Green comforts

Below is a list of things Matt and I own which are both environmentally friendly (based on the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle) and make life nicer or more convenient than it was before. I’m thinking about energy, materials and pollution including carbon dioxide.

But first, a lecture. A lot of people hold up their hands when confronted with imminent environmental catastrophe and tell themselves it’s up to the government to come up with population measures and legislation and its up to manufacturers to come up with better products. Many people reject the idea that they – little old them – have much of an obligation to look after the environment.

I don’t agree. I’d ask people who think that way to imagine themselves explaining their fatalistic position to somebody in the Maldives, or low-lying parts of Bangladesh, or to a Chinese worker newly arrived in the city from her old life as a subsistence farmer, or to their own children. For those of us who enjoy choice and who value markets, surely the question is an individual one – how can we live a good, comfortable life in such a way that everybody else could more or less have the same habits and pleasures as we have.

None of the suggestions below are puritan or hair shirt, but some may seem tiny, trivial, ridiculous, or futile. Don’t scoff  – I’d respond that we have to think this way to be able to look the people of the developing world in the eye and say that we’ve done all we could and that we kept them in mind. I reckon – especially where it’s no skin off our nose – that every little counts, both as an ethos and on a population level, where modest individual measures over time combine into vast savings.

Maybe we need a green lifehacker. I am far from perfectly green myself – I have a little technology habit and I’m wasteful with food. But here is my contribution.

Freeplay ‘Companion’ mini radio torch
Wireless, no batteries, dynamo-powered. You move your arm to wind it which is good for your pen-pushing arm. It is small, highly portable (hangable), shockproof, energy-efficient (a bit of winding goes a long way) and the sound quality is very good.  Move it between bathroom, kitchen and ironing board. Saves electricity, batteries and associated pollution, and the materials and space required to have a separate torch and radio.

Trevor Baylis weatherproof wind-up globe lantern
Same inventor as the ‘Companion’ but this is a wind-up lantern. Will hang or stand. Excellent for camping and power cuts. Oh, it’s discontinued – but there are others.

Selk-bag
A sleeping bag with legs, arms, hood, unzippable hand holes and reinforced feet. I wear it now as I type. It is freezing outside and I am sitting in a room which is hard to heat but I’m cosy.  Sounds miserable to sit in the cold in a sleeping bag? Au contrair – my arms are cushioned on the desk, and I can sit in whatever position I like. I think of it as a padded jumpsuit. Conserves gas, reduces carbon and saves money. It’s not cheap but with gas at current prices, mine will pay for itself in less than a winter. I do admit though that if I had a house full of cold pinched children, I’d get on with the insulation and meanwhile crank up the heating. UPDATE: Matt came home and complained about the cold in the house. I (who’d been here on my own) hadn’t noticed because I spent the entire day working from home in my bag. Warm hands and apparently rosy cheeks.

Eco wash balls
Three small plastic cages filled with ceramic beads which substitute for washing power or liquid. Work  with ions. Really do work. You can wash without rinsing. If you like things perfumed you can add essential oil to the water. Saves time, water, noise, electricity and pollution.

Parachute shopping bags
(That brand is a bit fey but there are many others)
Large, light, strong shopping bags which wrap up easily into tiny pouches which fit into, or clip onto, the smallest handbag. Forget the stupid bulky cotton or jute ones. Shoulder bag varieties are available which keep your hands free. Saves materials and pollution.

Solid bars of shampoo from Lush
Solid bars of shampoo and conditioner, in particular. Cut to your required weight and wrapped in paper. No waste.  Many are vegan.  Saves packaging, nice to use  (try to get a bit with some rind and then stand the bar on the rind).

Loose-leaf tea
Saves on the pollution, energy and materials associated with manufacturing teabags. You can get the perfect strength tea cup by cup. The leaves sink to the bottom, are no more hassled to get rid of than a teabag, and compost readily.

Fruit cases from Lakeland Plastics
Bicuspid apple-sized case for soft fruit which inflates like an armband and closes with velcro. May make the difference between your soft fruit rotting at home or getting crushed in your bag, and you getting your five a day.

Lock & lock boxes
There are long-lasting sandwich-sized ones which not only keep the sandwich components in position but also prevent them from getting crushed in your bag. The locks and rubber seal keep liquids from leaking. They are microwaveable. Save on wasteful foil, cellophane, and sandwich bags.

