My eco-Lent challenge from the Northwest Earth Institute's "A World of Health: Connecting People, Place & Planet" for last week was to use less energy. I chose as my goals not using the dryer, unplugging things not in use (including my computer), and taking the moments of annoyance when I had to find the cord and plug it in as opportunities for prayer and reflection on my sense of entitlement.
Not using the dryer was difficult early in the week due to rain, but the weather got progressively better so that I could move the laundry through much more quickly, drying loads of laundry out on our deck rather than in our dank Oregon basement. I found that I had to be constantly thinking about laundry. I had to start a load of laundry each morning and be around the house to take it out of the washing machine and hang everything to dry. I had to check throughout the day and turn things over that were only getting dry on one side. I don't have a clothes line, so I used a drying rack and whatever else was at hand, mainly deck railing and deck furniture. I also found that this kept me more on top of getting laundry done! It's pretty much just as easy to fold a lot of things as you take them in from drying in that way as it is to just toss them in the laundry basket, so I got a lot more laundry folded and put away each day. Generally I have a tendency to keep the laundry moving through the washer and dryer but just leaving it in a pile (or 4 piles, one for each family member) until I break down and have a laundry-folding and TV-watching evening.
It felt good to not use the dryer, since I know they use a ton of energy, but I'm not sure if this is something I can maintain long-term, unless I have to. I know that in other countries, it's common for people not to own a dryer. We visited some F/friends in Switzerland several years ago and they lived in an apartment building with a coin washer and no dryer. Everyone just hung their laundry in the shared laundry room on lines. I would be worried items would get stolen, but apparently this wasn't a problem. But, of course, it was Switzerland, where EVERYONE is neutral and nice, right? And probably Earth-friendly, too! I'm not sure how I feel about my undergarments hanging around out on my deck, let alone in a shared laundry room, though, so as an American with a probably-too-high sense of privacy, this one challenges me and my sense of entitlement to my own space.
Unplugging everything was a challenge. As I said in the title of the blog, this is a good way to get on your housemates' nerves! Mine are all related to me so they can't kick me out, but they DO definitely think I'm weird. Unplugging stuff was rather inconvenient. I don't know how many times I tried to toast something and it popped right back up, or turn on a lamp and have to fumble around to find the outlet. It was also hard to remember to unplug it again after I'd used the appliance or electronic device. Toward the end of the week I got into more of a rhythm where I remembered to plug in the microwave before using it, or switch on the wall light so I could find the outlet for the lamp. I unplugged my computer when the light turned green, but I rarely actually turned the computer off. I generally have something going that I want to get back to easily. I'm not sure how much energy a sleeping computer takes, but undoubtedly more than it does if it's off.
I can see myself continuing this part of my eco-challenge, but I'd have to talk more with my housemates about it and make sure we're all on board with it. We may decide there are certain things we want to leave plugged in since they're more difficult to reach or, such as lights, it's hard to plug them in if they're not in use. So, communication is key!
Using these moments of annoyance as opportunities for prayer, repentance and reflection went pretty well. I found myself rolling my eyes at something being unplugged, then taking a deep breath and allowing my self-absorbed complaint to be reframed into gratitude for how much I take for granted--like a lament psalm.
I'll leave you with a great video clip on Walter Brueggemann explaining the importance of lament:
And a well-done blog post on what lament is for and what it looks like in the Bible and in everyday life.