Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Era of Responsibility

Yesterday on the National Mall, President Obama reminded us all of the "price and promise of citizenship" and called for a "new era of responsibility."


While I could quibble with some of his choices and some of his ideas (most notably harnessing the "soil" to run our cars and factories), overwhelmingly I breathe a sigh of relief to have a leader willing at least to address climate change in serious and substantial ways, willing to admonish us all for our "collective failure to make hard choices," and willing to call on us all to reconsider the "ways we use energy."

Now, what the future brings depends upon each of us to take up Obama's call in ways we see fit, adding our individual preferences and opinions to a collective surge toward energy independence. Up to each of us is the task of making our individual opinions heard and seen by providing a model to move forward in ecologically responsible ways.

With each step we take, so too do our nations move forward. With each willing step, we show others a way forward. Do not look to Obama to do this hard work; we must look deep within ourselves, for there the responsibility lies. This is the gift he offers: the motivation to find within ourselves a higher purpose and a noble sacrifice, the opportunity to "choose our better history" as men and women "obscure in [our] labor."

If "everywhere we look, there is work to be done," what work will you choose? How will you answer this call to service and sacrifice and usher in a new era of responsibility?

I hope folks will commit to making at least one change in the comments section, and we'll work together to hold ourselves responsible for these changes. In that spirit, I'll close with my own pledge for energy reduction and learning to live with less because this is how I choose to define "progress" and "growth." This is the legacy I want to leave my children's children: a way of living in harmony with technology and sustainability.

  • We will eliminate our second refrigerator, which at first blush seems like a major luxury, but with our dairy cow plus egg and meat sales, we've felt we really needed that second refrigerator. We're in the process of figuring out how to maximize our inside refrigeration space and change our habits with regard to refrigerated food. My goal is to have the garage fridge unplugged and decommissioned by February.
  • We will be getting a cookstove this year (yay!), which should be up and running by the fall burning season. It will enable us to cook, warm the upstairs, and heat water simultaneously without coal-generated electricity. Jim plans to plumb it into our electric hot water heater to reduce the amount of electricity we draw to heat our household water.
  • We will install our outdoor shower with solar hot water this spring, and I'll even dig the post holes myself rather than waiting on Jim to do it. (Yes, you all heard that, and Woody, I'm sure you'll take his side and hold me to it. *grin* ) Between this and the cookstove, we ought to achieve a roughly comparable seasonal reduction of electric-heated water as we would if we installed an expensive solar hot water system. That's our hope anyway.

C'mon, what are your ideas? What will you pledge?


el said...

Funny how our thoughts continue to run in the same direction. I planned on getting rid of our fridge too and replacing it with a really tiny super-efficient one

and get a wood cookstove that was likewise small but that I could cook bread in too as well as heat the main floor of the house.

Of course all my dreams have huge initial pricetags attached to them, especially now in these times of great job insecurity for me. So we shall see.

I might just build the outdoor bread oven and call it a day.

e4 said...

Have you considered replacing your second fridge with a "chest fridge"? We use an old chest freezer as a fridge for excess eggs, milk, and storage apples. Results seem to vary, but ours uses about 150 watts per day. If you can get your hands on an extra chest freezer, it takes a $60 thermostat and 5 minutes to set up.

For my part, we're expanding our garden (again) and I'm enlisting my wife's help to divide and conquer. We're thinking about getting a "loaner goat" for the summer since our cow will be dry for a while. And I will buy less stuff and make second-hand a top priority when I do need to buy...

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

Great post!

I'm expanding on last year's garden expansion, in an effort to supply even more of our diet from our backyard this year. We're putting in four fruit trees on our 2/3 acre lot. And I'm planning to build cold frames for a longer season in fall/winter.

Also, I'm participating in the Plant a Row for the Hungry project. One long row of my garden will be planted just to be donated to the local soup kitchen.

Depending on how stable our finances are this year, we may look into a solar panel installation. I will definitely have our front and side doors replaced with better insulating models. Am mulling the purchase of a solar oven too.

I will continue to find ways to drive less, and to convince dh to drive less too.

Country Girl said...

Good post on some hot topics. #1 I will grow and put up more food then previous years. #2 I too am interested in a wood cook stove and I
would like to have one by next winter as well. #3 We are interested in wind energy and we are researching that.
I like El's idea about the outdoor oven, that would be cool to have!

Alex Polikowsky said...

