Housekeeping and the Biggest User

Housekeeping and The Biggest User
By Dorsetta Hale

Since the end of my marriage, I've had to re-adjust my lifestyle in the most simplistic terms. For instance, I had to re-learn how to shop for food and household items. I must have thrown out $700 worth of groceries those first few months because I continued over-buying fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. I wasted electricity because I couldn't sleep. I subscribe to 3 newspapers, countless magazines and continued clipping coupons out of habit for items that I never ended up buying. When you’ve scrimped and saved for years, and finally reach a comfort level, you feel guilty when you make a fresh fish dinner for four with vegetables purchased at the local farmer’s market and you have to throw away three servings because there’s no one there to eat it. I needed to make some positive changes.

When my husband left, he rented a truck, loaded it with his clothes, his weights and outdoor adventure gear. Then he drove away in his new sports car. It wasn't until then that I realized how small of a carbon imprint he'd made on our environment. It was just like him. He never littered, always conserved and whenever we went camping as a family, we always respected the National Park motto and ran our house the same way; whatever you bring in, take it out. If I didn't use or wear something I bought within a year, I gave it away. If you were to visit my house even if I wasn't expecting you, you'd find everything clean and pretty much in order. If you want to sit down you can do so without moving stuff or bumping into crowded furniture. It's the way I like a home to be, not so much a castle but a sanctuary.

After donating items to charity including my wedding dress (I don’t know one girl who wore her mother’s), removing and boxing up certain photos, and tossing travel brochures I'd saved for our empty nest future; the city decided to change garbage companies to a more environmentally friendly system. Trash goes into the gray bin, compost in the green bin and recyclable items in the blue bin. It has to be done everyday. This was one more lifestyle change I was being forced to make. My husband used to be in charge of the heavy lifting & outside department. When he was unavailable, his assistant - our son - took over, only now, as a college student, my son was only home part-time. The idea of me being a single homeowner was really sinking in.

Then I read in the paper that Sustainable San Mateo County and Energy Upgrade California was holding a “Biggest User Contest” recognizing residents who were committed to energy efficiency. The winners would get a free energy audit by Recurve, Inc. valued at $495; $1,000 towards upgrades and additional savings from government tax credits and PG&E rebates. I wrote to them, filled out the form, sent in a few pictures and was later picked as one of the four winning case studies.

Up until recently, most of our energy savings have been behavioral. When the kids stay over, I remind them that we live in a desert state and to use only enough water to clean themselves when they shower. If they want a spa treatment, they can go to Napa. I also remind them that it’s possible to go to bed without every light on and a television blaring in the background. I guess they’re doing the their part to save energy. They wash their laundry at my house instead of theirs.

On October 21st an event was held at the Foster City Library Community Center to meet the “Biggest User” winners. Guests learned the benefits of home energy efficiency upgrades from several sponsors of the contest and heard a discussion with Assemblyman Jerry Hill on why voters should oppose Prop 23 which seeks to repeal California’s Global Warming Act. To learn how to take advantage of the incentives available through a state initiative, homeowners can visit The website also lists the generous contractor and program sponsors of the contest.

I want to continue my efforts to make my home perform better. I want the next owners of our house to appreciate that our family tried very hard not to be wasteful. The gutters were kept clean, the furnace and air ducts were checked regularly, the windows were sealed, and anything in need of repair was replaced with the latest high efficiency technology installed by local contractors whenever possible and our house has a certificate to prove it. It’s an imprint I’m proud of.

Copyright 2010, Dorsetta Hale

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