I promise, the FAQ is coming early this week. In the meantime, I'm finding myself mulling over the ways that I can get my numbers down. A surprising amount of it involves buying new stuff, which is worrisome in some ways, but also, I think inevitable. That is, I think all of us are going to end up spending some money this year if we're to make this a permanent way of life. Hopefully what I save will offset them economically, but there will be an energy cost.
Miranda and I have been worrying about how to calculate those purchases - should we give everyone a break on their responsibility for the emissions of things that will lead us to fewer emissions in the long run? Miranda, I think, is pro, and for good reasons - she points out that people want to succeed, and she's afraid that we're risking making people feel like they've failed right up front. So even though this year is to be transitional, she thinks we should give credits for those necessary things - insulation, or clothelines or solar ovens - that make this possible in a comfortable way. And I think she's got a point.
On the other hand, there's an anal part of me that says "But even good stuff creates emissions in manufacture. Shouldn't we be responsible for those things, even if we need them." I also worry because I think that reasoning is seductive to the selfish part of me. I've had people say to me, "You should come talk in our far away place, because you'll help more people save more energy." But I wonder - what if I don't? What if I'm not quite inspiring enough, and I'm just using this as an excuse to take a trip? What if people don't go home and plant gardens or stop using their dryers, and then I just flew all this way? All of which is just a way of saying that I worry about my own temptation when excuses are put my way. Would it be just a little too tempting to buy something mostly just to buy it, rather than because of its environmental benefits. I know myself well enough to know I like loopholes ;-). Anyway, we're still figuring this one out, but I suspect I'm tarring other people with my own occasional bouts of weakness here. Apologies if I'm maligning the rest of you by thinking you might be as easily tempted into cheating as me ;-).
Speaking of cheating, am I the only person out there doing this who is having a "oh, crap, gotta do X before it starts "counting."" Now of course, we all know it counts anyway, so I'm trying really hard to keep those urges under control, but I think I will get a couple of things I need anyway - shoes that my oldest son can't take off easily and lose in the yard, more clothespins, vodka for making homemade liqueurs, and my husband will be buying some beer. I will not buy yarn. I will not buy books. I really, really won't buy yarn or books. I believe my own statements. Really.
Ok, down to the plans for how to reduce my emissions. The one I'm worried the most about is water. First of all, I really like my shower (often the only cone of silence I get in a day), and my kids are usually so filthy by the end of the day that spot washing them would require more water than a bath does. Second of all, you should see the clothing at the end of the day. It poured here for two days, and Eli resembled the swamp thing from the comic book more than a child by the end of the afternoon. In weather like this, with the six of us, and two and half in diapers, I wash every day.
I also need to set up a more formal grey water system than "dumping the water out in buckets." Which means a call to our friend Woody, who fixes cool stuff and tries not to laugh at how un-handy we are. He's already building us two nice looking composting toilets, so we can stop using the commode we inherited from Eric's grandparents for that purpose. Pee already goes straight to the garden anyway. But I'm definitely going to have to think about this water one. Do you think the children will stop getting dirty any time soon ;-)? On the bright side, Isaiah is nearly toilet trained - hurray! He wore underwear to synagogue this weekend, which is quite a milestone. Let us just say that that's one of the last bastions of training pants.
Electricity - I think I'm going to have to get a laptop. The desktop uses a crazy amount of power. The thing is, it is probably necessary anyway, now that Simon wants to use the computer in homeschooling so much. I've been resisting because of the embodied energy, but I've got *two* book contracts for this year, and I think I'm going to have to have better access and less energy intensive solutions than I've got now. We can sell the desktop. I'd use the local library, but that's a five mile walk or drive, and they have a 45 minute time limit. The fridge is going to go - we're going to keep the freezer for a while and see how that goes, but we'll unplug the fridge and use rotating ice packs in a cooler to keep food cool. We've already got some solar lanterns, and we use pretty minimal lighting. The killer will be the electric stove - I'm hoping to build at least one more solar oven, and maybe buy a professional one, since mine don't get much over 320 except on crazy hot days - which we don't have many of. We're also going to build an outdoor masonry oven, as seen in the book _Earth Ovens_ so we can use small quantities of wood to bake and keep the heat out of the house. Also, a good tip I got at Sue Robishaw's website www.manytracks.com - whenever the solar oven is empty, heat water in it, and use thermoses to keep it warm - instant soup, tea, coffee or whatever water.
Heating will be tough because the house is so crazy huge. We always shut off a portion of it, but the problem is that we have a lot of guests, and while we don't mind having the heat at 55, not everyone really likes it. Most of our wood will be no problem, but I'm not sure what we're going to do about the visitor thing. The thing is, we love our visitors - they are people who are generally important to us, and we want them to be happy because they've often travelled a long time on a rare occasion to get out to the boonies to visit us. I don't want everyone to respond to being here by running rapidly into the night.
Ok, more on this when I get a chance, because my soup, cornbread and asparagus are waiting!