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Reduce: Laundry

How do you manage your laundry? In our house, I’m the laundry lady. As such, I get to skip out of all kitchen chores, which is super awesome as I hate doing dishes with an absolute passion. In contrast, Yankee Elv hates laundry so it works well for us. Anyway, although it might seem like a routine chore, the way you choose to do your laundry can impact your electricity and water usage.

I have a front loader washing machine. Front loaders are more energy and water efficient than top loaders – top loaders actually use twice as much water. I only ever wash full loads and use cold water (unless I’m washing work clothes which go through on permanent press). This saves water and electricity.

Once I have the clothes washed, I don’t put them in the dryer (in fact, I don’t even own a dryer). I hang them on the line. I know that this isn’t common in the US – in fact, in some places it’s actually illegal to have a clothesline – but here in Australia it’s totally normal to have a clothesline. Every house has one, and I put up ‘under-the-house’ lines within the first two weeks of moving in here.

Under-the-house clothesline

Under-the-house clothesline

You need to be able to dry your clothes if it’s raining, right?

Another under-the-house clothesline

Another under-the-house clothesline

We have an outside line too.

The outside clothesline

The outside clothesline

When I lived in the US, we only had a dryer, and the reduction in electricity used here as compared to in Texas was dramatic, and based mostly on not using the dryer. As well as being good for the environment and your electricity bill, it’s also better for your clothes. When Australians hear that lots of Americans don’t have clotheslines, they all look horrified and ask how their clothes don’t get ruined – bras, flimsy shirts, elastic in underpants!? (Once a British colleague asked an American colleague this question and he responded by joking that all their clothes are polyester anyway, so they withstand anything.) Just remember to hang your clothes inside out or the sun will fade them.

I know in some places, line drying isn’t a feasible option in winter (and thus this post isn’t particularly timely for those of you in the northern hemisphere), but keep this in the back of your mind for spring. It’s good for the climate and your bank balance!

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Newsflash: UK Goes Electric

Awesome news! Treehugger has announced that the UK government is funding new Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations across the country. This is a fantastic step forward! I hope we get these in Australia soon, but of course the Europeans are first.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

It makes so much sense to introduce EV charging stations in this way. Electric cars rock – check out my review of the movie ‘Who Killed the Electric Car‘ to find out more about why they’re superior to cars powered by other fuels (including biofuel). However, I’m wary about getting one because I wouldn’t be able to travel too far – there’d be nowhere to charge it except my own house. Considering how large Australia is and the kinds of distances you have to travel if you want to go somewhere, charging stations are important.

As the Treehugger article says, it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg – which comes first? People want to buy electric cars, but won’t because there’s nowhere to charge them. Conversely, no-one will build charging stations because no-one owns electric cars. But no-one will buy electric cars because there are no charging stations. No-one will build… yeah, I think you get my point. The only way around this is for the government to step up and fund either or both of these options, to sort of kick start the industry. Kudos to the UK government for figuring that out and taking that big step forward.

Sometimes I think it would be cool to live in Europe and benefit from all these cool kinds of laws and politics. Then I remember how cold it is… nah. I like living in a place where, when it’s not even summer yet, there’s more of my skin exposed than covered. Sunshiny warm goodness. Perfect for the solar energy I would buy to charge my electric car with. If I had one.

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Reuse: Meat for Heat

Tesco, a UK grocery chain, is not producing any waste. They’re recycling or reusing any excess stuff they use, don’t sell or otherwise produce. That’s pretty super awesome, especially since they’re not even required to do this by law.

Potentially overshadowing this very cool fact, howerver, is the fact that one way they’re achieving this is by turning meat that is too old to sell into electricity. Apparently enough electricity is produced per year to heat about 600 homes – from about 5000 tonnes of manky meat.

Gross.

Tesco - the UK supermarket that reuses or recycles all waste.

Tesco - the UK supermarket that reuses or recycles all waste.

Veg*ns across the UK (and angry sympathisers worldwide) are all up in arms, and I can’t say I totally blame them. It would be pretty nasty to find out that, as a vegan, your good deeds were essentially cancelled out by the fuel used to light and heat your home. Of course, one would hope you’d be purchasing green energy… but who knows how this meat-power is marketed? Technically, some people might call it green – it’s not oil- or coal-based.

I do think it’s good the meat isn’t just going to the dump. That would be worse than using it for electricity, in my opinion. At least it’s getting used – waste is the worst thing. I gotta ask though… why is so much meat being produced (aka, animals being raised, slaughtered and transported in an environmentally unfriendly manner) that there’s such a large amount of leftovers that don’t sell? 5000 tonnes of meat per year is a lot of animals. It’s a lot of pain and suffering for them. It’s a lot of crops used to feed these animals, that could have been used to feed humans. Alternatively, the land used to grow the crops and house the animals could have been left wild. It’s a lot of methane produced. It’s a lot of carbon emitted to transport the animals (both alive and dead). It’s a lot of antibiotics and hormones and offal and waste and pollution and manure. Ew.

I don’t eat meat, but I don’t automatically write off all people who do. I do have a lot more respect for people who eat meat ethically and consciously though; really knowing where their meat comes from and how it got to their plate. Typically these people tend to eat organic meat. Folks who just mindlessly grab the mass-produced stuff off a shelf in the supermarket are not making an informed choice. This ‘meat for heat’ practice is encouraging that – basically suggesting that there’s no impact. There is an impact, a big one, and people ought to be encouraged to think about that.

So good on you Tesco, for going so far with your environmental efforts. I’m not even being sarcastic. However – take it a step further. Ask the energy companies to clearly identify who is buying electricity sourced from meat. Reduce the amount of meat you purchase, since not all of it is selling. Help the environment just that little bit more.

Cos seriously Tesco. Meat as electricty = gross symptom of climate change. Really gross.

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Newsflash: Nissan’s electric car

Great news about Nissan’s new electric car, Leaf!

Nissan's CEO with the new car, Leaf. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye via HuffPo.

Nissan's CEO with the new car, Leaf. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye via HuffPo.

Due out in 2010, it’s affordable and looks enough like a ‘regular’ car that people shouldn’t be afraid to buy it. Electricity is cheaper than petrol too, which will be another added bonus. Imagine fueling your car on electricity sourced from sustainable resources like solar and wind!

Read more about the history of electric cars in my review of the doco Who Killed the Electric Car?.

My only surprise is that with a name like Leaf, the car isn’t green, but I guess that would be pretty cliche.

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