Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GE Ecomagination, and Two Giveaways of a FIFTY DOLLAR Light Bulb of Awesomeness!

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and GE.

Here are some changes we've made at our house that haven't made any difference:

1. Stopped using fabric softener, except with a particular blanket that is otherwise a mass of painful, sparky static.

2. Reduced the amount of laundry detergent we were using by about a third.

3. Set the wash time for most loads from 10 minutes down to 8 minutes.

4. Stopped using the "pre-wash" compartment for dishwasher detergent.

No noticeable change in results. And this is exactly the kind of environmental change I like to make: a change that DOESN'T BOTHER ME AT ALL. (And in all these cases, also happens to save us money.) Better yet are the changes we've made out of a feeling of environmental responsibility but then ended up LIKING BETTER:

1. Switched to cloth napkins. (They're so pleasant on the hands! They don't tear into little shreds! They feel gratifyingly like wiping our hands our on clothes! They're fun to choose!)

2. Switched to cloth, er, feminine products. (They're so soft and comfy! They're available in fun fabrics!)

3. Switched to handkerchiefs. (They're so soft and comfy! They irritate our noses less! They keep stuff off our hands so much better!)

4. Switched to reusable grocery bags. (They hold so much more! They don't tip over in the car! The handles are comfy and don't cut into our hands!)

I talk about these things on my blog sometimes, and in fact I've done giveaways to try to persuade other people to try them too, to see if THEY like them. But the thing is, we do these things because we PREFER them and we like them BETTER---so if someone else DOESN'T prefer them and DOESN'T like them better, you're not going to catch me trying to push them or guilt them into it. They should find the environmental changes THEY prefer. We're not ALL going to do EVERYTHING---so it makes sense that we'd all choose our own most-appealing assortment. Some of us will use cloth diapers but think cloth feminine products are gross; some of us will be the opposite; some of us will use neither but will be faithful composters, or have a hybrid car, or take shorter showers, or switch to cloth napkins.

Pretty, pretty cloth napkins.

I talk about this with the kids, too: there are some things you should do whether you like it or not (that empty can is going into the recycling and you're not going to complain about having to walk the extra two steps; turn the water off when you're done using it), but there are other areas where we can actively seek out the things we don't mind doing---or at least mind doing LESS. I think it's important, with a subject as big as Environmental Improvement, not to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the vastness of the task. It's tempting to think, "I don't even compost---isn't it kind of lame/hypocritical to turn down the heat?" NO. No it is NOT. Which is better for the environment: not-composting and keeping the heat at 72 degrees? or not-composting and keeping the heat at 68 degrees? Dang straight: it's better to do something than nothing.

And when you do something, you might find it leads you to do the next thing. When we started recycling paper, we found it more appealing to turn the thermostat down; when we turned the thermostat down, we found it more appealing to reduce the minutes the washing machine ran; when that worked out fine, we found it more appealing to try reducing the detergent too. It starts to feel almost like a game, instead of a painful sacrifice---and making changes gradually help them not to be too overwhelming.

Or to turn the subject to light bulbs since that's the giveaway, it's overwhelming to think of going out and buying twenty expensive fluorescent light bulbs to replace all the bulbs in the house, but it's easy to buy just one to replace the next bulb that burns out. And then maybe the bulbs go on sale and it's not too hard to buy a few more. And pretty soon the job is done, with much less pain, and now you're used to the price of the bulbs and you barely even flinch anymore.

In this case, the prize is for something I'd consider VERY PAINFUL to have to purchase: a FIFTY-DOLLAR light bulb. It's an LED bulb that lasts TWENTY YEARS and saves about $85 in energy costs over its lifetime. Comments will be taken for two weeks, and there will be one bulb given away each week. So not only can you make an easy change that might inspire you to make further changes, you DON'T EVEN HAVE TO PAY FOR IT. (Or replace it for twenty years!)

GE is doing this giveaway to draw attention to their Ecomagination Challenge, which is a massive idea-hunt for clever new ways to make good environmental changes (saving, managing, and even creating energy) at the household level---not the tip-sharing we all do, but, like, genius new ideas no one's thought of before. Yes, YES, I think we all know that the biggest, highest-impact changes could be made by corporations and factories---but as with the "not-composting plus thermostat-lowering," small changes ADD THE HECK UP, and our choices affect corporations. Furthermore, our changes get us in a frame of mind to feel invested in pushing for bigger change at a bigger level. AND, when we make these changes, we bring up our children to do these things automatically: I had to learn how to sort recycling and use a handkerchief, but my kids have grown up with it as the norm. AND-and, if people come up with some really genius ideas, perhaps those ideas will have even more impact even at the household level than the usual household-level changes do---and perhaps they could ALSO be used by corporations and factories.

To enter the light bulb giveaway, leave a comment on this post by February 28, 2011 about some of the energy-use challenges in your household, or some of the environmental stuff you find easy or pleasing to do. (To enter the GE Ecomagination challenge, see below after the light bulb giveaway rules.)

Rules: Contest is open to U.S. residents age 18 or older. No duplicate comments. Winner will be selected by random drawing, and I have to hear back from the winner within 72 hours or else I have to select a new winner. You may receive up to 2 total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
For more details, visit the Official Rules. To read what other bloggers had to say on this topic (and to enter THEIR light bulb giveaways), visit the blogger round-up page.

For more information on GE and their Ecomagination Challenge, and/or to submit a genius new idea, visit their site and their Facebook page and their blog.