Climate and Energy

17 02 2013

Part of the cultural exchange, we discovered, is about climate. It’s no surprise to people who know me- especially those who have been subjected to living with us for any length of time- that I am a bit of an energy nut. Okay, make that “energy freak.” I’m that zealot who walks around after guests turning off lights and clarifying what should be composted and what can and can’t be recycled. I even make little signs with drawings of gardens or trees to illustrate my points. Yeah, our house is not for everybody.

low-flow-shower

When Bank arrived, we were already well into the colder seasons, when many people only shower every other day to allow their skin to maintain natural oils, which keeps your skin from getting dried out, and helps retain your body heat. Plus, it’s too cold to sweat, so you don’t stink. We noticed right away that our new visitor was showering not just once, but twice a day. Not only did this seem silly to us, but it is a waste of water and heat. Everybody is different, of course, but he definitely did not smell bad.

When we asked him about his shower schedule, he was horrified at the suggestion that he only shower once a day or every other day. Back home, this would be inconceivable! We hadn’t thought about this before, but it made perfect sense. Of course, when you live someplace that is hot and muggy most of the year, you would need to shower twice a day. But here, in dry, cold Michigan, his old habits were simply excessive, leaving his head cold and his skin itchy. With a new climate, comes new hygiene habits. Once he tried it, he understood.

The climate wasn’t the only difference we discovered. In much of Asia, recycling is nonexistent. Even concepts as seemingly outdated as littering are still prevalent there. Adjusting from this norm wasn’t easy. This is a household where we recycle paper, plastic, metal, and glass, plus composting food scraps for the garden. There were other lessons as well. We keep our thermostat set lower, and encourage everyone to wear warm layers and house slippers. It’s much easier to warm our bodies than the entire three floors of house, we explained. We are careful to close the doors to outside, because the warm air from inside will escape, and make the inside colder. “Put on your gloves and zip up your coat before you open the door, so that you will be warmer, and keep the cold air outside,” we repeatedly told him. This concept is very foreign to someone from Thailand.

It was actually really enlightening to teach these practices, because Bank is a very smart kid, and asks a lot of thoughtful questions. Often, these seemingly small lessons blossom into much broader discussions about politics, the global environment, and social equity. I have been absolutely impressed by the complexity of topics that we have been able to discuss together. I know that we are not your typical Americans, but I hope to be an embassador to the way that I believe Americans should live. If nothing else, I hope that Bank returns home to Thailand with a deeper understanding of why I am such an energy freak. All these strange practices aren’t just put in place because I like rules. They make sense, and they benefit the environment. In a world where we have exceeded the maximum parts per million of CO2 equivalents, we ALL need to be more aware and cognizant of the little things that we can do every day, in every climate, to help improve our environment. I don’t care if you live in Alaska or Africa, we can all do our part to get back down to 350 ppm. And maybe, just maybe, our Thai son will help take this message home to Thailand.

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One response

28 02 2013
Charles Peters

Great article about living and teaching a way of living with a small footprint

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