Sunday, August 26, 2012

water conservation

water conservation by simplysewn
from dehumidifier to garden
Along with energy conservation, I've been thinking a lot about water conservation. I get a little sick to my stomach when I think about all the water we waste. We all know that without water, there could not be life. Yet how often do we pay attention to the water we use? We are increasingly polluting our water resources. I could go on and on but my time is limited.

The question is this: What can we do to help conserve our water? One big problem is that so much of our rain water is going into our sewer systems, not into the ground and thus the water table. A fairly easy solution to this problem is for homeowners to install rain barrels to collect the water and distribute it throughout your yard or garden. By collecting the water from your gutters, you have a natural source for your garden flowers and vegetables. Another option is to harvest rain water and distribute it immediately into your yard or garden. See this article for more information. In addition to helping the rain water stay out of the sewer (especially if you live in a city where there is more paved and developed area), you are also drawing less water from your city or municipality's water source, saving you money as well as conserving this precious commodity. 

Ok, all of that does take some thought, some money and some man power. So what can you do TODAY with only a little man power? Put thought into your dehumidifier water. I have to admit that we have been emptying our dehumidifier water into our basement sink which is tied into the sewer system. So recently I've been carrying the water out into my garden. It does take a little extra time (3 minutes, maybe?) and it requires me to be somewhat careful so I don't spill the water on the steps. But all in all, by changing one little habit, I'm saving a little money (I'm not watering from the hose) and putting water back into the ground, growing our food and keeping several gallons of clean water from entering the sewer system.

What small change can you make? For ideas see Save It Lancaster!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Energy Conservation Experiment

Wind Powered Electricity
I've decided to track our electric usage month by month and to see just how much each change we make affects our kWh usage and thus our bill and ~hopefully~ a small impact on the earth.

I went to our local electric provider web site where our usage is stored. We used 648 kWh in July. According to the site, our yearly electric bill is $817. The average American yearly electric bill runs $1456. We are WAY down on the energy usage thermometer. 

Yet, I am convinced we can do better.  

So, I'm off on an electricity experiment. The only way to really determine how changes affect our usage is to change only one thing at a time. I aim to make a new change every month and note how it affects (or doesn't affect) our bill.

So this month we are breaking the dryer habit. Our dryer is very old. I'm sure it doesn't meet the Energy Star ratings. For the next month we're going to hang out our laundry as much as possible to see how much it changes our electric bill.

Other months I plan to look into changing our lighting to CFC, looking into the phantom load (electricity that is used even when an appliance isn't in use), the possibility of solar power for some of our electronics, and the radical idea of getting rid of some of our electric appliances.

Another area that I want to really research is water use. We overuse water to such an extent that I think it might actually be a sin. The sin being our arrogance that we have an overabundance of water and that we have no responsibility to conserve. More on that in another post.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Continuing Conviction

My re-useable grocery bags hanging out to dry on the new clothes line
For quite a long time I've been trying to live more intentionally. Attempting to consider the energy we use, the food we eat, the clothes we buy and where it all comes from. I have to admit that I'm not the best at being consistent in my conviction. For instance, I have a large stash of up-cycled rags made from old flannel sheets and unused t-shirts. They work just as well as a paper towel most of the time. We had been using them in just such a way for quite a while. Then, somehow, paper towels crept back into our lives. 

I think it comes down to convenience (and gross cat puke, to be honest). It is not very fun to wash out the rags when you've had to clean up something disgusting. So much easier to throw the grossness away. 

