Teenage Boys Are Not Eco-Friendly

The title of this post says it all really. I can be as eco-friendly as I want. My son is not. This is a juxtaposition, ja?

teeny-bop emo

Mr Teeny-bop is emo, with coffee and crossword. (I got a snap of him smiling after this... emo defeated!)

Sometimes, it’s not his fault. Sometimes it is… sort of. Here are the top 10 reasons why, in no particular order.

1. Teenage boys grow, seemingly exponentially. Buying lots of clothes is not eco-friendly, and of course, teenage boys are too fashionable to want second-hand clothes. Ooh la la.

2. Teenage boys eat a lot. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me so much, but my teenage boy is a picky, picky eater. He likes processed foods, like Kraft’s Mac&Cheese (the kind in the blue box), when he could just as easily eat the fresh, homemade kind his mother (not me, the other mother) makes. Pretty much the only non-processed nutrition he consumes comes from fruit, veges and soy milk. Ok, and cheese and meat and cereal and pasta and bread. But that’s it. And I don’t mean lots of kinds of these things. There are two kinds of cheese (one wrapped in plastic), several kinds of meat and cereal, two kinds of pasta (including Mac&Cheese) and white, low GI bread. Oh, and pierogi.  No other non-processed food. Does coffee count as processed or non-processed? He drinks that too now (one cup a day only; he’s the only person in the house who likes it.) You might think I’m a terrible mother for letting him eat like this, but remember – when you’re a teenage boy, you know it all, and that includes what food you like. Besides, compared to what he used to eat, we are having victories every day. He tried sushi recently. He didn’t love it, but he tried it, and apparently it’s better than baked beans (another recent attempt). It seems resistance is futile after all.

3. Teenage boys break headphones. Sometimes I wonder if teenage boys realise there are actually a finite number of headphones in the world. And what do you do with broken headphones? There’s really no use for them. Can anyone think of a use for them? Mr Teeny-bop has just gone through three pairs in a month. I shudder when I think of the plastic-y, metal-y waste. I think I had one pair of headphones in all my teenage years. Then again, people didn’t walk around with their own personal soundtrack to life playing constantly inside their head (or from their iPod – however you’d like to describe it.) Maybe the next eco-unfriendly thing is increased hearing aid waste due to iPod-induced deafness. (I say waste, because I know teenage boys wearing hearing aids will lose or break the aids as quickly as they destroy headphones.)

4. Teenage boys do half-arsed chores around the house and call it done. For example, teenage boys mow the lawn and leave the cut grass out as green manure… on the concrete driveway. Call me sceptical, but I don’t think it’s going to enrich the soil too much there. Teenage boys don’t take as much care as they could when choosing which bin to tip the recycling into, because they are too busy thinking about lame Facebook applications and text messaging. Teenage boys don’t turn off the lights when they leave rooms. Teenage boys forget to turn the iron off (when they bother to iron). You may be sensing a pattern here. Yes, it’s the pattern of my irritation. Mothers of teenage boys have their own issues.

5. Teenage boys are even rougher on their shoes than pre-teen boys. I did not think this was possible, but apparently it is. Like broken headphones, what do you do with worn out shoes, I ask you? We have to buy new ones every term (roughly 12 weeks).

6. Teenage boys like lots of screen time. Wii, GameCube, YouTube, Facebook, MSN, text messaging, TV, DVD, camcorders, email… (I am looking at a screen a lot too, to be fair, but a lot of that is for my job.) Screen time takes electricity, and more of it means more electricity. Teenage boys also forget to turn appliances off. Before bed every night I do a round of the house, turning off computers, consoles, DVD players, TVs…

7. Teenage boys wear bigger clothes. This is fine, except it means I wash the same number of items, but I need to run more loads of laundry to fit everything in. I also run out of room on the clothes line. Trust me when I say that you should not try to circumvent this by overstuffing the washing machine. Teenage boys also smell, and if you don’t leave enough room for the clothes to get well scrubbed, the smell is going to linger. Even front loaders (which I have, and which apparently are supposed to be full during use as the agitation action is caused by the clothes rubbing together) do not do well being overstuffed.

8. As previously mentioned, teenage boys smell. Self-aware teenage boys (like my dear Mr Teeny-bop), try to circumvent this with deodorant. Unfortunately, mass marketing and peer pressure means Lynx body spray (not anti-perspirant), in a pressurised can, is the deodorant of choice. At least BO smells a little better when mixed with Lynx… even if it is sprayed so thickly I can taste it if I go into the bathroom after Mr Teeny-bop in the morning. Does anyone know what happens to spray cans when they are thrown away?

