Sometimes, all it takes is a little reminder that the small things do add up. I found a book (which I really want to read now!) called "Sleeping Naked is Green" and the accompanying blog, Green as a Thistle. The author challenged herself to make one green change every day for a year. And since she was squeamish about some of these changes (her blog post about changing to recycled toilet paper, and wondering what it used to be--old issues of "Maxim"?--was hilarious) I think it's a good jumping-off point for people looking to make changes but wary of them at the same time.
It also led me to this blog, from another Canadian, about trying to green her family's lifestyle with small changes every day. I like that, at least in the beginning, her husband was wary of what changes she'd want to make. They'd already "greened" their lifestyle by "normal" standards, but she felt there was more they could do. I think Shane feels the same way sometimes, while I constantly look for ways to improve. I've had to go into "stealth" mode myself a few times to make a change. Then, by the time Shane notices, it's permanent.
So this week I want to focus on the small things. Not all of them are environmental, some just make life easier. For instance, last night I noticed that one of the handles was nearly falling off a kitchen cabinet. So I fixed it. It's one of those tasks that could be so easy to put off until the handle actually fell off, but I didn't have anything pressing to do and Shane and I were hanging out in the kitchen anyway (getting dinner ready, and Shane was starting more beer). I then took a minute or so to test all of the other handles and fix the two others which were loose. Easy peasy.
Since I already had the screwdriver out, I wondered what else I could take care of? That reminded me about the outlet inuslators. When we got the home energy audit/repair thing this summer, they gave me a free pack of outlet/socket insulators for all outlets on walls which lead outside. The pack turned out to be just the perfect number for our apartment. I fixed most of the outlets a couple of weeks ago, but at the time Shane was napping and I didn't want to wake him up to move the bed for those in our room. So I finished those last night. Since it's colder now than it was before (currently -35F), I could really feel the difference! When I was unscrewing the outlet cover, I could feel the cold air. And I don't mean a little bit. After putting in just the small bit of insulation and screwing the cover back on, there was no more cold air vortex.
Now I just need to bother Shane until he helps me put the sheet up over the window on my side of the bed. Brrr! The blinds are down, but the bed is low so I think the blinds do more to funnel the cold air down onto me than they do to block it. Shane keeps saying, "Why don't we just get some of the plastic window covers?" but I don't think that would help as much as he hopes. An old, doubled-up sheet we never use as a sheet would go a long way toward making our room warmer.
I have also noticed that when the air is super cold like now, the oven tends to cycle on a lot more, as in it uses more energy to keep the temperature up. I have no idea what it would need to make that not happen, but it's interesting to note. Last night I bundled the baking as much as possible (which is a good idea in general, since it saves tons of electricity by only having to heat up the oven once) and got most of it done with all at once so we won't have to use the oven so much this week.
The final small thing I did last night was to make my own hot chocolate mix. There are tons of recipes online (I used Alton Brown's, easily found on the Food Network website) and I used Ghirardelli's chocolate since they're more ethical than either Nestle or Hershey's. (It's also damn good chocolate.) Lo and behold, it was a success! I mean, a messy disaster to make it (apparently, I'm not good with powdered foods, since the chocolate and the sugar got everywhere) but it was very yummy. Shane tried some and also enjoyed it. I think we'll be drinking less hot chocolate this year than we did last year, but at least we're done buying Quik and its arm-length list of ingredients. Did I mention that this tasted great, too? Way better than anything you can buy pre-mixed.
What other small changes could we make?