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Halve it!

Note: I’ve been without internet access now since Friday, with the occasional slip over to my local library for their wireless, so if you’re wondering why so quiet, that explains it. With luck, I’ll be reconnected by tonight. In the meantime, here’s an older post of mine.

If you are new to trying to lower your impact, or just trying to save money and energy, it can be helpful to think in terms not of giving things up, but of halving them - using a combination of techniques to stretch things out a bit, and let you use or need only half as much. Because everything you halve, means half as much pollution, half as much waste, half as much money.

Sometimes we think too quickly in terms of all or nothing - instead, we can start in the middle, which seems much less intimidating. Now one can’t cut everything in half, but if you use what the manufacturer recommends or what fits in those little convenient measure containers products give you, you almost always can cut it in half, or at least get more out of it. For example, I use an environmentally friendly dish detergent. When I get a bottle, I squeeze half of it into an old bottle, and fill both the other half with water - ta da! Two times the dish detergent, and I don’t find I need any more to get things clean.

By using old shirts as “table bibs” for my messy kids, I only need to wash half as many clothes. If your water isn’t very hard, most dishwashers and washing machines will work fine with half the detergent called for, or even less and still get things plenty clean. Unless you have terrible allergies or are a slob like me who really needs to do these things *more* often, you could probably vacuum half as often and clean your toilet half as often as you do now.

Unless you’ve already pared down, you could probably get rid of half of the clothes in your closet without really noticing - studies suggest most of us only wear about 1/3 of what we own regularly. If you changed your style slightly, you could probably get your hair cut professionally half as often (unless you can cut it yourself, which is even better - I can’t).

You could almost certainly buy half as many consumer goods as you usually do each year, and still have everything you need. You could eat dessert half as often, and unless you are super careful about fats, you could use half as much oil, sugar and salt and be the better for it. The average American could cut their meat/dairy use in half and replace it with half again as many whole grains and fresh vegetables, saving money on both their food budget and health care.

You could commit to producing half as much food waste, and really work carefully on using up leftovers and making sure things don’t rot in the fridge - nearly 30% of all the food we buy gets thrown out. If you live within a few miles of a store, you could take half of your trips by foot or bike, and feel better as well as limiting emissions. You could commit to trying to consolidate your errands and try and make only half as many trips in the car over the course of the year.

You could try and cut your vacation distance travelled by half - see something local you’ve always been meaning to explore. You could watch half as much tv, and try and use the rest of the time for trying out a new skill, catching up on sleep or volunteering. You could spend half as much money on some special luxury you care about - makeup, or trips, or something, and donate the rest to charity.

Halving it doesn’t mean giving up anything you love - it simply means extracting as much pleasure as possible from every bit of what you have, and taking the extra, and making good and wise use of it. All of us can do that. In the peculiar mathematics of good fortune, often you get more than twice as much pleasure - you feel healthier, save money, improve the environment, have more time, more peace, more quiet, a slower pace. Sometimes half as much means vastly more than double the return.

Editorial Notes: Good down-to-earth ideas for household "economic restructuring" when you can no longer get your head round toxic assets and TARPS. KS.

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