Mine are baby steps.
I will palnt my garden this year ( have not planted in 2 years!)
I will learn to make cheese, ice cream, butter , sour cream and bread and stop buying those- I got PLENTY of milk for it.
I will recycle more and I am canceling my newspaper subscription ( I love to read newspaper)
Would love to invest more but milk prices have PLUMMETED so we are literaly broke -

Danielle said...

El, great minds, or something like that.

The baker's oven was the one I was originally lobbying for, but after spending quite a bit of time talking to the fellow at the stove store, he convinced me that I'd be disappointed with it if I really wanted to do any kind of cooking on it. I'll do a post about the one I'm getting soon—basically the same price, but many more options. It is significantly larger, though.

e4, yes, I've seen those conversions, and it's my definite plan B. I'm hoping, though, that I can make do without one at all if I juggle and come up with a few tricks. I have some very large coolers that I plan to turn into produce "fridges" out in the garage, freeing up a lot of space inside.

Plus, we grow so much of our own that I found our fridge last year often didn't have anything in it but leftovers for hubby's work. The tricky part will be when we have about a half a fridge of milk and half of eggs! I need to be quicker about making cheese or taking the excess to the animals.

I hope you get your goatie and that everything works out with the cow. Did you just not get her bred, or was it the mastitis?

Kate, that's awesome! I've had no luck so far in getting anyone around here to get back to me in terms of accepting fresh veggies. *sigh* I'll keep trying though. I hadn't thought of the soup kitchen—I've been trying to donate a membership or two to my CSA. I think it's time to switch tacks.

Kim and El, for what it's worth, the fella I took the bread baking class has built a couple of brick ovens now, and he said that cob or earthen ovens won't get hot enough to really cook bread. They're great for cooking and for flat breads, but not artisan breads. So, think brick! Just thought I'd pass that along.

Alex, yes, prices are getting scary, as is deflation in general. I'm sorry you guys are being hit so hard. But we can journey into cheese making together, and just remember, it all begins with baby steps!

MN_homesteader said...

Do you have a link to your cookstove? We are ditching our electric stove/oven and plumbing a gas line to the kitchen for a gas range, since it is much more efficient. The next step would be a woodstove. I was also very upset when Obama mentioned wasting perfectly good soil to power wasteful practices instead of feeding people.

Jenny said...

Well, I've already got the wood cookstove but the ironic thing is that my house has been so warm this winter that we aren't using it! I never thought I'd need an outdoor kitchen in the winter :)

We've already got the Sunfrost too, so for us it's going to be installing a solar hot water system. If we get that going the only external fuel we will need to import will be propane for the kitchen stove. Our second goal is to drive the car a lot less. Chris is home full time now and I am getting certified to teach distance learning courses so the main use of the car now will be for kid activities.

It's really amazing to reflect on this because even though we have already done so much, there is still so much more we could be doing.

Vicki Harkness said...

Danielle, this is an excellent post. It gives inspiration and really gets one thinking.

We recently installed a wood burning boiler to heat our home and water. With approx. 40 acres of forest we can use dead or dying trees for quite a while before ever touching a live tree. We bought the used boiler from Craig's List this past fall. It was a great deal!

I also want to grow even more food than I did last year and work harder at putting it up for us to use through the winter. We are still using some of the food from last summer. But, I know I could of done better! I'm thinking of putting more raised beds throughout the property. The only issue is fencing. I'll have to have more fencing around the beds to keep critters out.

We will be also installing solar hot water this year so we don't have to run a boiler in the summer months! We've got the solar collectors now we just need to get the tank.

We've got an outside wood stove we use for making maple syrup but I'm thinking I need to use it more. It's just cold using it in the winter.

We too have been thinking about installing an outside solar shower.

Thanks for the info regarding cob oven/brick. We have been wanting to build a cob oven outside for a while. I think we might still do that but we should be using our old brick oven that's in the house. I haven't used it in years and reading your post/comments it got me thinking we should! I just hate using our dry wood right now for baking/cooking versus heat/hotwater. This summer we will be spending a lot more time cutting/splitting/sticking wood! Then that decision will be less hard to make.

Vicki Harkness said...

Of course I meant "stacking" not sticking.

Anonymous said...

planting a garden this year and vowing to put more up for the winter, vowing to purchase as many food items we can from our local farm and exploring how many more things we can purchase locally, eliminating the number of unrecyclable plastics coming into the house.

Pam Genant said...

"We will install our outdoor shower with solar hot water this spring"

I am just getting back to reading blogs, my leg has kept my computer time to a minimum. But I read this. I was just thinking about this a couple of weeks ago. I have so wanted a solar outdoor shower for a few years now and it is on my "to do" list as well. I can't wait.

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