Friday, June 13, 2008

Change is good: Share the pain

Okay, how seriously are you taking it? Is the rising cost of food and gas and just about everything else making you cut back? Is guilt over global warming making you behave more environmentally sane?

The other day I drove the highway up to New Hampshire and, as I often do to amuse myself as I travel, counted cars. There are definitely (proportionately) fewer SUVs on the road, confirming all the news articles I've been reading about car dealers who can't give them away. Have you stopped driving yours? We own two aging (8- and 15-year-old) Honda Civics, so what are we going to trade down to? Still, it costs more than $40 to fill. On the up side, isn't the air cleaner and traffic lighter these days?

And the cost of food! It's not that I've changed what we eat, but it takes me twice as long to shop. I stand there, staring longingly at produce that I refuse to pay that kind of price for. $1.99 a pound for green beans *on sale*?? Seens like the only bargains any longer are cabbage and beans (pinto, white, kidney, black-eyed peas...). That Home Depot caged tomato in a patio pot at $14.99 suddenly seems like a bargain.

Are you growing vegetables to compensate?

In the name of cost cutting and environmental sanity, these days I--
- Bring my own bags to the market
- Rarely water my garden; if it doesn't survive, it wasn't meant to be
- Belong to an organic farm cooperative
- Take the T whenever I can and meet more by phone
- Rarely throw out leftovers, cooking creatively what's in the fridge instead (soy sauce is my new best friend)
- Agonize over whether to do 'virtual' book tour for the February release of "Never Tell a Lie" or bite the bullet and travel
- Spend longer in the discomfort zone before turning on the a/c or heat

When my car's air conditioning gave out, I had this fantasy that I'd forgo it. I'm driving less, after all. What's a little perspiration? Then the thermometer hit 98 on the day when I drove Portsmouth. Next day, I got that sucker fixed.

Are your habits changing, too? Where do you draw the line?


  1. I was raised by depression kids, so waste was never part of our lives. I keep hearing that we all should go out and buy electric cars, and I wonder where we would put all those cast-off SUVs--which are, in reality, station wagons. My daughter has one, chosen by her then-husband, that does poorly on gas, to say the least. But it is the only vehicle in the family that will carry the whole family. Somebody needs to pay attention to the water situation. I love your idea, "if it doesn't live (without watering) then it wasn't meant to be." Still, growing plants make oxygen, food, shade, and beauty.

  2. My hub and I have grown a vegetable garden for years--it's fun to be ahead of the curve! So far we've harvested a ton of asparagus and arugula this year. We also put in eight blueberry bushes.

    yes, I'm remembering to bring my cloth bags to the supermarket and definitely thinking harder before I drive.

    My sister, who's a rabid environmentalist and nature writer, would say this about watering plants (I think!): the trick is in choosing plants that are native to your area and don't need special attention and extra water. So it's not giving greenery up, it's figuring out what to grow where.

  3. Wow, sorry! I just previewed this!
    Well, it's all true...

    Roberta -

    Isn't that the whole trick to life. It's not about giving up, but about figuring out what grows in your region with the water available. With high gas prices, it's not about giving up driving, but about being efficient in using what you have. The more fuel efficient the better.

    Conservation in general involves a much broader perspective than most people take, including Big Brother.

    A simple example - oh lets save on fuel we'll use aluminum in vehicles! Great, it takes 3 times as much energy to melt a pound of aluminum as steel AND, because the inherent structural properties are only 1/3 that of steel, you need about 2/3 by weight of aluminum for each pound of steel being replaced to do the same job. Then the 1-5 pounds saved, saves some gas - .02-.1 MPG. Now back calculate that for usage over 100,000 vehicles produced and running on the road. Is there any "real" measurable savings there.

    Okay, we'll use plastic. Hmm... made directly from petroleum products... hmm...

    No.. no.. I've got it we'll use those curly bulbs ... Oh, but they contain a small amount of mercury, a very serious environmental toxin, and they give off radiation from the impingement of electrons on the phosphor. So, the whole time they are on they are bombarding the living space with radiation, like the old computer CRT monitors. Oh yeah AND the phosphor itself is probably toxic. So, if you break one - it definitely is not a good thing.

    The Chinese govt wanted to become a world trade power with no restraints on their environment, which in case no one has noticed is on the same planet we are. So what they produce we get to participate in like second hand smoke. The health risks in the Chinese population are becoming enormous. The cancer rates are very impressive.

    The whole energy and conservation thing is much, much more complex than most realize.

    Ethanol hmm... let's see now I think I saw it takes 1 acre of corn to produce 1 gallon of ethonol... and it only gets 2/3 the mileage of gasoline. And, we use how many billions of gallons in the US? Anyone plan on eating corn in the future. And, if you give the land for "switch grass" you still can't grow corn.

    So... what are we left with really ... development of newer more creative technologies and what Roberta said in the beginning...

    "So it's not giving greenery up, it's figuring out what to grow where."

    And that philosophy applied to all that we do.

    Sure use curly cue bulbs, but for general room lighting. Use halogen lights for work lights...

    That kind of thing...


  4. Many of my friends are rabid author-trackers, often travelling long distances to see a favorite author, and shorter distance to see whoever happens to be coming within range. So, when you tour your book, your readers are also touring. But we're also residents of Earth, and of the Internet, so we're comfortable with virtual tours, too. Sue Grafton has a dynamite site. Visiting it makes a reader feel that she knows Grafton as well as or better than she would in a face-to-face meeting. Somebody rewrite that sentence. Sigh. We love podcasts, too. Dean Koontz does a nifty cast as well as a great site.

    Now, I have to go and order some of your books. On the Internet.

  5. She is one of my favorite authors, but I also admire Margaret Atwood's 'LongPen' concept.

  6. I'd grow a vegetable garden, but I have about ten square feet that receive any sun at all. Now, if I cut down the 100+ year-old maple trees, I'd have sun. And I've even proposed chopping up those huge trees for firewood (at which my husband laughs loudly), but that would require rebuilding the fireplace and chimney, and it would probably be ten years before I recouped those costs.

    I found myself in the local supermarket the other day ranting about why we feel it's necessary to import apples from New Zealand. People, we grow apples in Massachusetts! And New York State, and Pennsylvania. Why do we have to ship them halfway around the world?

    I'd join a CSA group, but sad to say, the fees there are greater than what I now spend on veggies. I'm sure they're organic and healthy and tasty, but the economics don't work. This is something our society will have to focus on--although as gas prices go up, local produce will probably look better and better.

    Get rain barrels. Some communities make them available to residents at a discount (not mine, alas). Strange to say, our house has not one but two cisterns built in, and I do think about reconnecting them to the downspouts. Right after I rebuild the chimney and plow the back, uh, 0.05 acres.

  7. Boy, where do I begin? i'm with Roberta on the added water for the garden, except that everything new needs water for the first season or two until the roots get established. I have a rain barrel and no matter what I do it's Club Med for the mosquitos.
    I'm all for eliminating lawns..the amount of water, chemicals and gas (for lawnmowers) used to perfect that obligatory swath of green is astounding. Groundcovers. Think about them.