A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu
Baseball fans know that while homeruns are certainly exciting to watch, a lot of singles and walks strung together are often more effective and lead to more wins. The same thing is true of many things in life such as saving money, saving energy and protecting the environment. A lot of little changes, over time, add up to big savings.
But oftentimes when we think about adopting a proactive attitude toward preserving the environment or saving money, we tend to overlook simple solutions, opting instead for a swing-for-the-fences approach.
We consider trading our gas-loving SUV for an electric or hybrid-electric vehicle and then, usually, we decide against such a radical departure from the norm and then consider, briefly, switching our home’s HVAC to a geothermal system or some other major renovation. These are not bad ideas, but they are much too big of a first bite of the “green” apple for many people.
My purpose here is certainly not to dissuade anyone from considering or even making bold moves toward saving energy or saving money or saving the planet. All of these things will have a positive impact on multiple lives and we need as many people as possible to join the Save-The-Planet Army. But like our baseball analogy above, many more people are capable of walks and singles than homeruns. And those smaller hits, strung together, can be far more effective, if less exciting, than the occasional dinger.
For instance, consider the difference between washing your clothes in cold water vs. hot water. At first it doesn’t seem all that exciting but if you consider that fully 90% of the energy consumed by doing laundry is used to heat the water, it starts to look a little better. Still not exciting perhaps, but better.
Now think about the number of loads of laundry that the average family washes each year. According to Treehugger.com the average American household washes 392 loads of laundry per annum. Assuming you have an electric water heater and top-loading machine, washing all those loads in hot water is roughly the same as driving your car (assuming you are driving something that averages around 20 miles per gallon), about 3600 miles! That’s a pretty significant savings just for selecting the Cold Water button on your washer.
And the good news doesn’t end there. Washing those same 392 loads in cold water will also lessen your impact on the environment to the tune of 2407 pounds of CO2 per year or the equivalent of flying 6,171 miles! Again, that’s a significant reduction in your personal carbon footprint from a relatively simple change in your washing habits. If numbers are your thing the good folks at Treehugger.comgive you the full treatment here.
Cold water also has the advantage of being generally easier on your clothes than hot water and while you’re at it, why not hang your clothes to dry them, sparing them the rough and tumble, wear and tear of the dryer, making them last longer, and further reducing your impact on the environment? After all, your clothes dryer is the second-most energy hungry appliance in your home (behind the refrigerator), and while it will dry your clothes quicker than line-drying, it won’t dry them any drier. And the line won’t wear them out nearly as quickly as tossing them into the dryer every time you wash.
But our clothes are not the only thing that we can wash in cold water. There is growing evidence that washing our bodies in cold water provides a number of health benefits such as improved circulation, boosting your immune system and reducing the perception of pain. While it sounds torturous it is actually quite doable if you do it the right way, which is to say gradually. Start your shower with warm water as you normally would and then begin turning the hot water down as you go about your daily ablution. By the time you hit the rinse cycle you should be showering in cold water. Try it and I think that you will find it to be a very invigorating start to your day. And you will be saving money on your energy costs as well.
Small changes, or walks and singles for you baseball fans, will move us closer to our environmental goals. So do something good for the environment today. Wash your clothes in cold water or take a cold shower. The most important step on our thousand-mile-journey is the first one.
Source: The Green Register.com by Jeff Whitaker