Attacking Waste and Pollution

If you’re thinking of buying a fire pit, better buy it now. Enjoy a long shower with a full flowing shower head? If you have one, hang on to it; if you want one, buy it now. If you’re a northerner and have a wood burning stove, begin to think of alternatives although solar heating might be difficult in some places; if you’re thinking of buying one, buy it now, even though you might not be able to use it. Like your grill? Cherish it, you might not be able to replace it, and, like the wood burning stove, this might be the last one you have.

Exaggeration? Not really. The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to issue new executive directives to protect you from you. Let’s clean up the air. Let’s respect others who are affected by second hand smoke from whatever source. Smoke is smoke. Pollutants, particulates, carcinogens. The devices being used are not critical to survival, but clean air is. This is for the common good. The common good trumps individual idiosyncracies.

Same thing about the water. Water is in limited supply and just coincidentally, the United Nations has just issued a warning that the world will have a critical shortage of water by 2025. Frankly, I’m not in total disagreement. I think water is as critical as oil and gas. We need to preserve and conserve and convert, finding new sources of liquid or converting existing liquids to potable water. Salt water, sewer water, rain collection. Like solar and wind and oil and gas, they are all necessary.

Individually, the EPA not only advises and is prepared to restrict water flow through water saving nozzles (already existing), but through personal habits. This means showering to wet down; shutting off the shower; lathering; then resuming water flow for rinsing; then quickly out either by timing or limiting of water supply. Campers probably already do this; so do boaters; so do military personnel in many circumstances. We should certainly be able to force this in commercial facilities like hotels and motels and gymnasiums and schools and all local, state and federal facilities including all executive and legislative facilities. On the other hand, elected officials and their employes will probably be exempted.

Nothing has been said about bathtubs although sources I checked mentioned tubs holding 40 to 60 gallons. I don’t know if they consider water displacement by the human body (remember your physics calculations?), but I recall an old figure that noted bathtub users use about 25 gallons per bath. That compares with the average shower of 8 minutes that uses 18 gallons.

Anyway, showers use less than bathtubs. Of course, if several people share the same bathwater, that would be a water saver. I recall that back in the pioneer days, everyone shared one single tub of water that, appropriately, the man of the house who presumably had been outside doing all the heavy work, got first dip. The baby got the last. I haven’t read anything about bathtubs, but a quick fix would be filling the tub halfway, not an unheard of tactic.

Back to the burning. Outside burning can be quite a problem. Live in a condo or apartment with balconies or in a house on a small lot? Your neighbor’s smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes with whatever concoction in the container, can be quite annoying not to mention his or her firepit or grill. And, if you’re thinking that you’re off the hook with your gas grill, think again. The concern is the smoke that comes from the dripping grease from whatever you’re cooking. That’s a no no.

There are now legitimate complaints about smokers whose smoke not only permeates their own house but seeps into the annoying neighbor’s. Personally, although I once smoked, I don’t go into hotel rooms that allow smoking, nor will I rent a car (or buy one) from a smoker. So, the EPA approach is going to have a great deal of support. Very few communities now permit leaf burning (a northern thing). It’s simple. Ban the burners. Just like incandescent light bulbs. That’s a reality.

Therefore, ban the burning devices and restrict the water flow per room for hotels or per house/per person for private or rental residences. Electronically, this shouldn’t be too difficult if phased in over a long period of time and with appropriate penalties – fines and imprisonment – for cheaters.

However, here’s a positive approach. I first thought of this in the energy short 1970s. What about an electric or gas or water meter that not only records and displays the volume used, but also displays the cost. These would be dials in your kitchen that would show in real time what your energy is costing you. In the 1970s that would probably not have been electronically possible. It would be today. A simple computer program would convert the kilowatts, gallons, and cubic feet into dollars and cents. Those dials would be constantly moving: cents to dollars to hundreds of dollars and so forth. Now that would be a reality check. Unplug all those electronic devices including power strips and extension cords. Fix the dripping faucet and running toilet. Get the new low flow toilet. Turn off the fans and air conditioners. Sweater and blankets and hand fans work well. If someone actually does this, I want credit. Just a small share of the profit.

About the smoke, I don’t have a solution, other than developing a smoke recapture system that converts the smoke and heat to another energy system. The broader problem of controlling pollutants from vehicles requires a more drastic solution. Since air pollution, principally from various vehicles and other sources, is reported to cause 200,000 premature deaths a year just in the US (seven million a year world wide), we should simply ban those vehicles. It would also save nearly 40,000 lives lost to accidents and prevent injuries to millions more. That would probably help health care costs, too.

It’s all for the common good. ••

Somethin’ on My Mind is an opinion column written by Bill Northrop. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gabber publishers, staff or advertisers.

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