One Small Change


Our July One Small Change is probably the scariest one of the year: TV-free Tuesdays.  In the way of Meatless Mondays, this change is meant to decrease consumption of energy, but it also serves another, possibly more important, purpose.

Before I had kids, I had proposed to Craig that we get rid of our TV all together, or at least get rid of our cable service.  I had full intentions of not letting our children watch TV. Ever. Craig did not think ditching the tube was a good (or sane) idea, and so the tv remained.

TV Zombies

Now, two kids later, there is more tv watching going on in my house than I would have ever imagined, and it’s my fault.  With a two year old and a three year old underfoot, TV has become a tool.  My dad came to visit a few weeks ago.  “I don’t know how you get anything done during the day.  It seems like they both decide together when they’re going to misbehave or stop listening to you,” he said.  A couple hours later, both of the kids were parked in front of a DVD movie, motionless.  Dad had his camera out and was taking pictures of them.  “This,” I said, holding up the TV remote, “is how I get things done.”

The studies all show that TV is bad for kids, dropping IQ scores and upping body fat percentages.  I find comfort in the advice my Mom gave me when Carina was a toddler: “If you get to the end of the day, and you have things you need to get done, it’s ok to turn on the TV.”  The problem is that my kids are waking up with TV, twice a day.  It’s the first thing they ask for in the morning, and also after nap. Callen will even say, “Let me watch a show to make me feel better” if he is sad or hurt.

So, I’ve designated Tuesdays as our No TV days.  To be quite honest, I don’t know if I will be able to keep this one going.  I am cheating this month.  I didn’t just choose Tuesday because it sounds nice with “TV”.  We have a very busy schedule on Tuesdays this month, so if I make it through the hour and a half of at-home time in the morning with no TV, I’m pretty much safe. It will be a different story in August when all our extracurricular activities end and we’ll be left to entertain ourselves. Often the kids have no problems entertaining themselves, but when they are out of control or trashing the house, it is I who reaches for the remote.

Oh, yes, and then there’s that energy savings thing I mentioned, too.  Because when our TV is on, our Satellite box is on too, along with the amplifier, and speakers, and sometimes the DVD player too, and maybe even the v-smile video game.  So, skipping one day of TV a week probably won’t save enough electricity to be noticeable on our bill, but that’s why it’s called One SMALL Change, right?  Only this one doesn’t feel so small.

So, the end of the month has come (and gone), and Craig hasn’t figured out what our One Small Change was.  Here’s a clue:

Yes, indeed.  I turned the refrigerator and freezer one notch warmer.  Nothing perished or thawed prematurely. . . even though Callen has figured out how to climb up into our fridge (the freezer is on the bottom) and get what he and Carina need while she holds the door open for him.

BUT!  That is not all, folks.  No, that is not all.

I ALSO turned the temperature on the water heater one notch colder.  I am especially impressed that hubs did not notice this. Even if you can’t bear to turn your water heater down, don’t forget to set it on the “VACATION” setting when you head out on that summer road trip – if you’re gone for a week, it will save you at least the cost of half a tank of gas.

I love small changes like these because not only do they save resources, they save MONEY!

So, what’s your gpm?  GPM?  Gallons Per Minute!  How many gallons per minute does your shower head spit out?  If you don’t know, you might want to find out.  It’s likely that it’s 2.5 gallons per minute or more.  That’s what our shower heads were rated at, so our One Small Change for May is to replace our shower heads with low-flow versions, which use only 1.5 gpm.  I have been wanting to do this since we moved in, but I really started focusing on it during the months of February and March, when Craig was gone every week for work, and our water usage dropped substantially (according to our meter readings on our water bill).  Hubby loves his 10 minute morning showers.

So, some simple math here.  If Craig takes a 10 minute shower every day, and our new shower heads save us 1 gallon per minute, that’s 10 gallons a day, or 3,650 gallons per year.  I probably take a 10 minute shower every other day, so that’s another 1,825 gallons saved.  So total, we’re looking at saving approximately 5,475 gallons of water per year.  Based on our water bill, we pay approximately $0.72 per gallon (including the sewer fee, which is based off of how much water you use), so switching our shower heads will save us $39.15 per year. We paid $14 and $20 for our two new low-flow shower heads, so our total cost is $34. This first year, we’ll come out $5 ahead in our pockets, not to mention the value of conservation itself, and of teaching these concepts to our children.  It should be noted here that we are on the low end of the spectrum of water usage, averaging 400 cubic feet of water per month.  According to Central Arkansas Water, the average family of four uses 800 cubic feet of water per month!  So, the average family would stand to save a lot more money by installing low flow shower heads than we will.

Many people say that low flow shower heads do not provide the same quality of water pressure as regular shower heads.  So, here are a couple videos so you can see for yourself:

Above is our old 2.5gpm shower head.

Above is Craig’s new 1.5 gpm shower head.

As you can see, the spray style is completely different on these two shower heads, and when I first saw the videos, I was a little concerned that Craig would not like the new style of spray.  He said that he actually prefers it, as it provides MORE water pressure than the old shower head.

