Hello again LC readers, and welcome to my writer’s comment period. After twelve days of playing Cap and Trade with Beth, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking not only about my personal consumption habits, but about consumption trends in the world in general. I’ve no doubt this has also happened to Beth, perhaps causing some of her frustration with our fun game. But after a few clarifying conversations, I think we’ve got the hang of it. In the next dozen or so paragraphs, I’ll subject you to some of my thought topics and some of the tactics I’ve adopted to mitigate my own wasteful behaviors.
But first, an invitation:
Join the Cap and Trade Game! Like most games, learning the rules is a bit of a pain at first, but once you get the hang of it, it ain’t no thang. Plus, if you’re good at it, at the end of each week you get to make other players do eco-friendly things. This week, Beth got to make me read an environmental book and plant a tree (photos forthcoming)! Regardless of how well you do, playing along is bound to make you examine your life and existence on this planet. Who doesn’t want to do that? Find the game here.
My Experience Playing Cap And Trade
I began the first week of Cap and Trade on work-cation in New Orleans, which made playing the game pretty tough. For one, the heat index in the city was over 100 degrees every day I was there, meaning I wasn’t about to sleep without air conditioning. This wouldn’t have been a problem back in Boston (where I don’t even have air conditioning), and immediately got me thinking about the relationship of energy consumption to where we choose to live. I’ve been known to scoff at the types who live in places where the weather is always beautiful (I’m looking at you, Californians), but I can’t deny the fact that such a choice means using far less heating and air conditioning (if not more driving). When I think about climate change, and our dwindling non-renewable energy resources, I wonder: will humans ever become a migratory species again? I pondered this while biking all over the city of New Orleans, which thankfully balanced out my air conditioning points quite nicely. It didn’t, however, mitigate the points I got for flying in a plane, which is probably why Beth beat me this week!
After twelve days of playing this game, I can already say that some things have changed for me.
1 (WATER): I now shower with a bucket. Forcing myself to track my water usage and seek out opportunities for re-use has made me painfully aware of how much water I typically let fall down the drain. It shouldn’t be surprising; we citizens of the developed world with plumbing and hot water heaters take the stuff for granted. But the fact is, we can only do that because massive dams have been built, towns flooded, hundreds of miles of pipes buried beneath the earth, testing and treatment stations created, hundreds of experts trained and employed to treat and monitor, and millions of dollars spent annually to keep the whole system running. And that’s just to get the water to our houses.
What do we do with it once it’s there? We shit in it. We leave it running while it heats up. We let it rain gloriously over our bodies for minutes after we’re already clean, simply because we dread going to work. And then that water flows through sewers to treatment plants (if it’s lucky) where it gets cleaned up and spat out into the ocean, where it becomes saltwater, unusable to us. The least we can do as grateful citizens is try to make the most of it while we have it. My shower bucket catches much of the water running off my body. I then (don’t get grossed out) use it to shave. Then I use it again to water my garden. It’s a small gesture, I know (a drop in the bucket, you might say). But it’s gotta start somewhere. And speaking of small gestures…
2 (AIR): I turn my phone off frequently. And it’s so satisfying. You may have read the article on energy use of phones and computers I posted to the Living Chapters facebook page (or maybe you didn’t, so here). As the article explains, charging a cell phone only requires a tiny amount of energy, but when you multiply that by everyone using cell phones in the world, it really adds up. The bright side is, using a phone requires less energy than a laptop, and far less than a desktop, so I’m happy to shift my web browsing to that device. But then I start to wonder: how much energy does the internet use? I mean, the whole internet: all the servers, towers, satellites, and devices that connect to it? I imagine the answer is hard to fathom, and likely not sustainable in the long term.
3 (FOOD): I eat less meat. Particularly when I’m out at a restaurant and don’t know the provenance of the meat on the menu (did the chicken have a name?) This is something I’m constantly saying I’ll pay more attention to, but frequently don’t. If a friend invites me to a new, awesome BBQ joint in the neighborhood, I’m there. But with the incentive of competing for points with my good friend Beth, I’ve been opting for the salads and pasta primaveras. And why shouldn’t I? Conventionally raised meat is, quite frankly, a terrible thing. Raising animals on factory farms uses a massive amount of water, supports a highly problematic corn subsidy system (because that’s what they’re fed), and dumps unhealthy amounts of antibiotics and feces into our watersheds. If you’re interested in learning more about these issues, please check out the Food Systems And The Environment website I helped author last year in a class at MIT.
4 (WASTE): I’m composting again. I was lucky enough to grow up with a hippy father who had me recycling and composting clear through high school (if you’re reading this, Dad, thanks!). But as an adult, I haven’t composted unless I had a garden, which has only happened for two years so far. I have a garden again at my home in Somerville, but since I’ve known I’d be moving in September, I haven’t bothered with the compost part. WIth the incentive of the game, however, I’ve been saving my food scraps and donating them to my neighborhood community garden. It’s easy, it’s satisfying, and it does a tiny bit to help fight back against the erosion of soil.
Ok. At this point, it’s taken me over three hours to write this response, and I can’t help but think about the points I’m racking up by having my computer on. So if you’re still reading, thank you. Please turn off your computer now, and go take a walk. Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.