Tuesday, November 22, 2011


If you haven't seen "The Story of Stuff", you really should. I think it's especially important now, before Christmas and the biggest time of year for consumption (in terms of calories eaten, money spent, and stuff bought). I think there are so many better ways to show your loved ones that you, well, love them than to buy them things. Especially things of dubious quality (c'mon, is that toy for your nephew really something he's going to cherish for years and pass on to his own kids? are you sure it's non-toxic?) and questionable use. When 99% of the stuff we buy--yes, 99%--is thrown away within six months, I'd argue that there really aren't many of us who need new things for Christmas. There are many alternative gifts you can give people, such as passes for the zoo or tickets to a really great show you know someone in your family wants to see. The Zero Waste Home Blog has a really great post today about alternate ideas for gift giving, and the comments at the bottom are also full of great tips. I will be trying to go as local, small-scale, useful, and zero waste as I can with my gift giving this year. It's tricky (mostly because of distance), but I have a few ideas up my sleeve.
One of my favorite things which my mom and her siblings do is to donate to charities in each other's names. After all, they're all settled and reasonably comfortable. Any "stuff" they can buy for themselves. So they donate to charities instead, and if they really find something small that they can't resist, they send that along too. Usually it's local stuff that the others can't get, like local delicacies. (I do like getting chili powder from Texas relatives!) But it's not "stuff", then, so much as it is something useful which the others will appreciate and use.
Have you heard of the freeze yer buns challenge? I didn't think so. It's a challenge to see both how long you can turn of your thermostat (and turn it back off again earlier in the Spring) and how low you can keep it when you do turn it on. As many people have pointed out, you actually acclimate to the cooler temperatures and it can feel uncomfortable to be in the "normal" 70+ degree indoor temperature.
Anyway, Shane and I ended up arguing about this idea. In the cabin, we did this (without ever knowing that it's a movement) because we simply couldn't afford the heating oil. In our current place, we don't pay for heat. The landlord does, so Shane wants to keep the heat at 72(F). His side of the argument is that we have no idea where the thermometer is for the thermostat, and if it reads 72 the rest of the house (like our bedroom) probably isn't at 72(F). My argument is that even if we don't directly pay for heating oil, we still "pay" for it in terms of rent. In fact, our rent is going up in January because of this very problem. Heating oil is too expensive, and our landlord has been losing a lot of money on our place because of it. Not only that, I'm far more comfortable at 68-69(F) than I am at 72. If I get cold, I'd rather just snuggle up in some blankets or put on a sweater. Shane wants to be able to wear shorts in the house all winter.
The reason this devolved into an argument last night is because I wanted help putting an old sheet over the window. Shane didn't want to help me because it's "pointless" and "won't do any good anyway". Huh? Um, people have been using curtains for centuries to help hold heat in and cold out. Shane says that they're purely for privacy. (Nope, that's what a hedge is for.) So he wanted me to call the landlord and have him buy some of the plastic window coverings (which costs maybe $5, by the way) so we could put those over the windows instead.
I don't know where he's gotten the idea that a very thin sheet of plastic will help, rather than a doubled-up sheet, but I know he's wrong. A friend of ours is an engineer and to make a long story short, he knows that the plastic doesn't help that much.
Also, there's ice forming on the inside of this window. Not on the other two in the bedroom, just on this one. And it's the one that's right next to me. So I'm going to bring home some thumb tacks today and just put the sheet up myself. And then turn the heat down.
We do have a couple of other places in the apartment where ice has started to form, such as on the sliding door. Brr! I wonder if the whole winter is going to be like this? I forgot to mention it last week, but there was a time when Fairbanks was ranked as the coldest place on Earth. Let me repeat that. For a short time, Fairbanks was the coldest place on the planet. We beat out Siberia, Antarctica, and all manner of cold places. It's a dubious distinction, but we'll take it.
Last night we got some snow, so the cloud cover made it a bit warmer. It was only -25 for my walk home.

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