So you can easily see how we are accustomed to living a certain way and it takes radical change to live another way. The change must certainly come from within myself. No one is forcing me to buy paper towels or use plastic wrap. While there are some things that are beyond my control (the fact that my job is 30 minutes away and thus, not bike-able for instance) the greatest part of my life is up to me. So I'm going to work on some changes. Some, like the $20 wash line I set up through the garden last night are pretty easy. What is difficult is that I will now have to change the way I do laundry. I will have to take note of the weather report, wash only one load at a time and hang the laundry out before I go to work in the morning. This shouldn't be difficult since I was raised by a mother who gave me the best example of this. After 50 years, she still has her original dryer because she rarely uses it. But, it's a change for us. Here are some more changes that I'm considering:
  • Finding a way to eliminate (mostly) throw away packaging: plastic wrap, tin foil, wax paper, ziplock baggies (Oh, how I love those baggies!)
  • Remembering to ALWAYS use my reuseable bags instead of the plastic ones freely given at the grocery store.
  • Asking if our coffee roaster will fill my cloth bags before they bag the coffee into paper. I'm also interested in determining if I can buy the coffee in bulk and share it out with others interested in fair-trade, organic coffee in refillable bags.
  • Finding a source for fabric made without unjust labor practices.
  • Lowering our energy use. I wonder how much we have plugged in that can be unplugged (I say as I type on my electricity dependent computer).
  • Making fewer trips in the car. Biking when possible and being more intentional about errands.

The wash line runs through my garden. It isn't perfect but it works for now.
These feel like big steps but I know if I can start by making baby steps, eventually what feels radical will become normal. I know that this is true because of things we've already done: I haven't bought laundry detergent in over 2 years because we make our own. We have eaten from the bounty of our backyard all spring and summer, we moved from a 2500 sq. foot home with a garage to a 1000 square foot home with a shed and have loved every minute.

There are so many reasons to change our habits. I think often of those less fortunate than we who have no choices about what to eat or wear or where to send their children to school. I hope that by being more intentional in our habits we may have increased time and income to help others.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Accept him just as he is.

When Nathan was young and we were still reeling from the "autism" diagnosis, I took solace from parents whose children were older than mine and who "had been there before." I talked with everyone I could, read more books than are healthy, and joined a support group for parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome. 

After I came to a feeling of "acceptance" I felt strongly that I should share our story with others. I have always been open about Nathan's diagnosis, my struggle to accept it and my religious experience surrounding autism.

"Religious experience?" 


Sometimes God talks to me. 

I can't make you believe it, and it certainly doesn't make me extra holy, or better than anyone else. I've just had extra reason to plead with our Lord and He's been gracious enough to answer me.

My life has been changed irrevocably by having a child diagnosed with Autism. If I could have given you a map of my life when I was 20, it would have not included any instance of the struggle that we have had over the last 16 years.

When our psychologist (we love you, Mr. Mike!) told us that Nathan had a disorder called autism and that it would be life long ( he was 3 at the time - a long life ahead of him, and us), I was unable to really process the information. I remember thinking, "he'll be ok by Christmas." Well, he wasn't. 

At three and four, Nathan couldn't tell us what he ate for snack at preschool or even understand that the ball he wanted was in his bedroom. It made me rethink everything I thought I knew about the way children learn language. It would take me paragraphs and paragraphs to explain what I'm talking about. Trust Me.

One night, I was sitting on the rocking chair in my sons' (I have two- 20 months apart) room. Nathan was about 3 1/2 and Nolan was 2. They were sleeping in their bunk beds (the 2 year old Nolan on top) and I prayed fervently for Nathan. Clear as a bell, God said to me, "Accept him as he is." 

I think I must have jumped out of my skin at the words. 

Twelve years later I have never forgotten those Holy words. I must put aside the thoughts and dreams for the young man I think I have created and remember that the Lord has much bigger, much greater plans for Nathan than I could ever have comprehended.

Nathan is so beautiful: In body, in spirit, in soul. 

I can't begin to tell all of you how proud I am of his hard work, of his compassion toward others, of his thoughtfulness toward those less fortunate than him. 


He thinks of those who have less than he does. Even though he knows he has a disability and it troubles him. 

So, a little while ago a father of a young child with Autism asked me:

"Any tips that you would have for parents who are relatively new to this? Have anything that you would want for an autistic child's parents to know?"

I knew that a one sentence answer would not suffice. I knew that I must tell that father, and all of those who loved someone with autism the truth that the FATHER had given to me so many years ago: "Love him just as he is." I have made him perfect.

I hope that this helps you. 

Whoever you are. And whoever you Love.

That child, that adult was made PERFECT in the Father's love.

Just as Nathan was made perfect and has taught me perfection beyond what I could have learned on my own.

Thank  You.
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