I get asked "Why are you doing that?" a lot lately. My stock answer is "Because every penny counts." But sometimes there's a lot more to it than that.
I love my family, immediate and extended, I truly do. But I've pretty much given up trying to get across them just why I do things the way I do. If I give an answer involving money, they accept it; if I give an answer involving the environment, I either get a blank look, or a dismissive hand-wave and some variant of "Why bother? One person can't change anything."
Well, actually, one person's changes can make a difference.
Case in point:
A few weeks ago we had a water meter installed by the city. The meter itself is free; still, Big Guy wanted to know what the benefits would be. Once I explained to him that the flat yearly rate for homes without a meter was about double what we'd pay if we were metered, he agreed it was a good idea. What I didn't say was that paying for the water we use is also good for the environment because it will encourage us to use / waste less water. Don't get me wrong; it's not that he doesn't care about the environment, because he does. It's that he's firmly in the "one-person-can't-make-any-difference" camp, and nothing I say will change his mind.
So as soon as the water meter was installed, I changed the way I do the dishes. I used to fill up one sink right to the top, then rinse the dishes under the tap and let all the rinse water go down the drain. Now, I have two kitty litter pails that fit nicely into the sinks. I fill one with the hot soapy water, wash all the dishes in it, and then use it to flush the toilet, which has the added advantage that my toilet is always clean without having to scour it with harsher chemicals. I still rinse the dishes under a running tap, but it's running into the other pail instead of down the drain. When it's full, it's used for watering the garden, or flushing the toilet, or washing the car, or mopping the kitchen floor, or it goes into the washer to wait for the next load of laundry. In Big Guy's mind, I'm saving money; in mine, I'm also conserving resources and doing my little environmental bit.
Side note: Yes, I am one of those oddballs who has never had a dishwasher and will never have one. I find washing dishes to be both relaxing and therapeutic; it's also the one thing I know I'll get to do in peace, uninterrupted. I do some of my best thinking while standing over a sinkful of suds.
In the same spirit, I often find myself about to do something, and stopping to try to think of a way I could do it differently and save a few pennies, or a little water, or even a little time ... because every penny, every drop of water, does count. Instead of scooping the last serving of yogurt out of the tub into a bowl, today I ate it straight from the tub ... one less bowl to wash doesn't seem like it would make a difference, does it? But look at it this way - one less bowl to wash every five days (five servings in a tub of yogurt) equals seventy-three bowls a year. How many loads of bowls in the sink would that be? How many gallons of wash and rinse water? How much dish soap? That's an amount worth saving, isn't it? It is to me.