Another statement that I hear about low flow shower heads is that people are concerned about the installation process.  So, here’s a video of Craig installing the new shower head, one handed while holding the camera in the other hand, in less than a minute and fifteen seconds.

Low flow shower heads come in many different styles, ranging from the basic model that Craig installed which you can likely purchase at your local home improvement store, to higher priced heads with massage settings, “rainstorm” spray, and whatever else you might require.  I have a somewhat fancier low flow shower head on order from Amazon, so we’ll post video of it as soon as it gets here.

The One Small Change initiative officially wrapped-up on Earth Day.  However, since the project has gotten such a great response, with several of us planning to continue making changes through the year, Hip Mountain Mama has decided to keep the blog going, complete with prizes and guest posts.  So, this is my review of the first four changes we made this year:

Our first radish harvest

Local Food – this one got off to a slow start, but now that the farmer’s markets are opening, and the Argenta Market is in business, it’s much easier to find local food resources.  Our little garden in the back yard has started providing a little bit of produce as well: radishes.  It doesn’t get much more local than that!  We’re also getting ready to pick up our second Basket of the Month.  We skipped the April basket because we were out-of-town.  That’s one of the benefits of the BAM – you don’t have to get a basket every month.

Cloth Diapers – still doing well with this, although all the extra use means that I need to “strip” the diapers, which I have not done in a long time and need to look up instructions for.  I am hoping to get Callen potty trained this summer, so I might have a good deal on some cloth diapers come fall!

Garden – our Garden is growing right along.  I’ve made several rookie blunders: I don’t think I planted the radishes deep enough, and trying to grow the tomato and pepper plants from seed was a mistake. This weekend’s plans include a trip to the garden store to purchase a few established tomato and pepper plants. Our rain barrel works wonderfully, gathering rainwater from one of the downspouts so that we conserve water and save money.

Composting – I am still learning about composting, so I’m not really sure that I am doing it right, although the basic process seems fairly easy.  It certainly has reduced the amount of food waste that is going into our trash can, which makes me happy.  The composter is getting pretty full, though, so soon it will be time to take some of the good dirt out and spread it around.  Last month we also took part in a recycled landscaping project:  our neighbors thinned out several of their bushes and were nice enough to let us have them to plant in our back yard.  Right now the leaves are all brown and dead, so that’s another research project: should I cut them back, or leave them alone until fall?  Either way, I’ll be pampering them with some compost.

I am planning to continue the One Small Change project through the year.  It’s a great way to keep me focused on making earth-friendly changes in our household, and one change per month isn’t overwhelming.  Stay tuned for our May change!

It’s Here!

Our spinning compost bin, courtesy of Grandpa Stan

My dad delivered our new (to us) compost bin, complete with some starter in it, and we’ve been adding to it ever since.  Every once in a while I have to do a google search to see if a certain item can be composted or not, but we’re learning as we go.

As you can see in the image above, the drum of our composter has a panel door that opens.  We dump in our fruit and vegetable scraps, yard cuttings, coffee grinds and filters, and whatever other organic items we have.  Then, we close the door and spin the drum around four or five times to mix it up.  Pretty easy.   . . .but not really.

I have to admit that I’m a bit intimidated by this compost thing.  How do I know I’m adding enough of the right stuff to it?  How many banana peels is too many?  Is my compost too wet?  When is it ready? When is a good time to add the compost dirt to the garden?  Like I said, I’m learning as I go.  I’m glad to be learning, though, and thrilled that the kids are learning right along beside me.

Our March One Small Change is rolling right along.  I’m happy to report that everything we have planted so far (radishes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and sunflowers) is happily showing off little green leaves.  Today the kids and I planted cucumbers, squash, beans, and stevia.  Carina loves eating the leaves off of the stevia, which is a natural sweetener.  We’ve had a lot of fun in the garden, and learned a few things as well.

digging holes for the sunflowers

watering the radishes and carrots with water from the rain barrel

happy and proud little farmers

I am excited that we have plenty of water to water our little garden from our rain barrel: it filled up the very day that Craig installed it thanks to  a nice spring storm.  Our April change will go right along with our new garden, and is something that I have been wanting to do for over a year now: COMPOSTING!  My dad has a composter that he is going to let us use, and I’m thrilled to get started.

“Catch! Calls the Once-ler
He lets something fall.
‘It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect if from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.’ ”

– Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

My February One Small Change pledge was to use our cloth diapers more.  Easy enough – consider it done!  We’ve definitely been using those cloth diapers more, and thanks to the warmer weather, we’ve been using the clothes line to dry them too!  We’ve also made progress on our January pledge to use more local foods – we got our first Basket A Month (BAM) CSA, which included bacon, turnip greens, cheese, honey, rice, sweet potatoes, milk, and butter – all grown and made locally!  I also scored big when I met up with my blog buddy, The Park Wife, and she brought me 18 beautiful brown eggs fresh from her very own chickens!

Our March One Small Change is not so small – we’re planting a garden!  Hubby is going to build us a raised garden bed and we’ll make our first ever attempt at growing our own vegetables, and maybe even a few herbs.  We have no idea what we’re doing, but that’s what google is for.  I’m excited to try this out, and to watch the kids have fun in the dirt!

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