9. Teenage boys have a social life, which I am all for. Fortunately, living in a city permits a social life via bus, most of the time. However, the car trips we make to drop off/pick up are still considerably more than those made in pre-teen days. There’s just no way around the car and its links to suburbia unless there is dramatic social, demographic and economic change.

10. Teenage boys are rough on clothes. Socks wear out fast. The hems of shorts come down ‘by accident’. Shirts get stained. Jeans get ripped. Jumpers get covered in dog and cat fur. Hats get lost. Undies… well, ok. Undies wear pretty normally. But this brings us back to the first point – buying more clothes. Again. For a different reason. It’s a race to see whether he outgrows them or trashes them first.

Sometimes I think my efforts towards eco-consciousness are circumvented by my son. Sometimes my pattern of irritation feels ready to erupt into firey temper tantrums. (Yes, mothers have temper tantrums, they just look a lot different to kids’ temper tantrums.) Then my teenage  boy does something sweet, like invent an imaginary Italian bed and breakfast, complete with hand-written menu and fake accent, just so he can wear a manly apron and cook pancakes for me as Mother’s Day breakfast in bed, instead of adding to the consumer culture and buying me a gift I don’t really need.

Most days, he’s grumpy and self-absorbed, but sometimes I get a glimpse of who he used to be, and who he’ll become, and I know it’ll be worth these angsty teenage years in the end. No-one who can be that loving and gentle with an aging ginger cat can stay angsty forever.

At least, I hope so!

mr teeny-bop and fatso

Mr Teeny-bop and that aging ginger cat, Old Man Fatso, sleeping on the couch.



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!



Sustainable Sunday

Today was a busy day, at home. Not in that horrible frantic busy way, like when you’re at work trying to keep up with a million emails as well as your regular work, plus the five other things your boss has given you to do just cos they know you can, and the printer is beeping and you have fifteen people all trying to talk to you at once, not to mention the seventeen people from the other side of the world all instant messaging you and your partner texting your phone. (I love you, honey!) I’m talking about the kind of busy that involves doing stuff you want to do. The constant, solid busy that makes you feel like you achieved something at the end of the day. Physical work. What can I say, I like doing things with my own hands.

What with work though, I don’t get as much time as I’d like to spend on those types of things, plus just time to de-stress. I always try to set my weekends up so one day is absolute relaxation, nothing else. Inevitably, that means the other day is full of chores. Yesterday was relaxation day (which included a trip to the shops, admittedly), so today was chore day.

Today, I:

  • Washed clothes and a quilt; full loads in a front loader, line dried (I had to start early so the quilt would dry)
  • Brushed and bathed the dog, then gave him his peanut butter kong ball, which is his favourite part of the bath routine
  • Read a book on making jams, jellies, marmalades, preserves, liquers, pickles, relishes and chutneys – there is a really good-looking recipe for an Indian style chutney with green mangoes and a interesting watermelon rind pickle recipe (the book is Preserves by Lindy Wildsmith)
  • Planned where I’m going to set out the carrots, onions and snow peas I’m planting next weekend, with the help of a handy dandy gardening site which tells you what you should plant when, based on your climate. We’ll need a trellis. Might see what Freecycle yields.
  • Scrubbed a bunch of plant pots (picked some nice ones to keep in the house, put some on the rack on the front verandah for herbs and planted veges in some others)
  • Planted some spinach and onions in aforementioned pots, from seed. I’ve never grown plants from seed before!
  • Made some final decisions about how to set up the compost bin. We’re going to use the old concrete laundry tubs under the house, but we still need to work out how to make a lid for it (anyone have any ideas?). Then we need to get some buckets to put under the plug holes and clean it all up
  • Hung out some solar lanterns to absorb some energy… we’ll see tomorrow if they work or not. They unfortunately got soaked by a torrential downpour in April so I’m not sure how functional they are going to be
  • Sorta kinda cleaned the bathroom cabinet
  • Worked on a scarf I’m knitting (will do this later tonight – it’s going to match a beanie I made about 3 years ago).

So all in all, a productive day! Plus Yankee Elv made a super yummy dinner of pumpkin and baked ricotta couscous and mixed roasted veges (pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, french shallots, onion and carrots), which was fantastic and just what I felt like. She is the best girlfriend/partner/wife* ever.

I had a good day.

Loodle's opinion of bath time is not high, as opposed to his opinion of his peanut butter kong ball.

Loodle's opinion of bath time is not high, as opposed to his opinion of his peanut butter kong ball.

*Sometimes I struggle with terminology, but the sentiment is the same.