How I Learned to Love My Dirty Car

CIMG0100It the middle of March it rained for two days. In fact, both days were gully washers. But even with four feet of new snow in the mountains, it won’t be enough.  We need another good few weeks of wet weather to make a difference in the drought conditions in Northern California. And so, despite this being our third dry winter, last month’s temporary need for umbrellas and galoshes will convince many to relax.   That water conservation isn’t urgent. It rained, didn’t it?   There is no need for worry.

Unfortunately, their complacency is misplaced.

Do you have any idea how many gallons of water per day your household uses? When my utility bill arrives I never look beyond the amount of money I owe. If I did I might learn a bit about my water habits.

I have a friend whose family of four uses ninety-nine gallons of water per day. This seemed an astronomical amount until I saw a copy of his water bill and read that his neighbors use, on average, one hundred and seventy-four gallons of water per day. But even that number is impressive. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average family of four can use up to FOUR HUNDRED gallons of water per day. And most of that water is used indoors.

Where does all that water go?

Conventional shower heads flow at five gallons per minute. That’s fifty gallons down the drain in one ten-minute shower. Install a low-flow shower head and cut your shower time in half and you’ll save twenty-five gallons of water.

Do you leave the water running while you brush your teeth? While you shave? Say goodbye to another two gallons. Turn the tap water off while you brush and install an aerator to save even more.

In the 1980’s we were fond of saying, “If it’s yellow, it’s mellow.” Toilet flushing was taboo – and for good reason. Each flush washes, on average, another five gallons down the drain.

Committing to a mindfulness practice of water conservation shouldn’t be limited to periods of drought. We should always be aware of how we use natural resources. The water we drink, the air we breathe, the lands we plow and cultivate are gifts. I think that we forget how precious these gifts are.

Even thinking of them as gifts is wrong. They are a part of us. When we abuse and misuse our resources, we are abusing and misusing our selves.

 

I asked friends if they had a favorite way of conserving water. The suggestions I received varied from the humorous (drink more beer) to the extreme (become a vegan). And then there were the suggestions that we all know. Some are simple. Others require more work. Some are practical. Others require us to create new habits and new ways of being in the world:

  • Replace lawn with drought resistant plants
  • Wait for full loads before doing laundry
  • Fill the dish washer instead of washing by hand
  • Collect grey water (from showers and dishwashing) to flush the toilet
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your sidewalk

 

According to the Santa Clara County Water District, if we each saved twenty gallons of water per day we would save over thirteen billion gallons of water per year. Do we have it in us to be that mindful? To remain that aware?

I think we do.

If you want more water saving tips go to the SCWD website save20gallons.org.

 

 

 


Ecopsychology – How Do We Fit in the World?

My second quarter at Sofia included a course called Ecopsychology.  I wasn’t really certain what that meant when the course began.  I’m coming to understand, however, how we’ve lost our connection to nature and through suffering that loss we’ve broken an important connection with our spirit and soul.

One of our assignments for the class was to design a small service project to take into the world.  It didn’t have to be big or flashy or showy.  Just something small to rebuild that lost connection.

I’d thought I’d share the first half of the assignment:

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This class, Ecopsychology, got under my skin.

I’m certain it didn’t mean to, but it did. And now I have this whole new way of looking at the world around me.

It began innocently enough. I thought our readings and assignments were simply reminding me of those things I already knew. Things like the fact that somehow we’re all connected. Not just you and me. But all living things. We rely on one another. Our relationships are complex. Sometimes they are reciprocal, sometimes symbiotic. But that’s how the world rolls. We all give a little, take a little and somehow it all balances out. Or at least it should.

I know. I’m making this sound all too simple and Neil De Grasse Tyson could explain with far more eloquence but the truth is – the point I am trying to make – is that we are all in this together. And by we I mean my best friend, my family, the plant on the top shelf of my bookcase, the tree outside my window, the blue sky above the tree, the squirrel dashing across the road (and narrowly missing the FedEx truck), the FedEx driver and Rigby. Rigby is the 9-month-old Portuguese Water Dog that I sometimes take care of. Even Rigby and his loveable puppy brain.

It’s just that the tree and the plant and the sky don’t know they’re part of this. The squirrel doesn’t know it, either. He’s too busy storing nuts for the winter. And Rigby? With his puppy brain? Clueless.

But those of us possessing what we would like to believe is higher cognitive function should know. We should know that we’re all in this together and that the ‘this’ I am writing about is in deep shit trouble.

And that’s what I mean when I say this class got under my skin’.

It reminded me of things I already know, and then it reminded me that we have a responsibility to try to do something about it (at this point, if Rigby had a better command of the English language would cock his head to one side and whine, “Really?”)

Yes, Rigby. We do. And the ‘something’ we choose to do has to be more than hugging a few trees.

 

I’ll admit it. At first my service project was going to be just big enough to meet the requirement, but small enough to not occupy too much of my time. And, no, I’m not proud but I still believed my idea – to write a blog post about water conservation – was reasonable in light of my state’s severe drought conditions.

But given that my blog’s readership can be counted on two hands and a foot the idea of posting five hundred words on how to conserve water didn’t really seem to be an effective way to connect with my role as a human caregiver to the planet. Besides, writing a blog post wasn’t the interactive experience I was beginning to crave.

I wanted a service project that would last longer than the time it takes to post a blog. What could I do?

The answer came to me in the shower. (A very short shower with a water conserving showerhead.) My project would have three components:

 

1)    A blog post about water conservation that can be read at Practically Twisted.

2)    A concerted effort to walk my talk by using grey water from showering and dish washing to flush my toilet.

3)    A second concerted effort to not just walk but to peddle my talk. By the beginning of next month I’ll be using a bicycle as my primary means of local transportation. (Truth-be-told I have an ulterior motive. Exercise! I’ve discovered there’s a direct link between the amount a person studies and an ever-widening backside. It’s time for an ass intervention!)

 

Like I said, this class got under my skin. In a very positive way. I’m already using grey water and the blog post will be up within a day or two. And I can’t wait to start riding a bike again.

This class and this project has taught me to take the time to consider my actions. I notice myself making different choices. I notice myself stepping back to breathe and to witness. And it feels good. It affirms not just my life but all life.