Look Waste in the Face (and Save More than Money)
If someone would have told me that I could save money by living like a prairie settler, I would have laughed. My time, after all, is worth something. But it was only after I suffered a horrible year of remodeling (which is not quite completed), that I began to realize how much my family uses, and how that is ultimately affecting my bottom line. Here are the facts, and how I reconciled what I should have already known.
Hot water. Remember when my hot water heater tanked out? Living in a rural area with gobs of sediment leaves my heater needing a little TLC every year or so. The last time it went out, I suffered through days upon weeks of boiling my own water for baths, cooking, and even dishes. Not only was it disgustingly tiresome, it helped me appreciate my hot water usage. Showers don’t need to be so luxuriously long now. Kids share a bath. I have adapted my dish-washing techniques to accommodate dunking instead of rinsing. My water (and electric bill) sing my praises. (Check out Myscha’s 60-second shower technique for a jump-start to your own water conservation.)
Plumbing. What started as a little ol’ clog in the kitchen sink turned into two months of demo work and whispered cursing from my husband, as he used massive DIY efforts to rebuild our waste plumbing. Not only did we find out that it was an expensive task, we watched my muscles grow as I hauled full five-gallon-buckets of yucky sink water outside after every household chore. I became irritated with the process, looked for ways to use less water, and refined my scrubbing and cooking techniques to limit my bucket-dumping. The effects were lasting. Two weeks since the final piece was put in place, I still only let the water run in little trickles when I’m rinsing off a single piece of cutlery.
Food. Those of you with garbage disposals may be unaware of how much food you are truly wasting. I was, as well, until the acquisition of a dozen chickens and a few barn cats prompted me to get a little savvy with our mealtime scraps. With one bowl for chickens (veggies, fruits, and grains) and one bowl for the mousers (meats and dairy), I watch each plate-scraping pile up until the end of the day, when I use our cast-offs as discounted supplemental nutrition for the animals. Lucky for us, we have a use for our scraps. Others I know just let it go down the drain, not fully realizing how many pennies and dollars end up in their waste pipes. Since our little project began, I’ve been serving smaller portions, carefully assessing requests for “seconds” and wrapping up any tiny morsel that could be used as a reincarnated dish. You pay the same amount for food that you digest as you do for food that you toss….so put it to a very good use.
Trash. We live in the country, where trash service is a luxury. We bit the bullet a few years back, and subscribed to twice-a-month pickup services. We get 3 bins emptied for $28 a month. Some weeks, when we do a massive de-cluttering operation, we overflow the bins. Other weeks, we don’t even come close. The goal is always to “just make it all fit.” Last week, however, there was a payment mix-up (meaning that my trash guy dropped my check into the ditch, where I found it many weeks later), and I didn’t get my regularly-scheduled pickup. I panicked. Where would I put all my stuff? We started to get creative: “Here kids, color on all these envelopes and bills.” “Let’s throw all these boxes in your room. I’m sure you can find a good use for them, huh?” “If I fold this box 100 times, I can possibly fit it inside this other box and toss it into the woodstove.” You get the picture. We are now looking into local recycling (which is rarely used and not so conveniently offered to us country folk.) The waste situation has to improve.
What if you lost a vital service or utility tomorrow? What would you do? How would you cope? Would it change your perception of resources, usage, and waste? If so, can you begin to do little things today to change your habits and save dollars down the road?