Conservative Conservation

I'm sure each of us can come up with rationalizations of why we aren't willing to give up something that could put a big dent in energy conservation and unrecycled waste. In my case I confess, I just don't understand how they can make a 40- or 60-watt equivalent flourescent light bulb that looks like an ordinary light bulb, but not one that is 100 watts. When they do, I'll switch. Maybe. I don't want to give up that yellowish glow.

Plastic bags. I heard a spokeswoman from the plastic bag manufacturing industry say:"The public demands them. We're just giving people what they want." Well, that's not exactly how I remember it. One day these ghastly things just appeared in the supermarket and the supermarket demanded that I use them. I don't remember any demonstrations of legions of housewives marching on Washington saying, "Giver us plastic bags, or give us death!"

Modern appliances. It took me five years to find a propane range that does nothing more than turn on and turn off and wasn't a piece of flimsy junk. No clock, no timer, no electrical anything, and no built-in water faucet to fill my pasta pot. We have a washing machine with only three cycles: Regular, permanent press, and gentle. And I have never yet had to wash anything so dirty as to have needed the "hot" setting. I understand why my girlfriend, who cooks for 15-20 people at the holidays needs all of those electric kitchen gizmos, but we chop everything by hand (we do use the blender about 6 times a year).

SUVs. At the risk of offending everyone else on the planet, what are they good for? They get bad gas mileage, have poorly located centers of gravity, and really don't carry any more than a comparably-sized station wagon. There isn't a vehicle made that can beat Subaru's four-wheel drive in the snow and ice. And safety? It isn't safer if it causes you to drive more carelessly. Around here, teenagers think SUVs are for running over the tops of other vehicles; moms think they somehow drive themselves while they talk on the cell phone, apply make-up, or climb in the back to pick up the baby's bottle; and some seniors, who shouldn't be driving anything, use them as protective armor for their brittle bones.

Think about what you really need to live in the modern world. The biggest benefit we've found to our more simplistic life is that the basic models of things rarely break down. The more complex and sophisticated the electronics, the quicker and easier things fail, whether it's the car, the washing machine, or the toaster. And the more costly they are to repair.

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