Sarah Robinson and I have been friends since our babies were bumps. We've been in and out of touch, but we have one of those wonderful connections that mean we can start up again, after years of separation, as though we hadn't missed a beat. She's always up to something interesting, whether writing a novel or lining her powder room with old New Yorker covers she's exacto-knifed off and glued to the wall.

Naturally, when she joined a start-up called Practically Green I paid attention. Sarah prodded me until I took their quiz to find out how green I was, and that's when I noticed what marketers have been telling us for years. Competition is motivating. We'll ask the hotel service not to change our towels when we read that that's what other guests do. We want to keep up with the Joneses, whether that means scaling up grandly, or being early adopters of Priuses. We climb that Practically Green ladder along with our friends at the jungle gym, but some of us have to get to the top fastest and first.

Well, between my friend (and Moms Clean Air Force colleague) Ronnie over at EcoNesting, and Sarah, I'm scrambling to keep up my green creds. Ever since I took that quiz, I've been looking around at what else I could do in my daily life to be more conscientious about both using energy efficiently, and not wasting it. One reader of Slow Love Life, Warren, recently wrote to us about learning that his cable box was burning energy 24/7, whether or not he was watching a show. He referred to an article in the New York Times. Some home entertainment systems burn more energy than refrigerators and central air conditioning systems. When last heard from, he was still hoping for help from the Cable Guy.

I've been working on greening up my garden, weeding my way through the front, back, sides....meaning, in other words, that I haven't gotten around to the back or sides yet, being overwhelmed with the front. Meantime, the ivy on the west side of the house is thriving. Taking over, some might say. It is doing so well that is beginning to cover up a window. I was going to pull it off, but late one afternoon I became enamored of the way the sun was coming through the leaves, picking out the veins, and filtering the light.

Then I came across an article about green curtains, and thought, ah-ha, bet Sarah hasn't stumbled on this nifty little idea yet.  Green windows have become popular in Japan, post tsunami, because there isn't enough energy to power all the air conditioners in the heat of the summer. The green windows act as shades, keeping rooms a bit cooler.

One of the difficult things about working at home, I've learned, is that I am always at work. It is too easy to sit down at my desk after dinner, and write into the night, and then pick it up again early the next morning, without a break. And if I do give myself a rest, I feel guilty and nervous. (I know, I know: that's why I look for those slow love breaks, such as gazing at sun coming through the veins in the leaves creeping over the window....)

But one of the wonderful things about working at home is that I get to watch the play of light over my things throughout the day--the way the sunshine picks out the lines of a piece of sculpture, or throws a shadow across a table. A small delight, pleasurable nonetheless. I used to collect glass, but had never noticed until recently how it glowed in the late afternoon sun. I'm sure there is something green about this.

Ah yes: Let yourself be enchanted with what can be seen only by sunlight.

And at night, turn off all the lights and watch the fireflies sparkle up the long meadow grass. Or have an evening of candles only...easier to do with summer's longer days. There's something especially blissful about a tepid, fragrant bath by candlelight after a day of weeding.

But back to being Practically Green, as opposed to hopelessly romantic...We all know that thrift shops are a, well, thrifty place to buy clothes. Here's one of those wonderful kismet-filled thrift shop moments that .... I don't know what they do, besides delight. Isn't that enough?

My friend Abby and I are at dinner. In walks Sarah with daughter Mary (the fellow bump), just graduated from college, having won passels of poetry prizes. Proud Sarah sent me one, about clothing from a consignment shop, that was quite moving in its ambiguity, and defiance--what was being reused, a dress? or a person? I greet mom and daughter, introduce Abby, and then notice that Mary is wearing a sweater from the local thrift shop that I had bought and given to her mom a year or two ago. It looks great on Mary, who loves it, she says. Abby peers at the sweater, then peers some more, and says, Wait a minute! I'm sure that sweater was knitted by my aunt!

Small world. We thought that was a great thrift shop story until Hope came to the table and told us about a friend who wore a string of pearls she had bought for ten dollars at the same thrift shop, only to be told, months later, upon examination by a Man Who Knows His Stuff, that said pearls were extremely valuable...

That's what happens when children clean out closets.

Race you to the thrift shop!


karenleslie said...

great story. reusing and repurposing are the original green concepts. there is also a lot of pleasure in extending the life of something beautiful. i've always enjoyed a good yard sale and have picked up the most amazing things, still looking at them with great appreciation. those superb engravings, the raku vessel and a set of china are a few finds, and i love the sense of discovery that comes with this particular kind of pursuit of beauty. these days i buy very little for my home, each item having to pass a rather stringent litmus test since i cannot bear clutter, but still ... isn't that a lovely vase ...

Ronnie said...

Dominique, you DO have green creds. Know how I know? Growing goya to make green curtains - Get out! I did not know about that. Sarah, did you?? Great find!

profA said...

Yes. We read the Cable Box article and were astonished. Unplugging it is easy, but turning it on again, booting up, etc is another matter, as my husband found out. What to do? We are re-thinking cable.
Coffee makers, irons, radios,etc. all draw power even when not in use, btw. admittedly not at the cable box rate.
Thank you for the post about thrift shops and several eco-links. Life is rich with sweet serendipity.

david terry said...

Hey there, Ms. Browning....

All I have to say at this particular moment is THANK YOU for introducing me to this blog "EcoNesting".

Following your link early this morning, I was able to read only a few postings...but I thought it was wonderfully engaging and informative. I just signed up for the updates.

I seem to be operating on a marked bell-curve. In the early 1960's, various folks had to introduce me to things that would entertain AND instruct me. Subsequently, I went through about twenty years during which I picked and chose according to my own (and admittedly self-congratulatory) tastes.

