Sunday, January 27, 2008

How Green I Am (not)

I really ought to insist that my family become more environmentally gentle.  Our lifestyle is simply too gluttonously wasteful.
First of all, our house is much larger than we really need.  Although it has full insulation and storm windows, it's a very old house and still has many leaks and cracks.  We heat with conventional air-source heat pumps, more efficient than most other heating systems, but less efficient than ground-source heat pumps.  We keep our house temperature in the low-to-mid sixties in the winter, and mid-to-upper seventies in the summer.  We try to tip off visitors in advance that it would behoove them to dress for the season.  At least we manage without heat for the garage.
We've replaced some of our light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, but several of our fixtures require candelabra base bulbs, for which wattages sufficient for our needs are not yet available in compact fluorescents.
We have five widely separated water-using zones: kitchen, laundry, and three bathrooms, all served by a single water heater, thus requiring lengthy water-running before the hot water comes.  Attempts to insulate the hot water pipes have proven futile because of the high population of mice, groundhogs, and opossums, all of whom just love the delectable flavor of water-pipe insulation.
We own two cars, neither of which gets particularly great gas mileage.  At least with careful driving we're getting about ten to fifteen percent better gas mileage than the EPA estimates.
We've been trying to do most of our shopping using canvas shopping bags brought from home to minimize getting plastic bags at the stores, but some stores simply insist that we must take their plastic bags instead.  For the most part, we don't argue much.
We make some modest effort to sort out the trash that our local landfill defines as "recyclable" and put it in the recycle bins, but I'm not sure they really recycle it.  I think they just weigh it to determine some arbitrary "percentage of trash recycled" for eligibility for some sort of federal funding, and then just throw it back together with the general trash.
We compost rottable kitchen garbage.  So far, the neighbors haven't complained.

So, are we doing our part?  Basically, no.  Better than some people perhaps, but still not enough.  Somehow, we need to improve.