How did that happen?) it's that really, you only have to think about the next thing. Sometimes, it's too overwhelming to do more. The next thing for me is lunch. How could I make my lunch work to lower carbon emissions? Well, it is heated up leftover Chili con Carne. The meat was from the supermarket, wrapped in plastic. I could go to the butcher's and have it wrapped in paper. That means it would also be local, reducing its food miles. The kidney beans were in tins, which are recyclable, but take a lot of energy to produce. I could buy them dry from the wholefood shop and soak them. If I remember. The tomatoes were my own. A win. Yay! The spices I bought home from the wholefood shop in paper bags. The oregano was from the garden. The salsa - made it myself too. Sour cream - plastic pot from the supermarket, brought from far, far away. Will recycle the pot and the foil. I know I could buy it in a paper carton. Can you make sour cream from ordinary cream? At least it could be local then. Then there is the rice, from a long way away. Should we not eat food with the many food miles at all? Should we limit them?

OK, so now I am panicking again.

I know I do not do well thinking about more than one thing at a time. So today I am going to continue thinking about electricity, and another day I will think about food.

Here are the ways we have reduced our use of electricity over the last year or so:

Not using our dryer. Except for the rare domestic emergency (not that domestic emergencies are rare here, just that they don't often involve the dryer. Anymore)
Reducing the number of hours our pool filter is on (we haven't contracted any water-borne diseases. Yet)
Weather proofed and insulated most of the house during renovations.
I've stopped using a hairdryer (and the girls haven't discovered the hair straightener. Yet)
I try to fill up the oven when it is on.
I've discovered I don't need a shower every day during the cold weather (my skin is so much happier about this. I've lost that slightly dry, slightly itchy feeling I was getting when my skin had too much hot water).

Here is what I have been doing over the last couple of weeks:

We have mixer taps in the kitchen and bathroom. You know how you turn the tap to hot, then have to run it for a minute or so for it to get hot, but you get impatient, and just use the cold water anyway? Well, for our 'instant' hot water system, it means it is using electricity to make extra hot water anyway, whether it gets to the tap or not. So our taps are now turned firmly to The Far Right at all times, which makes me really think about whether I need  that hot water or not.

I saw Martha Stewart on some TV show, talking about green cleaning, and she declared that, unless they are really dirty, clothes only need a fifteen minute wash cycle. FIFTEEN! My front loader cycle of choice was fifty three minutes. Well, if it's good enough for Martha... So I have been washing our clothes on the express cycle, fifteen minutes. And they are just fine! The spin cycle isn't as fast, so the washing is slightly damper when it comes out, but that will probably preserve the clothes for longer. They still dry as well, even on the clothes racks downstairs in an unheated room. That saves over half an hour per load, and at three loads, five times a week, that is at least seven and a half hours of electricity a week being saved. I think that must be a win. Also, it is so quick to do the laundry. I keep forgetting about it, but even so, on a sunny day, everything is hanging outside before 9am, to enjoy drying in the breeze. That means a longer drying time, which is so useful in the winter. I am thinking that I will try soaking the 'dirties' for 24 hours, then putting them through the fifteen minute wash, to see if that is effective.

I took Judy's advice and eyeballed the point where one mug's worth of boiling water reaches in the kettle, and have only been filling to there. Kettle boils much quicker!

I don't iron a lot, just business shirts and school uniforms really, but I have told the girls I won't be ironing their school shirts this winter, because they wear jumpers over them; 'Whatevs,' was the response.

Next electricity-saving project: I think the time has come to bravely examine the length of our very hot showers.


Heather said…
It is so easy to get overwhelmed by a mission, wanting to do everything you can all at once. I think as long as we are conscious of our intentions, we will make better and better choices for the things we want to improve over time.

Hot shower reduction...so much easier in the summer when it is warm out. I tell my kids to wet themselves down, turn off the shower, lather up, and then turn on the water long enough to just rinse off. It is way too cold to do that on winter mornings, though.
Jo said…
...As long as we are conscious of our intentions, we will make better and better choices for the things we want to improve over time...

Yes, yes, that is what I needed to hear. Thankyou.

Posy washes her hair using your method, but the rest of us just bask in the hot water!
I remember my mum washing our hair over the bathroom sink when we were young, using a jug of water to rinse. Our baths were about an inch deep because we were on tank water.
Anonymous said…
You sound like you are doing a lot, Green Girl.

Don't want to stress you or anything but you know pools are very un-green? All the power, water and chemicals they use. Maybe you could turn it into a garden? Wouldn't your family love that?

(BTW, 42 is lovely. It is after 45 that everything goes downhill.)
Jo said…
Lucinda, yes, pool is ungreen. Although ours is salt water, so uses hardly any chemicals, and is mostly topped up by Tassie rain. I only had the hose in it once this summer. And The Man has a cunning plan for a magic solar system which may resolve some of the power issues, and maybe heat it as well, which means I might even swim in it.
I wanted an orchard in the space, but I was outvoted. My next plan is to turn it into an aquaculture project. Fresh fish! That hasn't gone down well either, although I tried to sell it as the 'swimming with sea creatures' experience..

I am aware that things will no doubt literally be going pear shaped, age-wise. I think I may have to take up exercise or something...
Jen's Busy Days said…
Ah, glad I am not the only one looking at shortening showers. Our bathroom is a tack on to an old house so I don't think I could get them to turn off to lather but I could certainly use a timer.

My dh quite likes the look of the aquaculture. Maybe the kids would actually catch something when they go fishing! lol

Love to read your ideas and will have to check out that blog you mentioned last post.

