Archive for February 2012

Do Environmentalists Wash Their Cars At Home?   Leave a comment

According to most of the propaganda: no. And yet, weekend before last I was outside washing my car at home. In fact, I wash my car at home as often as I can. Eco-sin? No, I don’t think so.

Water conservation and pollution is the major reason that commercial car washes are touted as the more environmentally friendly option. Commercial car washes can filter and reuse water so that they use less water per wash than if you’re using potable water from you hose. A car does not need to be washed with potable (drinkable) water, and not doing so reduces the energy required to treat water to drinking water standards. Additionally, car wash waste water is discharged to the sewer where it goes to a wastewater treatment plant for treatment before discharge to whatever water body. The wastewater from a typical home car wash runs into the street into a storm drain where it discharges directly into whatever water body, without any treatment to remove oils, metals, or particulate matter. So from a water perspective the commercial car wash wins out compared to a typical home car wash.

But what if you don’t discharge into the storm drain at home? When I wash my car I pull it onto the lawn first. This way the lawn soaks up the waste water, preventing non-storm water discharge to the storm drain. The oils, soap, and any other organic compounds will biodegrade in the ground. Any heavy metals will not degrade, but I figure that the trace amount of heavy metals in the waste water is probably comparable to what deposits from the air (from exhaust and dust raised by cars in the street).

And what if  you really restrict water use? Some people use a bucket method: one bucket for soapy water, one for clean water, and that’s it. You could use rainwater or gray water to avoid the energy cost of potable water. Since I don’t have my rain barrels hooked up yet, in the winter I use the hose with a spray nozzle so that the water is off when I don’t specifically need it. In the summer I let the hose run, but I don’t run the sprinklers that weekend and consider the car wash to also be watering the lawn (a two-birds-one-stone approach).

In my mind there are other environmental benefits to a home car wash. I use a mild vegetable soap, while I assume that most car washes use a petroleum based soap. Inside the car I either wipe down with just a damp rag, or a damp rag with the same mild vegetable soap. For the windows I use the same vinegar/water/castile soap glass cleaner that I use everywhere else in the house, as opposed to a commercial ammonia-based cleaner with synthetic fragrances and additives. Personally, I could care less about shiny tires so I don’t clean the tires with anything at all.

As far as electricity use goes, I have no idea which method wins out, although I’d guess it’s a bit of a wash. The car wash may get a per-car reduction in electricity when multiple cars are going through the tunnel together, and they may spend less time with the vacuum on then I do. But the car wash also has to keep the lights on in the attached building, run the register and the inevitable popcorn maker, and run the blower to start drying the cars. I use a chamois cloth to absorb most of the water instead of a blower or lots of towels, and I don’t think that my regular home electricity use counts in this calculation.

On a completely different level I really like washing my car at home because of the increased awareness it grants me about my car. When you are washing your own car you really notice new dings, scratches, paint transfers, etc on the outside, and you can focus your cleaning inside on the things that you care about. And for those of us who personify our cars, talk to them, and generally have a relationship with them, bathing them personally feels like a thank you treat for the friend who so reliably transports me wherever I want to go.

Posted February 27, 2012 by mayakey in cleaning, energy use, environment, frugal living, water use

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Time to Take Care of the Nestee   Leave a comment

Upon reaching the unfortunate “1 year of trying to conceive without success” milestone (it’s closer to 1.5 years on the calendar but interruptions like gallbladder surgery messed with the schedule), I started doing some self-evaluation in addition to testing. One of the things that I realized was that I had gotten distracted in this process and had been neglecting myself. I suppose this is in general a problem for many people, and mothers especially, but when trying to get pregnant I’d guess it is counter productive. I’ve been so focussed on house stuff and financial matters, and the intellectual side of trying to become a good baby-host, that I kept procrastinating the stuff that was just for me. After years of being pretty good about monthly massages, I got ONE massage in 2011. After a few years of being good about monthly clothing purchases I bought a pair of jeans and some socks in the first 10 months of 2011, and both of those were almost-emergency purchases (translation: I had 7 pairs of socks left, and jeans with an impending hole). I don’t remember if I did any home facials all year, most weekends involved fairly extensive to-do lists and attempts at productivity, and I can’t remember the last time I cuddled up with a good book. It’s not that I didn’t do anything fun, or that I wasn’t taking care of myself in the basic sense, but that I wasn’t taking care of my emotional/mental self.

As my friend also pointed out, I usually approach everything in life with a rather spiritual/emotional perspective, but so far have been largely intellectual on the trying to conceive front. I’ve focussed on reducing external stressors, eating right, maintaining my exercise routine, charting, taking supplements, and house-projects (nesting). Yes, I was doing some visualization, and trying to deal with internal stressors, but entirely unsuccessfully.

