How do you live eco—with others?
A Green Houseguest Guide.
I try and live as eco-responsibly as I can, within the bounds of my knowledge, finances, and presence of mind— and I do so with daily pleasure.
I chose to live downtown so that I could get rid of my car, and bike/walk/bus (mostly bicycle) 365 days a year. I take my shoes off at the door. I got clay on my formerly smoke-scented bubbly wallpapered-walls. I exposed brick on other walls, relieving me on the necessity of using any new material. I got rid of my fridge for a year or two…even now have demi-fridge (you know, college-sized half fridge). I turn off everything, all that so-called vampire electricity suckers, via power cords. My house is solar-powered, in any case, and my appliances are either off, gone, or energy star. When I take a bath, usually once a week or two (I’d prefer much more often, but it’s been at least a month, now), I toss the water in the xeriscaped-backyard. All of that saves me money. Which is good, ’cause there’s easier ways to make a living than running a web site.
Still, my lifestyle (thanks to flying, and eating food shipped 1,000s of miles) is extravagant, environmental-impact-wise. So, as an American, aiming to live eco-responsibly isn’t about trying to be perfect. It’s about doing our best, and enjoying the continual practice of mindfulness inherent in remembering, say, to turn off a light.
Right now, I have two roommates for a month, two yoga teachers here to take a teacher training course with the world-renowned Richard Freeman. In emailing, I asked them straight up if they were down to compost, turn off wifi, etc.
“…I have three rooms, and am renting one of them at present–there have been other inquiries but I’m pretty picky–just want very eco-minded tenants, responsible, quiet (I’m pretty nerdy, work at home all the time..!)…let me know if sounds good and I’ll send more info.
She asked what I meant by eco-minded. “Way, Thank you for your quick reply. I am definitely quiet and responsible and certainly consider myself eco-minded, but as the term is somewhat relative I was kind of hoping you could elaborate a little on what you expect of your tenants in that regard?”
Basically we just keep heat low (not an issue in the summer!), turn off lights and wifi when not in use, leave shoes at door, turn off everything when not in use…compost…bike…the usual [eco stuff] I guess! Not in uptight way, but with joy!”
Today, both my roommates for a month are here. We went over all the basics, and one of them kindly, generously encouraged me to let her know if there was ever anything that was a sort of “pet peeve” that she was doing in terms of living eco-responsibly from a mindfulness and fun point of view. So I thought I’d put together a hopefully helpful list.
What did I leave out? Leave a comment at the bottom.
#1. To go stuff.
Getting your coffee to go. The paper is bleached, usually, which kills life and our watershed. The paper is plastic-lined, which is no good for your health (hot liquid + plastic = we don’t want to know). To go food containers, in plastic bags, with plastic utensils…one such to go order can equal my trash for a month. Yes, literally. Even to go compostable stuff is made out of gmo corn, and while much less-bad for the planet, it takes a ton of fuel to produce, the corn could be better used as, you know, food, and transporting the stuff is more fuel. So bring a coffee mug with you. Order for here. If you’re gonna get to go, pizza is pretty harmless–the cardboard box is recyclable, if clean, or at least compostable.
#2. Lights left on.
This is a fun one for spiritual types. I’m Buddhist, so I regard the light switch as a helpful earthly reminder to slow down, be mindful of what I’m doing and where I’m going. Consider it an electrical Zen roshi saying, Wake up!, Wake up! And remember: that seemingly harmless, magical, taken-for-granted electrical current is produced by…coal. Coal equals dirty air, asthma, and mountaintop removal, which equals poisoned water for poor folks. None of that’s good.
#4. This one’s more mindful, or spiritual, but leave the toilet seat down.
And, lid. Why? Well, read this, and read the comment about the aerosol spray, too.
#5. Turn your cell phone off when not in use.
I turn mine off every night. Don’t sleep well? Perhaps it’s because a small part of your brain is ready for an emergency call, all night. If you get an emergency call in the middle of the night, which you never do, there’s probably nothing you can do about it until morning. Go to sleep.
#6. Running the water when you brush your teeth/shave/do whatever.
#7. Taking a long shower.
Water is precious. It’s limited—especially here in Boulder, where we live in a desert climate. Without all those pipes, piping water stolen from rivers (the Colorado River, mighty and timeless, flowing across a dozen states, stopped running to the Pacific in 1998 for the first time in six million years because it’s been so drained and siphoned) we would be in a desert environment. Green grass? Trees? If we vanished from the planet, they’d all die off here, too. Take a short shower. Or take a shower with a friend. You know, showerpool. Turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth. Easy. Make it fun: think about the water you’re saving. Okay, well, if not fun…at least funnish.
#9. Unplug everything when not in use. My electric tea kettle, for instance.
#10. I can’t think of anything else. Anyone?
A video from a few years back, before we went online:
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