Reusing the bags which come with junk mail and newspapers
Open carefully and you have a free, clear freezer bag or sandwich bag which was going in the bin anyway. Good if you have a child who might forget to bring home a lunchbox.

Sigg bottle
Light, aluminium bottle for water or other fluids. Stable – does not photodegrade and leach dodgy chemicals into your water. No more purchasing bottled water – saves money, plastic, energy and pollution.

The above represent savings (money, hassle or time) for most people. I can’t think why we wouldn’t start with them immediately. Maybe you have some reasons?

Maybe you have some suggestions? Maybe you know of a green lifehacker site? Something like this? Let me know.

Update: Read Peggy

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14 thoughts on “Green comforts

  1. Good list. I think there are sites out there, treehugger springs to mind (that might be just a general green site)
    People’s lifestyles are so different, what is easy, feasible or desirable will vary. A personal green consultant who will analyse your situation and give you a breakdown of your green options would be a good idea. Everything from the products listed above, to telling you how much solar panels would cost to fit and maintain on your property, and if it were possible. Stuff like that.

  2. A personal green consultant sounds good. But I wonder if you might need a team. One person can’t know about central heating and electricity and transport &tc. The calculations involved are pretty complicated. Good idea, however.

  3. I absolutely agree we have a personal moral duty, although we should also beware of neglecting our political duty, i.e. falling into the trap of leading an obsessively green life but making no attempt to make an impact on the local / national / international scale.
    I’m not saying you’re anywhere near that. Just cautious about possible misinterpretation of your message.
    Two items I would add from my personal inventory:
    1. Bike.
    2. A foldable, light-weight shopping bag on my keyring.

  4. Thanks Yish. Your #2 I have already – which I called parachute bag. They are fantastic. Can’t remember the last time I used a plastic bag.

    You are right of course that the need for local / national / international interventions is a given. One good example is illustrated by your #1 suggestion. Almost every cyclist I know has been hurt, sometimes badly, occasionally fatally, by vehicles. We need better provision for cyclists and we can’t do this individually. Nor can we individually recycle our refuse.

    I don’t know anybody who leads an obsessively green life – do you? I think these people are a myth perpetrated by the Daily Mail and Spiked 🙂 They want us to think that anybody who says that the way humans live in industrialised societies poses an ecological threat is misanthropic and borderline genocidal. Bollocks to the that and also bollocks to the eco-totalitarians they are scared of. But a sense of self-efficacy is very important in environmentalism – particularly in a market economy.

  5. Interested about the eco wash balls but how do you stop the rinse cycle? I’m all for being a tree-hugger whenever I can but I draw the line at standing in the basement watching the washing machine.

    Also, my current dilemma: Got moved to a lovely new office not far from the end of the local bike path, with showers in the building and secure-ish bike parking. Employer is touting the ‘green’ credentials of the building while about to move the only (fair weather) bike commuter back to crumbly old office off a major road with no shower facilities. Am I hardcore enough (when there’s not 12+ inches of snow) to take the baby-wipe bath when I get to work? And more importantly are there any eco-friendly replacements to baby wipes? I’d suggest a flannel but I’m not sure bathing in the sink is encouraged.

  6. Unc, in fact I lied. We don’t stop the rinse cycle at all – we just do everything on quick wash. Basically the effect is the same. Yeah I remember you saying about the lack of shower facilities. I’m not sure about babywipes – maybe it’s swings and roundabouts. Use a few trees, save a lake of water having to be processed. Or something. You see, this is what they don’t tell you. All I’ll say is this: when I went to Green Man this summer I only cleaned myself with babywipes for 3 days and came home fresh as a daisy.

    Or you could stage a protest – one of those camping showers (black rubber bag filled with water which heats in the sun) and shower in front of the entry of your building until your cause is taken up by the local paper and your company rightly embarrassed.

  7. I have read the list carefully, and happy to report that we have some of the items already, but I was a bit startled by the suggestion about that vegan shampoo. Does it mean that this shampoo could be also… not, I cannot bear this thought.

  8. I’m sure other the other people who commented here would be as enthusiastic as I in raising money for “flesh” to be flown to “the developing world” in order to look a little brown person in the eye and explain how much she cares about them. She cares so much, that she’s selflessly prepared to buy some unpackaged soap from Lush…just for them.
    Even without donations, it’s also such a privilege to be here to witness these magnanimous suggestions that will undoubtedly save millions of lives.

    In many ways, it’s like the second coming of Anita Roddick.

    P.S. Fuck tha Police.

  9. Pingback: How green am I? « Housewifery

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