Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Heat miser

Although my mind is filled with little more than variations on the question of how I can get Ess to sleep more -- yes, we are in two-steps-forward, one-step-back land with the Blerber method -- I want to write the post that's been spinning around in my head for the last few weeks. It was moved to the top of the mental "posts I should write" list when I read about jo(e)'s white cloths, which her family uses instead of paper towels.

We are conservation-minded around these parts... at least I am, and D goes along willingly whenever I propose a new conservation measure. We bought the Prius, after all (though in retrospect financing it with a home equity loan rather than an auto loan was really stupid... and this from someone who writes about personal finance...); we pay extra for green power; we recycle like crazy; we belong to a CSA, which not only provides us with fresh, local, organic vegetables but also cuts down tremendously on the amount of petroleum used along the way. I try to combine trips, to walk rather than drive when feasible, to print on both sides of the paper I use in my printer. And lately I've begun trying to unplug appliances when they're not in use... a task that creates more inconvenience than you might think.

So all of that seems reasonable, and quite likely more than the average bear does to conserve energy. But lately it seems nowhere near enough. In part, I'm obsessing about this stuff for financial reasons; with daycare bills starting up in three weeks (ye gods), we need to pinch our pennies even tighter than we have been. But I think parenthood has also created some urgency on this issue for me. I want Ess' world to be better than the one I grew up in. I certainly don't want her to have to deal with the doomsday scenarios of life after peak oil.

Herewith, some conservation measures, and some quasi-related home/health measures, I am pondering implementing:
~Plastic insulation on windows. We do this every year on the living room and bedroom windows, to keep the rooms warmer without having to turn up the thermostat. Gotta get the kits today. And, yes, they're plastic, but they work.
~An insulating cover for the hot water heater. I've been meaning to get one of these for a while and have never gotten around to it.
~Installing compact fluorescent light bulbs in as many fixtures as appropriate.
~Seriously decreasing the number of resealable plastic bags we use -- for sandwiches, for the half of the avocado Ess didn't eat, for the onion I only used half of. But I recently threw out most of our plastic containers since they'd gotten all bubbly and gross and I was worried about the plastic leaching into our food. Glass containers with lids are on my Christmas list, and I bet my mom will get them for me. That is one small step... and then there are the 400 others outlined at Leery Polyp, which just make me want to crawl under the desk and take a nap because I suspect she is right, but how much time and money do I have to restock my kitchen?
~Perhaps implementing jo(e)'s white cloth method. The main thing we use paper towels for, however, is cleanup of canine bodily fluids. I am not at all sure that I am comfortable using a white cloth in my kitchen that has also perhaps swabbed the dining room floor of dog urine (or, in last night's example, cleaned my rubber-soled slippers of the poop I stepped in on the way back from the compost pile in the dark). Hot water and bleach would do it, I guess, but that's a big mental hurdle to leap.
~Umm, there were others but they're totally escaping me right now.

So there you have it. Seems as though we need to spend money to save money, which is tough to ponder this time of year. I'm curious what y'all do -- whether you have any conservation tips that are working well for you, how much money you can imagine shelling out to save dough in the long run, that sort of thing.

Long post and linkage courtesy of Ess, who has now been napping for one hour and 45 minutes.