I know that he is still out there, and even though his communication with us is somewhat limited at present due to his status as a spirit, his influence will continue to be felt by his friends and family for all of our lives. When I really think about it, much of what I know, I learned from my dad. Because of this, his influence is present in many of my writings, including this article on green living that I wrote for a magazine-writing class:
A Poor Man’s Guide to Going Green
Ronny P. Ruesch
I grew up in a frugal household. My dad hollered at my eight sisters and me on a regular basis to “shut the lights off when you leave the room; close the door; we’re not cooling/heating all of (fill in your city of choice)”; and many other such parental platitudes. And for a couple of years in the early 1980’s, long before it was the “in” thing to do, my family and I lived “off the grid,” making use of power produced by a small wind turbine in the back yard and water pumped from a well.
So what motivated my dad to take these steps, and how will it benefit you to take similar steps? First of all, he believed in self reliance, and you can’t get any more self reliant than living off the grid. Secondly, even though my father wasn’t the type to snuggle up to a nice, warm tree at night, he truly had a desire to conserve our natural resources, long before anybody mentioned global warming. The third reason, and perhaps the most beneficial to any of you who are strapped for cash, was that he was cheap, and living conservatively and sustainably perhaps saved him more money than anything else that he did.
So in a day and age when people equate going green with such choices, economically unattainable to the majority of us, as driving a hybrid/electric car or installing outrageously expensive energy star appliances, how can you conserve the world’s resources, and your own money? As one of the monetarily challenged elite of this great nation, I believe that these six steps can help you to save the world and your wallet.
(1) Turn it off. Taking the simple steps of turning the lights off when you leave a room, turning the television or computer off when you are not using them, or turning the water off when you are brushing your teeth, washing dishes, etc., can go a long way in conserving precious resources and lowering your utility bill. If your childhood was anything like mine, you likely heard many of these commands on a frequent basis. The difference is that, by now, you should understand that money really does not grow on trees, nor do many of our earth’s important assets, such as fossil fuels.
(2) Keep it Short. Growing up in the desert, I had water conservancy pounded into my head in school. I was taught, on a regular basis, that I should take showers instead of baths to conserve water. But this only works if you keep the shower under five minutes. I have been trying to pass this lesson on to my wife for the last ten years. She grew up in Oklahoma, where freshwater sources abound. But even where water is not lacking, electricity is still required to get it to your home, and electricity or natural gas is necessary to heat it. So no matter where you live, being a water miser will help your wallet and the world.
(3) Do it yourself. I learned this lesson well from my dad, who was the consummate jack of all trades. If you can’t afford to have someone else do a job for you, then learn to do it yourself. In this way, he was able to build five homes, own four of them outright, and live in an environmentally sustainable way. I have followed in his footsteps by installing several cheap resource-saving devices in my own home. When I couldn’t get my children to turn the light off in their bathroom, which doesn’t have any windows, I installed motion sensing switches, which I purchased for $10/each. Since the light was frequently on all day before the installation, these switches should pay themselves off in about a year.
(4) Don’t throw it away. Many metals (aluminum, steel, and copper) can be taken to the local recycling centers in exchange for cash. But even though recycling may not always save or earn you money, it definitely won’t cost you anything. Here in Washington County, recycling bins are within an easy walk or drive from most homes. Not only does using this resource keep our landfill from filling up, but the money that the county makes from recycling goes into our county parks system and benefits all of us.
Even if some of your trash doesn’t fall in any of the traditionally recyclable categories of metal, plastic, glass, or paper, it still doesn’t have to end up in the landfill. You can easily compost kitchen scraps in a variety of ways. Vermicomposting (composting with worms) is a great option that provides some of the best fertilizer around. Another option is traditional composting. In my first attempts at composting, I ran into several problems. First, the garbage never broke down. Second, it attracted mice and other pests. I finally found the solution online. I now use a small plastic tub with a lid and sprinkle a little soil over each layer of garbage. The pests can’t gain access, and the microbes in the soil and heat of the sun on the tub produce compost relatively quickly (a couple of weeks).
We have all heard the saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. One website specializes in just that—connecting people who have trash with others in search of treasures. Freecycle.org is a free service to the community on which you can post items that you no longer need or want. You can also post items that you are looking for. I have given away items from baby clothes to a kitchen table and have acquired items from a trampoline frame to an entertainment center. Using resources like freecycle.org or thrift stores like Deseret Industries saves you money and keeps even more items out of the landfill.
(5) Do it together. Rather than taking one trip to the grocery store, another to work, and yet another to the hardware store, why not consolidate trips. This may take a bit more planning and preparation than just going when you need a cup of sugar, but it will save you not only money in the long run, but time as well. Another option to save on gasoline is to organize a carpool. This definitely takes a lot more planning and in an area like Washington County comes with a certain loss of mobility (especially when you are not the one driving), but it will ultimately save a lot of precious resources (gasoline), your car, and your green.
(6) Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without. This old pioneer adage was born out of necessity. If you are short on finances, you could probably benefit from this tried-and-true saying just as well as pioneers did over 100 years ago. It requires a lot of self control and dedication to not give in to the consumerism so common to this country these days, but in the end, it will save not only the environment, but your wallet as well.
Whether you decide to try one or all of these steps, you will have an impact for good. And you will notice the positive effect that your dollar will go just a little bit further. You will be more self-reliant and perhaps rely a little bit less on inanimate objects to make you happy.