Opera San Luis Obispo
Home The Business of the Journal Town Business It's Our Nature Slo Coast Life Slo Coast Arts Archives

Some Conservation Techniques Your Mother Didn't Tell You About

by Greg Ellis-Valencia

I confess.  I've got something of a reputation among my friends as an 'environmentalist'.  While I'd argue that anyone who likes to breath clean air is an environmentalist perforce, I do confess to being a bit of a pedant when it comes to conserving resources.  A good friend recently asked me for a few tips on how he could reduce his impact on the earth as well as save money.  He'd already read the utility brochures and picked up the flyers at Earth Day and was looking for some fresh advice.  Over the next few articles I'll share some unconventional tips, some of which may even make your mother turn green (with disgust) if she found out what you were doing.  But, hey Mom, it's our planet!

Heating and cooling a home are the main domestic energy costs — it's hard to say without looking at a particular home what changes could be made in insulation, fans, furnaces, etc.  However, the least expensive and most obvious change is to not use the heater or AC at all!  Instead of regulating the entire household's temperature, think about regulating your own temperature.  Instead of spending money on propane (my friends pay several hundred a month in Paso), go on a shopping spree for some nice cashmeres, or better yet, check out the thrift store for fabulous holiday sweaters that will warm your insides and outsides.  It is also possible to heat a small part of a home cheaply and efficiently.  I am fortunate to live in a room with a south facing window where in the winter the temperature goes up and up and is cozy by evening.  Planting a deciduous plant in front of such a window and using shades can help reverse the effect during the summer by blocking unwanted heat.  Body heat is another excellent and overlooked heating form — peasants understood animal body heat and would build sleeping quarters in lofts above animal stables.  A cat, dog, and/or spouse functions similarly in a room with closed doors.  For hot days, fans, spray bottles, and cold drinks are extremely efficient at cooling on the Central Coast.

Art Ludwig
Art Ludwig
Enclosed Shower
Enclosed Shower

Hot water, primarily for showers, is another large household cost — the most savings come from showering like a mountain man or mountain woman — with cold water and/or NEVER!  The great thing about showering with cold water is that you'll naturally being to shower less often...the beauty of a positive feedback loop.  These techniques work well if you are steel-nerved, stubborn, and don't mind the stink.  A gentler alternative: it saves even to shower with warm instead of hot water, and you save even more by turning the water off while you are sudsing.  Low-flow shower heads are pretty cheap, often easy to install, and will save you water and the energy to heat it.  The most elegant solution I've seen came from water-genius Art Ludwig and would require a remodel in most homes, but might eventually pay back.  If you build your shower stall small and totally enclosed so that when you use hot water it immediately heats the entire space, you naturally reduce the temperature of the water.  Since most showers aren't enclosed you end up heating the entire bathroom with the hot water, and drafts and evaporation on your skin cause you to turn the temperature up.  The enclosed shower functions like a sauna, quickly heating and remaining warm.

Solar Oven
Solar Oven

The classic wisdom is true: lights, household appliances, and electronics are actually a pretty big home energy-cost, so shutting them off when not in use makes a difference.  Digging a bit deeper, it turns out that laptops often use less electricity than desktop computers.  Also, consider turning off your oven altogether and cooking just about anything in a solar oven.  A thriving group of solar chefs exists on the Central Coast calling themselves the SLO Solar Cookers they bake everything from cakes to bacon and even cook whole turkeys using only the sun.  Solar cookers actually improve the flavors of many dishes by slowly releasing flavors — conventional chefs pay big money for gadgets that help them do the same in the kitchen.  It's also more difficult to burn dishes in a solar oven, though it can happen — some ovens get up to 300 degrees on a hot day in our area.

So there are a few tricks — try them out and see if they work for you!  It's important to experiment with these kinds of changes — maybe you'll discover a love of solar cooking, or that you enjoy your shower more if you have time to suds up without worrying about the gushing water running down the drain. 

Site Menu
News and Commentary
Avila Beach Designated Bird Sanctuary
Deadly Analysis: Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant Seismic Hazards
Future of Power Plant Faces City
June 3 Morro Bay City Primary: Who's Running
Kite Festival Returns to Morro Bay April 26-27
Morro Bay Visit a Big Hit
New Study Cites Added Danger of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant
State's Solar Power Hits Record
Slo Coast Arts
Atascadero Writers Group
The Elements of Life
Frustrated Local Writer
Genie's Pocket
Great Shots
One Poet's Perspective
Opera Slo
Practicing Poetic Justice
Slo Coast Life
A Peru Adventure
A Roe Adventure
Ask the Doc
Best Friends
Beyond the Badge
Double Vision
Feel Better Forever
Northern Chumash Tribal Council

Town Business
Community Events
Morro Bay Library

It's Our Nature
A Bird's Eye View
California State Parks
Elfin Forest
The Rescue of a Hawk
Marine Sanctuaries
Pacific Wildlife Care
One Cool Earth
Whale Watch Adventures

Journal Business
About Us
Stan's Place
Writers Index