Tuesday 14 February 2012

Sustainable Relationships #2

I have been asked by Helenofnorwich to write a blog as part of the sustainable relationships week.

She was impressed by my ability to balance my environmental beliefs and my three children's needs.

So lets start with white goods. One of the things that has really changed women's lives is the invention of white goods. My washing machine is very dear to my heart, it works away every day doing a chore that would otherwise literally take me hours and hours a week. My dishwasher is my second most-loved machine. There's a huge amount of debate out there about whether washing up by hand or using a dishwasher is the more environmental option. Only this morning this was being hotly discussed by my fellow Quakers when considering refurbishing our (currently dishwasherless) kitchen. The jury still seems to be out on this one, but The Guardian tells us that dishwashers are the greener option, and I for one believe them on this one. Also, as a woman and single mum of 3 I firmly believe that when calculating the eco-friendliness of any appliance, you should factor in the effect is has on women's lives.

It's funny (to me at least) that although no one would consider turning back the clock and doing the washing by hand (or do you? let us know, and why!) there is still resistance to the idea of using machines to do some chores for us and this seems to particularly apply to washing up. One friend said to me that he enjoyed the peace and repetition of doing the dishes, but I had to point out to him that in fact his wife did the washing up most of time.

Having children, particularly more than one, is sometimes condemned as a move which increases the pressures on the world. As parents, we are very aware of this, as we struggle with washable nappies and throw out double the amount of rubbish that we used to in the pre-parent days. When our lovely babies grow into interesting but somewhat selfish teenagers, they relentlessly ask you to give them lifts here and there, provide them with new stuff ALL THE TIME and generally seem to retreat into a world where consideration for others and the planet ceases to exist for a while. This makes it hard to explain that no, we won't be buying a massive TV screen just because they are all at the rage at the moment.

One of the things I hadn't really expected is that my children, deprived of computer consoles, laptops etc at home would end up going round to their friends' or their Dad's house to get their fix of computer-based fun. We have one TV and one computer, both in the living area. Living in a little house can drive teenagers mad, but I prefer to see it in more positive terms - we are all a bundled together in one living room sharing our lives and keeping each other warm. Those long winter evenings just fly by!

When they were little, I effectively ran a huge children's clothes swap system with my friends and a lot of clothes got passed round and round. I had hoped that when they were old enough to choose their own style, they might adopt charity shop chic, just as we trendy souls did in our young days. But alas no, my kids wish to be clothed by expensively-labelled stores which seem to tap into teenagers' needs to fit in and wear exactly the same T shirt as everyone else. Will they grow out of it? Or will they rebel against their Mum's greenish and slightly hippy ways and all become 4X4 driving gas guzzlers? Joanna Smith

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joanna Thanks for an interesting post, and thanks to Helen for inviting you! I see you brought up that vexed question of dishwashers. The Guardian article I thought was not that unequivocal, but said in the end there wasn't a great deal of difference betwixt hand-washing and using a dishwasher in CARBON useage. However, the bigger issue to my mind is water consumption - which actually has a very low carbon intensity - but it's use is becoming more and more an issue as a resource. The dishwasher manufacturers, not surprisingly, quote rather biased comparisons on water consumption. Most use an assumption in their comparisons that when people handwash, they are likely to use 50 litres of water rinsing. The standard washing up bowl holds 5 - 6 litres of water. Even if we are profligate and use a slow-running tap to rinse, it is unlikely to run out more than a further 10 litres of water. So nowhere near the 50 litres that the manufacturers assume.
    Anyway, glad you brought it up, and hope you will write again!