Friday, April 11, 2008

Green Friday: Tea for one, not two (or twenty-two)

Due to popular demand (well, Margerie), on Fridays I share some ideas for how to lessen our impact on the environment. But I don't have a PhD in this, so please share your own ideas with me!

This is how I used to make tea: Working diligently on a client’s manuscript, I’d come across an especially disorganized section or a sentence that made me want to bang my head on the keyboard. I’d think, “I need a cup of tea” (procrastination by tea). As I looked out the window or tried to reach the cookie jar with my other hand, I’d stick the kettle under the tap, and then I’d plug it in and wander away. I would come back five or ten minutes later, discover that the water had already started to cool off, turn the kettle back on, and wander off again. Sometimes it took me three tries to make a cup of tea.

Then one day as I was wandering around in Blogland (procrastination by blog reading), I came across Green Me’s post on tea kettles. And I started paying attention to what I was doing.

I regularly filled the kettle with enough water for a whole pot of tea. Combine that with the mineral deposits in my kettle and my apparent inability to keep a thought in my head for the time it took the kettle to boil, and I was using enough energy for the Mad Hatter’s tea party just to make a single cup.

Now I fill the kettle only to the minimum line and I stick around while it boils. As a side benefit, I’ve cleaned out the fridge, perused forgotten recipe books, and started decluttering the cabinets—all a few minutes at a time.

I also keep my kettle clean. Before, I descaled my kettle (removed the mineral deposits) intermittently, meaning once or twice a year. Green Me gives instructions for descaling, but this is how I’ve always done it (when I’ve actually gotten around to doing it): Fill the scaly part of the kettle with straight white vinegar and boil it. Rinse the kettle well, fill it to the same level with clean water, boil it again, and give it one more rinse. If it’s that easy, why didn’t I do it more often?

Being the procrastinator I am, I drink a lot of tea. I look for fair trade brands without envelopes, strings, and tags. A reusable box or tin gets bonus points. I buy organic and loose tea whenever possible. Once in a while I buy teabags that are individually wrapped if that’s the only way I can get a certain kind or if I’m going to share it with a far-away friend. Nice people send me tea, too. I save all the envelopes to use in as-yet-in-my-head craft projects or to send to someone I know who collects them, or, at the very least, I recycle them. The tea itself goes in the compost.

I don’t drink coffee (yuck!), but you could apply the same principle of awareness to making that awful drink. Are you brewing a pot when you’ll drink only a cup or two? And how about when you boil water for pasta or fill the sink to do dishes or run the bath for you kids? Do you really need that much or could you make do with a little less? Now that I’m paying attention when I turn on the tap, I’m using less water and less energy. And since I’m not boiling the kettle three times for each cup, I have more time to procrastinate by blogging.


Margerie said...

Bravo Susan! I usually heat my water up in the microwave. Not sure if that is eco friendly, but it only takes 2 minutes.

I am saving a ton of time and energy boycotting ironing ;)

Have a great weekend!

Hayley Townley, Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire! said...

I like the procrastinating by making tea, blogging (reading and writing), and imagine that somehow, procrastinating over not doing something (whatever that may be) is good for the environment.

The bonus of cleaning your kitchen is also great.

I love that you are saving the tea envelopes. You know that is going to make a spectacular art piece. Remember, one of my favorite postcards is the breast cancer stamp collage!!!! T-U!