Friday, May 27, 2011

"Big Families are the New Green" (Part 1)

These are my (rather long-winded) thoughts in response to this article.


Cars Count

I have often thought about how "efficient" it is that we cram 7 people into one vehicle on a regular basis. Sure, our 10-year-old minivan gets a measly 15mpg on average (city), but that's actually better per capita than a family of four driving a 45mpg hybrid (if my mental pseudo-math is correct). We do go places often, unlike the author of the article suggests. I try to get out of the house every day, even if only to the grocery store (and that, preferably with just one or two children in tow). We go to parks, homeschool events, the library, and playdates at friends' houses. And these things are located all over the metropolis, which isn't very green, perhaps, but at least our metropolis is relatively small compared to most -- the furthest we ever go is 30 minutes or less away from home, most being 5-15 minutes.

I have dreams of owning a Toyota Highlander Hybrid someday (seats 8 ;)), but that's like, what, $35,000? Not happening anytime soon. :/ My husband's car might not get much better gas mileage than our van, but he often fills it to capacity to go work out at the YMCA (while children play with friends in Childwatch). He drives to class at the college, yes. I have repeatedly considered becoming a one-car family, but just don't see how we could swing it without some major inconveniences. Not to mention that the resale value of our second car (9 years old) is pretty low, especially considering how many repairs it needs that we cannot afford on our current starving-student budget. The profits we would earn from its sale would not be worth it. Anyway, the point is that our big family makes the most of our vehicles. :)

Economy Size

Yes, it takes the same amount of electricity to light and cool (or heat, for a very brief part of the year) our home, no matter how many people inhabit it. We definitely use more water than most families, at least for laundry. I estimate that we have 10-15 loads of laundry to wash per week. We do have a "super capacity" washing machine, but it is an old-fashioned, lotsa water and agitator washer. We actually have an energy star certified washing machine in the garage that we purchased a few years back when hubby was working for Sears as a lawn and garden appliance repair technician (the job that he lost due to lay-offs in May 2009). We discovered, after 6 months of use, that this type of machine does not work for our needs right now. It does not get the job done for diapers or our children's filthy clothing. It will sit and collect dust in the garage until our current washer dies, or our children grow older and get less dirty, heh (and are all out of diapers). Either that, or we'll sell it...that's actually more likely.

As for bathing, that's another area where we are perhaps less than green. When the children were younger, we would combine their baths, to the point that it probably equaled an average-sized family's bathing habits. Nowadays, though, and perhaps this is just because it's Springtime and thus wonderful outside play weather, but the children are getting terribly dirty, and sometimes require 2 baths a day! Lately, before we can go anywhere, I have to do a wash face/hands/feet marathon with the children. Boy, do they love dirt. :D We still combine baths, though, and are now transitioning to showers often, which, with our low-flow shower heads, I'm hoping use less water than their "up to your belly-button" baths.

Then there's dishes. I think we only use about 1-1.5 dishwasher loads a day, but i'm sure we'd produce more if I cooked/baked from scratch more often (which would certainly be a greener choice, and is definitely a goal!).

~ To be continued... ~

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