Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weather permitting

It occurred to me yesterday, as it has before, just how much of the ecofrugal life is contingent on the phrase, "weather permitting." For example:

Yesterday Brian rode his bike to work (having just finished installing the new rear wheel and brake line). He usually bikes to work during the warmer months, unless he needs to get in particularly early or to stay particularly late. But he can't do it during the winter, because it's too cold and, more to the point, too dark. And he has to skip it on those summer days when the temperature is over 100 or there's the threat of a thunderstorm. So although biking to work is an undeniable win-win-win in ecofrugal terms—a way to save money, help the environment and get some exercise all at once—it's also a habit that depends on the weather and climate.

I did a load of laundry yesterday and hung it up on the line. I generally use the clothesline during the summer, even if it means having to put off doing the laundry until the forecast calls for sunshine. But I can't do it in the winter, because the clothes would just freeze solid. (I've heard of people who do it anyway and claim that they're "mostly dry" once they thaw. But I have my limits.) So once again, even though drying clothes for free with sunlight, rather than paying to do it with fossil fuels, is an ecofrugal no-brainer, it's still a practice that only works when the weather allows it.

I also took a walk in the afternoon, as I do on all but the very hottest or coldest days. It was a particularly ecofrugal walk, as I stopped in at the local farmer's market and, after that, at the nearby thrift shop. Locally grown peaches for $2 a pound and pants in good condition for $2 a pair—a definite ecofrugal triumph. But it's a trip I wouldn't have been able to make in the winter or the spring, because our local farmers' market is only open from July through November. (It's also only open on Fridays until 4pm, which means it's really only available to those of us who don't work bankers' hours, which has always struck me as a bit annoying. But I guess they can't really do it over the weekend, because there are other markets to set up in neighboring towns on Saturday and Sunday.) So this particular ecofrugal habit is one that's only available at certain times of year. (The thrift shop is open year-round, but only for a very few hours a week; I'm much less likely to pass by there at a time when it happens to be open if I'm not on my way to the farmers' market.)

Finally, in the evening, we went to a free concert at the park in Hopewell. This happened to be Broadside Electric, a band we particularly know and love, but we've gone to other outdoor concerts like this in our area without knowing the band, simply because they're fun and free of charge. But this ecofrugal form of entertainment is—once again—only available in the summertime. Even if it weren't too cold for outdoor entertainment in the winter, the light wouldn't last late enough to make it practical.

Basically, what it comes down to is that it's a lot easier to be ecofrugal in the summertime than it is in the winter. And that's true not just of a few special events, but of our whole lifestyle. We generally manage to get through the summer without using air conditioning more than two or three times, but we'd never get through the winter without heat.

Perhaps if I want to take my ecofrugal lifestyle to the next level, I should be concentrating on ways to save money and natural resources during the colder months. So far, all I can think of is canning and freezing garden surplus (which would be a great idea if we ever had any surplus) and wearing layers to stay warm (which I already do, and I still can't seen to tolerate any temperature below 68 degrees). So maybe, like a squirrel storing up nuts, I should really make a start now on gathering nuggets of ecofrugal wisdom to get me through the winter. Does anyone out there have any nuggets to contribute?
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