These days?... I'm just awfully delighted when someone shows me (as you just did) something I'm likely to find both diverting and informative.

Thanks so much for the useful tip...."EcoNesting" looks to become one of my favorite spots.

Incidentally? don't worry too much about your "green cred".

Last night, I horrifiedly realized at our local food Lion (which is NOT at all to be confused with Whole Foods) that even they were de-accessioning, so to speak, all their "normal" light bulbs.

I bought every single one of those things that were left on the shelves, and I've since stockpiled them in my back-pantry. No member of the Ancien Regime ever sewed her blood-diamonds into the hems of her petticoats with such a vengeance as I snatched all those light bulbs last night. I HATE these new, "eco-friendly" light bulbs.

So, basically & by comparison?...You're just fine, Ms. Browning. My own "green cred" has just been (to borrow a phrase from your own H&G columns) shot-to-shit.


David Terry

Karena said...

Dominique the entire post is wonderful, however especially the story at the very end.

There are jewels all around us!!

Art by Karena

david terry said...

Okay...I want to know about the snake sculpture....or whatever it is..it's beautiful.

I have three very-long, coiled-up, plaster castings of rattlesnakes (trust me....they scare folks who encounter them by the front-room's fireplace).

They were all gifts (among many others) from my constant friend and good neighbor, Felton Nease (double Ph.D. in Biology and Botany from Duke, circa 1948). He died, at age 93, this past fall....QUITE lively and active until he ran his truck into a telephone pole two doors down from my front porch.

So, I want to know about this "snake" that Ms. Browning has...is it glass....or what?...

If, Ms. Browning, you're selling?.... I'll be buying.....


David Terry

Anonymous said...

I can solve your nightgown problem! Go to HannaAndersson.com and buy one (2? 3?) of her fabulous stripes. Knit, amazingly comfortable, durable, perfect!

Sarah said...

THANK YOU Dominique!! Mary and I are charmed and thrilled about our moment on SlowLoveLife!!
It was AMAZING to bump into you with my fashionable bump who is now 22 yrs old and writing poetry that has me panting.
Your community of readers is truly marvelous and I would love to know what they all think of PracticallyGreen.com. Gotta run to post a blog there right now!!

Warren said...

Reporting further on the lack of efficiency of cable boxes, there appears to be no current solution. I have taken a power strip with on/off button and am now using that to completely power down the system. The spare DVD/R I never use in the kitchen is unplugged. The best solution is to have thousands of households complain to Comcast to offer European-box solutions here.

As for light bulbs, my attic is stocked with hundreds and hundreds. We should have a contest to see who has more. David, you game?

Ladies, do not wait; unless you want to apply mascara under a blue-ish light, run to Home Depot and selfishly by out all those round make-up 40 Watt bulbs.

On mortality and pearls, lately I have gone to http://www.artnet.com/ and casually appraised some of my art and stuck postnets to the backs to let the kids know that schtick-y Norman Rockwell 'Saying Grace' litho I bought when I was 22 is now worth 10K.

BTW do you have a list of passwords written down for your loved ones to clean up your act? Maybe even get to some cash to pay the mortgage?

I know we are bordering dangerously close to doddering-age advice but I could have a giant meteorite or failing Dreamliner squash me like a duck on a June bug...

The kids will probably make a fortune tho on all those light bulbs.

Being as green as I want to be as I bask in my incandescent glow...

VL said...

David and Warren, you might make a fortune by selling those lightbulbs -- I'd certainly buy some! (Could this all just be a dastardly plot by GE to sell more lightbulbs?)

Ironically, there is a serious environmental problem with compact fluorescent bulbs --besides the fact they make the indoor environment ugly, that is: they contain mercury. They can't be thrown out like normal bulbs, they must be treated as hazardouds waste (yes, just like batteries, paint, and thermometers). If one breaks in your home, you will breathe in mercury vapor. Not good.

Fortunately, the federal law that was passed in 2007 mandates only increased efficiency, not wholesale conversion to the CFBs, by 2014. My bet is that we'll be able to have aesthetically pleasing indoor light at lower energy costs by then. In the meantime, I think it's more environmentally conscientious to use the most efficient incandescent lights we can find, and just turn them off when we leave the room.

In related don't-jump-on-the-bandwagon-too-quickly news, there are some serious drawbacks to the new compostable plastics used by some restaurants. As one would predict, it's throwing a wrench into the sorting of plastics, and if the plastics are mixed, it's more likely the whole bail will be dumped in landfill, recyclable and compostable together. Here's an article about the problem: http://www.alternet.org/environment/151543/compostable_or_recyclable_why_bioplastics_are_causing_an_environmental_headache

Solution: avoid single-use plastics. But we knew that disposability is the driving force behind all this waste anyway, right?

Warren said...

I'm afraid the average citizen isn't aware about the hazards, nor worrying too much about proper disposal of these e-bulbs. Home Depot FINALLY has begun taking them back but you wouldn't know it from the lack of signage and hidden recycle containers. Without the education and recycle support I fear this will be as in(s)ane as corn-based ethanol.

BTW it takes about 45 seconds for the cable/TV/gizmos to power-on. Not a bad trade-off for my baaaad light bulb habit.

PSING said...

thanks for all the links and information. EcoNesting and Practically Green are great finds, psi

VL said...

From the Department of Perfect Timing, an update on light bulbs, from Climate Progress: "Republicans Set to Repeal light Bulb Efficiency Standard That Would Save Consumers $12 Billion A Year"


Worth a read. Still, I hope companies will make more efficient light bulbs.... and there are plenty of bigger ways to save energy.

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