Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Habits Die Hard

From the bean of Green Bean.


The small ping tugged me out of my thoughts. Mail. I moved over to check it, clicked, scrolled and clicked again.

$17.91.

Not bad. Not bad at all for a month's worth of water in thirsty California. I won't pat myself on the back too hard as it is mid-winter and all. But still . . .

I decided to check this year's stats against last year's. Hmmm. Let's see. Down 700 hundred gallons from last February and clocking in at a very slim 6% of the average American's usage per Riot 4 Austerity's calculator! Suck on that, drought!

All of my utility bills tell a similar story. Down a bit from last year, more than half from two years ago. The difference, though, is that last year - my first full year of really really trying to live green - I suffered. I cringed at the short showers. I froze my buns off. I winced at the flies in the compost heap. Ate by candlelight. Sloshed grey water en route to the butterfly bush. Scoured cookbooks for "seasonal" recipes. And swallowed more guilt than mozzarella at the local pizza joint.

Still, I hesitate to open each new bill that arrives, afraid that my usage will have soared in the preceding month. You see, my focus has changed since last year. Lately, I've paid far more attention to the fiscal viability of my child's school and far less to lightening my planetary load. Instead of fretting over LEDs or the temperature of our hot water heater, I'm organizing a rummage sale, working on a political campaign, manning two constantly shifting carpools, teaching a dozen kindergartners to walk like a bear, and packing three lunches a day.

Thinking solely about green living has fallen off my radar screen. The beauty, though, is that I thought about it enough last year. In that year of grey water and compost heaps, I am embraced a new normal. I found and loved certain seasonal recipes and learned how to pack a lunch without a stitch of trash. I came to terms with shorter showers - which really meant taking them every other day but for a bit longer. My body acclimated to seasonal temperatures and we invested in an electric blanket. I ripped out a bunch of grass and went native. And I fell in love with power strips and a clothes line.

I developed new habits and I hope they die hard.

8 comments:

knutty knitter said...

I think habits are great! Just get it in there and then live on automatic pilot forever!

Meanwhile you get to work on new stuff like carpooling and teacher aiding :)

viv in nz

mrsdirtyboots said...

It's great when 'new things' become normal isn't it. May you forever be frugal! At times I thought I'd never stop worrying about how much energy we'd used - would the solar have supplied enough for some tv tonight? Now I don't really give it all a second thought. Its just how we live.

EcoBurban said...

It's so amazing how quickly new habits become a way of life, thanks for this post. It reminded me of the things I still AM doing without actually noticing. Sometimes I beat myself up about what I'm NOT doing and forget about my lowered thermostat, packed lunches and greywater in the flower pots! So, I will forgive myself for the string cheese... Thanks, GB!

Carmen said...

I can't wait until I get to that point. Maybe in 2010...

Willo said...

I think this post says perfectly that changing our way of thinking creates a tidal wive of change in our lives and on the planet that is long lasting and has an impact. And if all of us can just start that tidal wave, we will have a tsunami of green change.

FOO said...

Such a nice post! All these changes create quite a nice snowball effect. And it's true that it doesn't seem possible to go back. My parents want to buy my almost-4-year-old son a ginormous outdoor playset and wanted me to price one at the Lowe's and I didn't really think about it until I saw the hulking behemoth and the matching price tag of over $1500 for the kit. I promptly walked out thinking we would make do with our neighborhood playground, and then I remembered that some of our neighbors have a play set that has been languishing for years (all of their kids are now in their teens) and I called and asked if I could buy it from them. They said they'd be happy to give it to me for free if I'd haul it away. I realized after that experience that I have not bought anything new, other than food, for as long as I can remember. And it's not from a sense of scarcity - it's a sense that I want to be conscious and grateful for all the abundance that is available and not ever take it for granted. And, of course, I fervently hope that this sensibility will, like Willo said, create a much greater impact.

FOO said...

Oh, and I also wanted to say thanks for coming to my blog and leaving a kind comment! It's funny, I bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes last week, so you'll see a lot more of them on the menus in the weeks to come. The quiche with the shredded potato crust on Sunday was awesome, too. Just shred a potato or two, place in your pie dish, brush with melted butter and bake in a 375 oven until browned and then add whatever you like in your quiche. The crust is yummy, crispy, salty like hashbrowns.

Green Bean said...

Viv: I love that. Auto pilot! It is so true. Living green is very important but it is nice when we can go on auto pilot and concentrate on other things that also really matter.

MrsDirtyBoots: It is so nice when you just adjust and that's life. And yet, you are still making as much of a difference living that way.

EcoBurban: EXACTLY! When I think about green living, I tend to worry that maybe I didn't do enough of this or I should do more of that (usually biking, bleh!). Then I get one of those utility bills (got another one today!) and I realize, I really am doing a lot. Just not thinking about it every second of every day.

Carmen: You'll probably get their sooner than you think. :)

Willo: Beautiful comment. Tsunami of green change - what this would mean if we all lived this way.

FOO: Excellent point. I save so much money by living more mindfully. I hardly ever buy anything - especially anything new - and it is just second nature now.

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