raising little ones in the great outdoors

The Everyday Conservationist

It was some ungodly early hour. I could hear the wind howling just outside. I donned a base layer, followed by a second fleece layer, and finally down parka, hat and face protection. I wasn’t really thinking clearly and the mere thought of food made me nauseated. A fresh layer of snow was on the ground making a walk up a short incline more difficult. Just a few short yards to the destination…

High camp, Everest?

Antarctic expedition?

No, Ohio winter, heading to the bus stop.

As 6-year-old Samantha and I reached our destination – a suburban corner, she asked, “Why the heck didn’t we drive?” I answered, “First of all, don’t use the word heck. Secondly, it’s only 2 houses down to the bus stop. Thirdly, gas costs a fortune and it’s bad for the environment.” Not accepting of my answer, but realizing she would not make any headway on this point, she huddled crouched at my feet hugging my legs shivering.

As father and daughter tested the limits cold tolerance of the human being, our three bus-stop companion families sat toasty in their SUVs and minivans, radios and DVD players on, heaters blasting. Cars spewed exhaust into the air for the 5-10 minutes before the bus arrived.

Replacing old bulbs cuts down on the power bill and conserves.

Replacing old bulbs cuts down on the power bill and conserves.

This scene repeated almost every school day of the winter and rainy days too. It was a surreal experience standing there in the crisp and dark of the winter morning, which under some circumstances might be an exhilarating experience, the scene marred by the sounds of cars idling and the sight of car exhaust floating into the air. The walk to the bus stop is my small, but very cold effort towards conservation.

I don’t consider myself a radical conservationist (or a radical anything for that matter). I’ve never come along side a huge tanker ship in a rubber boat. I’ve never chained myself to a tree. I certainly haven’t burned down any ski resorts in the name of the environment. To be honest, I never even saw Al Gore’s movie. Maybe I’ll Netflix it someday.

By that same token, I made a conscious decision long ago, that being green doesn’t take a whole lot more effort than not, so why not be green? There are a few things we to try to do to be more green. We recycle. We’re in the process of switching all our light bulbs to compact fluorescents. We don’t let the water run when we brush our teeth. I carry a refillable water bottle whenever possible rather than disposable plastic water bottles. We use reusable containers for lunch and leftovers rather than plastic bags. These are the simplest actions towards conserving.

Turning off the water is one of the simplest forms of conservation to teach a child

Turning off the water is one of the simplest forms of conservation to teach a child

Do these little things make a difference? In isolation, it probably doesn’t have a huge impact. However, if I stop running the water while I’m brushing my teeth, I probably save a gallon of water a day. If my whole family does this, we save 4-5 gallons per day or perhaps 1500 gallons a year. If my whole neighborhood did this – well you catch my drift. These are the everyday things that can really make an impact on the world we live in going forward. These are the kinds of lessons I wish to impart to my children so that their children might live in a world that still has trees and clean water. I try to teach them to consider that small actions have greater meaning. In a sense, it’s a bit like teaching children to respect their teachers and parents. It’s my way of imparting the feeling that one person can make a difference.

What kinds of everyday conservation tips do you all have?

–Andy Guinigundo

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3 Responses to “The Everyday Conservationist”

  1. Julian says:

    Unplug any and all AC adapters when they’re not needed. Plug load is a huge contributor to you electricity bill and adapters can draw up to 90% of their active load just sitting there.

  2. Steve says:

    Andy, I think you’re reading my mind. I’ve had many of these same thoughts. Here’s an example: For a while now, I’ve given up a corner of my precious garage space for recycling. Babysitters used to throw diapers in the pile because they thought it was garbage. We don’t have curbside recycling, so every month or so we take the stuff to the recycling center where we make enough money to almost pay for the gas it took to drive there. So last Christmas I’m driving down our street on garbage day and I’m looking at all the piles of packaging garbage everywhere. There’s more recyclable stuff getting thrown out in a quarter mile of houses than I’ve recycled in the last two years.

    So what’s the point? Why am I wasting my garage space and taking any time to take in my stuff? I’m certainly not making even the tiniest fraction of a dent in the amount of stuff going into our landfill. Sure, the recycling movement has to start somewhere and maybe we’re “early adopters”. But I don’t have any illusions that I’m saving the planet.

    I think the main benefit is that we actually are thinking about our consumption, which makes us more conscious of our choices. I think being less wasteful with throwing out garbage translates into being less wasteful in all of our life activities, like the driving to the bus, etc. We’re more likely to conserve other resources. And I hope that my children will grow up and do the same things, but better.

  3. It’s amazing how a lot of these actions feel like small acts with little benefit. It’s clear though that there are a lot of people doing these small meaningless acts. I think it’s great when we each take our unique stand on conservation. It’s easy to vote or talk about but the “less talk more rock” theory has always appealed to me.

    We do our part by turning down the thermostat in the winter and just bundling up. Sometimes I’m not the biggest fan…I own a lot of sweat shirts, but I especially like it when the power bill comes. And really, you get used to it.

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