Friday, October 17, 2008

Green Friday--Working with the weather

The weather and I don’t always get along. I’ve been known to garden in the rain and to stand over a hot stove making jam on the hottest day of the year. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can work with the weather to decrease the amount of resources that I use.

For example, we’ve always been ones to hang our laundry outside, if we happen to do our laundry on a sunny day. Now I keep an eye on the extended forecast and try to save the laundry for days when I can put it out for at least a few hours. Given that we live in a place with an average of 154.5 days of precipitation a year, this isn’t always possible. And sometimes, through a lack of planning or a spell of bad weather, someone runs out of clean underwear and a load just has to be done no matter what it’s doing outside. But there are some weeks in which the dryer has hardly any work at all and I would guess that we use it maybe 50% of the time we would if we were using it to dry all our laundry.

My office is cold—so cold that my fingers sometimes go numb and it’s hard to type. It doesn’t help that the only thermostat for the whole house is upstairs, where it’s brighter and warmer, and my office is downstairs, where it’s darker and colder. In the past, when it got cold enough that a couple more layers of clothes couldn’t keep me from shivering, I either turned up the heat for the whole house (which I hate to do, since it’s a big waste) or kept a space heater near me all day (which I don’t like much either, since it’s noisy). Now I take my laptop upstairs on cold days. Two added benefits are that (a) on particularly gloomy days, of which we have many, it’s much nicer to be upstairs and (b) I get extra exercise—and generate heat—by running downstairs several times a day for reference books, files, or the chocolate bar I’ve hidden in my desk.

If I’m planning to do some baking, I try to do it on a cold day rather than a warm one. Our oven is a 1970s classic and not very efficient, so it makes sense to have it leaking heat on a cold day instead of when the house is already warm enough. It heats up our tiny kitchen so well that I can do my work at the table and turn the heat down a little bit in the rest of the house.

Child Two and I walk to school whenever we can, but when it’s really raining, we drive. Now that the fall weather is truly here, that’s happening more often. If I have errands to do in that direction, I save them for the days we drive so that I can drop her off at school on the way and not use any extra gas. Errands that are closer to home I save for nicer days and I walk instead of taking the car.

I can’t control the weather. I have to stand at the sidelines at soccer games and cross country meets no matter how hard it’s raining (why can’t my kids pick indoor sports?). But in trying to work with the weather, I’m finding that, in addition to saving some energy, I’m a little more appreciative of the variety we have here. I’m grateful as I hang out the laundry on a sunny day and I enjoy the coziness of a warm kitchen on a rainy one.