It is time for that to change. I am re-committing to myself. One of my personal golden rules is that I am the most important person in my life, and I need to live by my own rule. February has been a good month to get that started with two massages (courtesy of a gift certificate), a hair cut so that I like the person in the mirror for the first time in over  a year, and a consistent visualization practice. I created a daily invitation/prayer to my future child, and am doing myofascial release treatments in the pelvic region to release stored tension (the pelvic region is the seat of the second chakra, which deals with relationships and sexual function among other things). Maybe the most important thing is mentally putting my foot down on the recent habit of putting the house first, and the inclination to be busy. It’s hard since there’s so much I’d like to do, and I enjoy doing it; but it creates internal stress and pressure to do-do-do-go-go-go. Internal psychological pressures are a bear! Especially for those who could be described as planners, or people who love to have multiple “projects” going on at any given time.

Some of this stuff is considered luxury by many even if it isn’t: like monthly massages, hair cuts, or clothing purchases. On a spiritual/emotional level taking that sabbath-time for a massage, even just one hour a month, has a huge effect. No, your muscles will not stay loose, but the benefits of a release of surface tension, break from mental stressors, and possible release of stored tension will last longer when it is a regular practice. And believe me, not liking what you see in the mirror or dreading getting dressed in the morning because your clothes are worn out or you have to wear the same things every week, has an incredibly negative effect on a persons psyche.

Celebrating All Forms of Love   Leave a comment

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Of course I have the unique perspective that it’s the day after my birthday, and as a kid it was essentially “birthday, day 2”. As a result of that perspective, though, Valentine’s Day has never been a romantic holiday for me but a day to celebrate friendships. I still don’t celebrate it as a romantic holiday, and as an adult there are less opportunities for the easy celebrations with friends, so it is kind of a wistful holiday now. As I type this, though, I realize that that need not be the case. Is there any particular reason not to reach out to friends and say “thanks for being my friend, thanks for being in my life and making it so much richer? We have all kinds of “appreciation days” on the greeting-card-holiday calendar, but I don’t think there is a Friendship Day. Romantic love gets to be celebrated on anniversaries, but what about a day to celebrate the friendship love of the many other people that brighten your life? How often do we take our friendships for granted? One of the things that has been repeated many times in the JustFaith Engaging Spirituality program is the importance of gratitude and thankfulness in our spiritual lives, the importance of recognizing the blessings and gifts that we have received in our lives. I can testify that life has an extra shine on it when gratitude is regularly practiced in some way.

So I hereby pledge that starting this year, I’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day again my way: as Friend’s Day. And I think Facebook will make a convenient adult “Valentine mailbox”. Hey, I’m lazy.

Posted February 14, 2012 by mayakey in musings, spiritual practices

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Simplicity is Harder than Complexity   Leave a comment

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.

Steve Jobs

Posted February 10, 2012 by mayakey in psychology, quotes, simple living

Compost Trials: Pallet Composter   2 comments

Apparently this winter is all about making changes to my compost systems. Last month I wrote about converting my failed 5-gallon bucket compost “bin” into a vermicomposter, and now I can write about transferring the Heap into a pallet composter. I guess the idea of using pallets to create a compost bin isn’t new, but either I just hadn’t seen it anywhere before or I just spaced it out until now. A couple weeks ago I went to a master gardener workshop and while wandering around afterwards I noticed some compost bins made out of pallets in the corner. Considering that I had a bunch of pallets sitting in my backyard, and they had been on my mind lately, I was immediately intrigued. The pallets are from a remediation system I am running at work that uses nutrients that ship on pallets. While pallets are valuable in bulk, when you are using 2 per quarter and they are exposed to the weather all the time, they end up just going to the dump. Unless, of course, you find a way to salvage them. Originally, I started bringing them home because I thought the wood would be great for a half-height fence in the front yard. I  soon discovered, however, that it is really hard to break down a pallet and they have been stacked in the side yard since then. Last weekend I switched gears and converted four of them into a compost bin, and then transferred the old compost heap into the bin. When needed, I have four more pallets to build into a second bin.

This seems like such a good idea because it is cheap (assuming that you can find free pallets somewhere), easy (all you need are four pallets, four hook-and-eye closures, and a drill), not ugly (at least not compared to just an unstructured pile of compost), and should really work. Since the pallet slats have space in between them, there’s plenty of aeration for the pile, and the inner volume of the bin should be large enough that the compost can actually heat up.

Pallet Composter


The Heap was actually working, but it was slow going. That is partially because I wasn’t trying to make it go fast, and partially because of structural problems. Without any support the pile couldn’t get very tall, so I don’t think it really warmed up properly. And of course the rose bush prunings that formed the base of the Heap were going to take forever to decompose. In the process of transferring from Heap to pallet bin, I removed all branches, so the process should go quicker now. The parts of the Heap that had kitchen waste were decomposing relatively well, and the parts of the Heap that were almost entirely yard waste were just a little moldy. Now everything is mixed up or layered in the pallet bin, and we’ll see if this really does work.

Posted February 6, 2012 by mayakey in frugal living, gardening, resource use

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