Best wishes
Jen in NSW
Jo said…
Let me know how you go with getting children to have shorter showers.. I need all the help I can get. Well, I need to motivate myself as well, of course!
narf7 said…
Have you discoverd the Tamar NRM? They have a lot of amazing free workshops about sustainable living and once a year they have a whole lot of them strung together for a month or two. It is so easy to panic living here in Tasmania because we are on the coalface of what is happening to the world. Right smack bang in the middle of that wonderful hole in the ozone layer and with unemployment hidden despicably behind "work for the dole" and "students" (we are some of those hidden unemployed "students"... 49 and too old for a job!) it is so easy to feel terrified about the future. The future really is in our hands here in Tassie. We can't expect our numpty premier to do much for us and there isn't much of a viable alternative so we just have to do what we can do ourselves. We are planting a food forest that we grew ourselves on our property but everyone can lower their carbon miles and make their lives and the planet a slightly better place. We can't let depression rule us because then we can't be positive. I am a 49 year old penniless student hippy. I live on 4 acres of rock infested silty soil that barely covers some pretty massive yellow clay that sucks the life out of the soil in summer and that floods in summer. I live just around the corner from the proposed Pulp Mill Site...if anyone has a reason to be depressed I think I could put my hand up BUT I am not depressed. I can see reasons for celebration around every single corner. I can grow my own food. I can make a difference to my soil, I learned how thanks to my unemployed student status. Education is incredibly cheap here in Tassie (not that many native Tasmanians care ;) ) and we are taking full advantage of that fact and are learning every single thing that we can to give us back knowledge and ability to live our lives to the fullest doing everything we can ourselves (and saving money in the process). There is always a more environmentally safe way to do things and its fun to go hunting for just how to do it. Put a bucket under your tap when you are running it to get it hot and when it gets hot, take the bucket out. You can then use that bucket of (no longer) wasted water to water some pot plants. We get a lot of wind here in Tassie and we don't have a dryer either. Isn't it "funny" how we Tasmanians are paying through the nose for our power when it is clean and green? Sigh...anyway, sorry for the huge comment. I just couldn't let a fellow Tasmanian keep feeling like she wasn't making a difference. At least you are trying and succeeding with many of your little changes and thats a WHOLE lot more than most Tasmanians that I know who still think that the rubbish bin is "out the window" that trees are "future firewood" and that a Pulp Mill on the Tamar is a "bloody good idea" and "will make thousands of jobs for undereducated Tasmanians"...sigh... ;)
Jo said…
Fran, thankyou for that lovely long comment. I love the sound of your 'good life' up the Tamar. Good for you for putting some heart and some food into what sounds like some pretty marginal land.
Someone sent me a link the other day to the Tamar NRM, it sounds brilliant, and I'll see if I can get along to some of their events.
Here's to penniless student hippies and suburban housewives changing the world!
PS Just read your 'numpty premier' comment to my husband. We are both still chortling.
Anonymous said…
Our dear premier deserves nothing less than the "Numpty" moniker ;). She is merely a mouthpiece for Mr Lennon himself and the reason that she enunciates every...single... word...so...slowly...is because she is really a marionette being operated remotely ;). The Tamar NRM have amazing workshops for sustainability. They even have a free seed swap in Launceston. Being penniless and living 50km away from Launceston makes it next to impossible for me to get in to them but you could take advantage of them and could get some great free veggie seeds. The workshops are amazingly catered for despite being completely free! I love my yearly foray into sustainability to back up my bolshie ideals and attend and stay at my daughters home in Riverside for the duration. I am going to be staying with them this weekend and will be checking out that market that you talked about in a later post with my daughters who had heard about it but weren't too sure where it was. Cheers for sharing that :)
Anonymous said…
Oh gods I well know that feeling of utter climate change panic. I try to curb the panic by also fight or flighting. We're heading the way of total locavores these days (not that my family quite realise it yet) but we are getting there. We've a half acre but keep our own chickens for eggs and meat, looking to aquaponics for trout and herbs (or whatever else we plant in there) and we're also planting out our food forest garden where we can hopefully keep ourselves in fruit and vegetables for the year. Goats are on the cards very soon too for milk and possibly the male goats for meat. We've cut out sugar from our diet and rapadura is on the way out slowly wherever possible too as it has heavy carbon miles. We are most definitely omnivores but I am beginning the lentil substitute to replace some of the meat and make it stretch further. We shop through a co-op that is into organic and mostly local food (not all local but at least Australian). Cheese making and soap making are next on the list with a soap making course this weekend. We also heat the house with a wood heater only and have been cooking on it otherwise as we still have not connected the gas so only have electricity for cooking. We also have a Thermomix which, although electric, is economical in its power use and helps with things like breadmaking and such so we can make things at home we would normally have to buy (veggie stock, spice blends, washing powder). Still, it's not enough. I want water tanks and solar power or even a wind turbine but financials... I find myself berating myself for what 'we aren't yet doing but those of us who DO make an effort should be proud of what we do. Maybe it's enough, maybe not but it's a damned sight better than those that do nothing or who work hard in the other direction.
Also sorry for the long comment. I've been hanging with Narf7 far too long I guess. ;)
Jo said…
Fran, ah... a marionette, that would explain everything.
Jessie, love long comments - I am very nosey, and want to learn all sorts of things - you sound like you are crazy busy, and very enthusiastic. Living what you believe. That is what I want to do, but my talk is way in front of my walk right now. Hoping to do better..
Judy said…
Well done Jo! Sounds like you have made some really positive changes.

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