Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year, New Life?

New Year's is a great time to make some resolutions, to start a new diet, to get a new haircut, begin (or finish) that damn novel*, or be a "better person", whatever the hell that means.

I'd like to propose that we use the New Year to start living greener. As in really, truly greener. Environmentalist thinking isn't just cool, it's also a money-saver, which is a nice bonus in these uncertain days.

Below are ten things I've resolved to do this year, things that are both green and frugal--I'll keep you all updated as the year goes on, about once a week.

1) Change the incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent ones: Unbelievably, we still use incandescents. For some of them, like the overheads in the bedrooms, it can't be helped--they simply don't make CFLs in the size that will fit into the sockets. But most of the lights here are incandescents for only one reason--my boyfriend can't stand the thought of using CFLs. Which, if you ask me, is a silly one, especially since the lights that I want to switch are shaded by yellowish shades, which will soften the glow considerably.

2) Eating more organic produce: This is kind of tricky because organic produce is expensive and I've got a limited budget. But I figure that I can cough up once a week for ingredients to make a nice dinner.

3) Not buying clothes: Actually, I've been very good about not buying from mass-produced lines, mostly because I can't afford €15 for a delicate t-shirt that'll rip after its first wear. But this year, I plan on going just a tad farther--I'll either buy secondhand or make them. Well, not socks or underwear. I suppose I could learn to knit my own socks, but I can't count for the life of me.

4) Start a balcony garden: We couldn't do this for the past year because the boyfriend has a load of crap that he can't get rid of. But we're getting a new kitchen, so along with the destruction of the old kitchen, we'll get rid of the crap that's cluttering our balcony, and hopefully be able to put in some spinach plants, basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini this year.

5) Photography: I've kind of fallen off the wagon a bit as the days have gotten shorter and my time has been occupied by measuring and cutting and stenciling and what-all (presents for 16 people for around €200 means a lot of homemade stuff, and homemade stuff takes a lot of time). But photography is a cheap hobby--at least, it can be--and at the same time, documenting the beauty of nature really reminds you of what there is to preserve.

6) Better living through chemistry: I will freely confess to being a toxic-chemical-phobe here. Well, actually, not so much--I am quite happy to use chemical-laden shampoos and conditioners, the difference being that shampoos and conditioners generally aren't strong enough to take out the lining of your lungs if you breathe it in for long enough. Broadly speaking, my rule of thumb is that whatever you're using to clean shouldn't feel like it'll kill you if you're locked in an elevator with it. There are few chemicals that we really need to keep an apartment spic 'n span. Between spiritus alcohol (the kind that you put in alcohol lamps), plain vinegar, bleach, baking soda, washing soda, and a bit of borax, there really shouldn't be anything you can't clean. The resolution? Not using any pre-fabricated cleansers.

7) Maintenance: We do a terrible job of maintenance. That is to say, I've not once checked over my bike since I bought it--secondhand--last June. There are probably hundreds of things we could check--the weatherproofing, for instance. We could insulate the hot-water pipes. Take a moment to dust out the computers, vaccuum the refrigerator coils, etc. But also things like fixing holes in clothes before they become irreparable, cleaning out the trap in the dishwasher more often, and things like that--they also need to be done.

8) Turning things off, aka letting my pet peeve out to play: My peeve is leaving things on. I'm okay with forgetting to turn off the light occasionally (happens to us all) but constantly leaving lights burning is a frightful waste of energy (and money). Furthermore, we have things like the DVD player which is never truly off, and my boyfriend's seldom-used stereo system is never turned off, either. It irks me that we have so many power vampires in our apartment, and this year, the plan is to get rid of them all, one room at a time.

9) Learn to can stuff: The summers are rife with blackberries and elderberries. The markets are chock full of muscat grapes and fresh tomatoes: what better way to preserve the flavors of summer for the dead of winter? Not to mention that homemade preserves make excellent gifts.

10) Start yoga again: The reason I haven't is because getting up at 4:30 in the morning just isn't fun, no matter how you cut it. But I miss yoga more, and with the impetus of a New Year coming on I'll be motivated to start. Maybe I'll even start running again, who knows? Though with my ankles in the shape that they're in, I'll probably be better off buying a used stairmaster, instead...

With the exception of the last one, everything here is something that you, too, can do, to live a happier, and greener life. Actually, you, too, can start yoga. But I wouldn't recommend getting up at 4:30 am to do it.

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