Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Three Rs: Reduce, reuse, recycle

I had to throw that little mini-post up yesterday evening so I wouldn't forget it. Two, two, two posts in one day! That makes up for a couple weeks of no posts at all, right? Heh.

Seriously, though, Jen has it right: Reducing the amount of oil we use will, in the long run, make a huge difference in the quality of our lives. We did this in the '70s during the gasoline shortage. Lines at gas stations were blocks long, prices were high and supplies were limited. We learned how to do more with less in so many ways.

One of the more controversial results of that energy crisis was the reduction in the highway speed limit from 70 or 65 to 55 miles per hour. As I recall, it was a strictly enforced law – the state police didn't give you any wiggle room, as they seem to do now. It was, of course, eventually modified and then repealed, and states were once again given control over how fast drivers could navigate their roads.

If you do a Google search for "55 mph speed limit," you'll get arguments from all directions about whether lowering driving speed does any good. I happen to believe it does, and there appears to be research to back it up. The Heritage Foundation (naturally) takes the opposite tack.

This being the time of year when we generally drive more (vacations, day trips, chauffering out-of-school kids to games, pools, play dates), let me suggest that you try it for yourself. Especially on a long trip, driving 55 mph saves a great deal. My husband and I drove from our home in West Virginia to my dad's in Florida a couple of years ago and never let the speedometer go above 55. As I recall, we added between four and six miles per gallon.

On short trips that doesn't seem like much. But a 900-mile trip? Pretty significant. Yes, it took longer to get there, but we weren't on a schedule and we weren't in a hurry. At one point an antique Volkswagen passed us! I stayed in the right lane and hopefully didn't piss anyone off. Do I still drive 55? Sadly, no. But now that I've written about it, I'm making a commitment to do better.

The bigger picture, though, is that our response to the 1970 oil shortage was to find more oil. The latest disaster in the Gulf is not the first, nor will it be the last. We must learn to depend on less oil and less on oil. It's. Just. That. Simple.

One of the things I did very recently was hang a clothesline. I'm not drying everything outdoors, but most everything. And what I put in the dryer goes in for a limited time. (My dryer has a sensor that shuts itself off when it "thinks" the clothes are dry. I'm just not going to use that setting any longer.) The amount of energy I've used drying clothes is staggering. No more.

My friend Elora, who commented on yesterday's post (and suggested we all e-mail the White House to encourage President Obama to emphasize conservation – done!), has a sign in her office (and probably also in her heart) that she absolutely lives by. You may have seen it, but have you lived it? She has, it works, and I admire her greatly for it. I try to do the same, and hope you will, too.

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do, or
Do without!

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