Praise for Inefficiency

A Smart Car pulled up next to me at a red light on my way to work this morning.

On the other side of the road, I noticed the normal variety of vehicles, mostly with one occupant each, making their way to the normal variety of places.

The Smart Car got me thinking about efficiency.  While we have 2 small children, a two-seater is not a great choice for us. So I think, as I drive my 10 year old car that gets pretty good mileage, about the possibilities of an electric car or a hybrid.

When it comes to cars, some of us are all about efficiency.

For almost 5 years, Rachel and I shared one car.  While it wasn’t the most fuel efficient car available, it was paid for and did pretty well with gas.  We also learned, while sharing a car, to maximize the value of each trip we took.

Because we are all about efficiency.

These last few mornings I’ve been opening windows throughout the house to invite cooler air inside.  I think doing so will lower our need for air-conditioning when the afternoon reaches the mid 90s. Our house is pretty well insulated and we shop for the lowest electricity rates we can find.

Because we are all about efficiency.

But then this morning I read Deuteronomy 24. I am rethinking efficiency.

God’s people are told not to be all about efficiency.  Part of the way they were (we are) to help take care of the “widow, the orphan, and the immigrant,” is to refuse to be all about efficiency.

The agrarian people of God were commanded in Deuteronomy 24:19-22 intentionally not to harvest their fields as efficiently as possible.

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

I think included in this call toward inefficiency is an opportunity to develop trust.  As we learn to trust God (remember; this command comes from the God who has delivered the people from slavery and is leading them to the Promised Land) we learn to see life as a blessing from God.

The more we come to understand life as a blessing from God, the easier it will be, I believe, to learn to live within our means. Living within our means enables us to become more generous.

May you see today as a blessing from the God who has – or who will – deliver you, and may you learn to live inefficiently in response!

Is it ok to lie in this case?

A guest in the building where I work asked if I knew where coffee cups were.  I did, and was headed that direction. I lead her to a cabinet of 30 or so coffee mugs, many of which had been donated to us to help us cut down on waste.

When she saw them, she asked if I had any styrofoam cups. I said that I did, but I’d rather she use one of these, and I would be happy to wash it afterwards.  I explained that was why we had these.

She stood there for a moment, said she didn’t have a preference,  then asked again if I had styofoam.  I again said I did, and again suggested a reusable cup. Again I offered to wash it afterwards.

She finally said she would really rather have a styrofoam cup.

Would it have been ok, do you think, to deny having styrofoam for her to use a reusable coffee mug?

Bright idea?

A recent Economist carried a piece about how maybe the increasing efficiency of light bulbs is not going to lead toward a reduction of electricity needed/produced.

It is worth remembering that when gas lights replaced candles and oil lamps in the 19th century, some newspapers reported that they were “glaring” and “dazzling white”. In fact, a gas jet of the time gave off about as much light as a 25 watt incandescent bulb does today. To modern eyes, that is well on the dim side.

Do you think you will be wanting brighter lighting in your house/office/church/store if five times the lighting takes half the electricity?

Go Green, Save Green

“Going green” isn’t always a money-saver.  Buying food that is sustain-ably produced can be costly. buying a new, more fuel-efficient car is expensive (and only arguably a greener option than maintaining a paid-for car you already have).

One way that Rachel and I have chosen to do a part to be better stewards of the earth is to use reusable cotton diapers.  The up-front cost is much higher than disposable diapers, but because we registered for them we received some as gifts.  As it stands now, Eliza is 3 months old tomorrow, and we spent on diapers total what disposables would have cost for this first 3 months.

And we have all the diapers she will ever need. And we have these diapers for a younger brother or sister to use.

We use more water washing them weekly than we would use on disposables, but we put almost nothing in the landfill, and water is, where we live, a renewable resource.

Interesting point-when I mention to young people that we have made this choice, many of them have asked why we don’t use “normal” diapers.  Disposable diapers are now “normal.”

We use Gro Baby and Bum Genius brands of reusable diapers, and they are incredibly easy to use.

No, I don’t leave all diaper duty to Rachel.


I’ve had conversations with some of you about being “green.”  For me it is primarily a matter of stewardship. As a new blog, EvanEco puts it, “The world isn’t ours to mess up.-Ps 24.1)  I am trying to move in the direction of living on this planet God has given us in ways that all 6-point-however many billion people could all live.

Could our planet sustain everyone daily using as much fresh water as I do? would it be possible, and economically feasible, to generate enough electricity as  6 billion people would need, if all consumed electricity at the rate I do?

I’m thrilled about a step that Texas State University has taken to help its students become more aware of sustainability issues. Robert George wrote a story for the Austin American Statesman.  TSU has installed 30 elliptical trainers for student workouts that are designed to generate power and put it back into the power grid.

Great as this is, a 30 minute workout generates about enough electricity to light a bulb for 2 hours.

Would you be willing to work out enough to leave your lights on?

Sustainable Argument

I’ve blogged several times about water conservation and usage. (Here, here, here, and here, for a few)

Word gets around (apparently) because someone asked me recently if I thought water down the drain was gone for good and not reusable.

Of course not, I replied.

Then why did I care how much water I used?

Here’s the best argument I have for why we (generally) ought to learn to use less water.

Even during this time of economic downturn, the world is developing at a pretty good clip.  Though more than a billion people still live on less than $2 a day, and a huge number do not have easy access to safe water, these numbers are decreasing.

I believe these numbers can, and should, continue to decrease, and that this doesn’t mean (necessarily) that the wealthy have to get less wealthy.

It does mean, however, that more of us will have to share a finite amount of fresh water.

If all 6 billion people on the planet had access to fresh water, would there be enough for all of them to use the same amount per day as you and I do?  I don’t think so.

If those of us who have plenty, and access to more wter than we could possibly need, would take the time to intentionally cut back on our waste, the finite amout of water we have would go farther as more and more people continue to gain reasonable access to it.

A Worthwhile Cause?

Not every cause promises to change one’s life.  If I jump on board with this one, mine would surely be very different. I read this morning, on a General Board of Church and Society note, about Killer Coke.

I’ve blogged about my love of Diet Coke before.  In fact, I found a post about the stuff from August 2005 – was I really blogging back then?  Giving up Diet Coke in supprot of this cause would be a drastic change for me.

dietcokeI am going to read more about the protest, and I’ll let you know.

Addicted Land?

As I’ve probably shared here already, Rachel and I gave up meat for Lent this year.  It was a very interested time for us; Rachel has barely gone back to eating meat, and I am eating far less than I used to.

I posted a facebook status Tuesday afternoon that I hadn’t “eaten meat since Sunday noon.”  This status received many comments, including an article link from Audie Alcorn.  “The Mad Cowboy” is Harold Lyman’s story, the excerpt is his telling of his infatuation, relationship, and break-up with Agri-business.

While the whole piece is worth a read, this part particularly struck me:

Even though I had increased crop yields dramatically, even though I could now grow a heifer to 1,100 pounds in just 15 months instead of the 30 months it used to take, even though I had bought leased many of my neighbors farms and increased my acreage fortyfold, it was getting harder and harder to make ends meet. The chemicals themselves were expensive, and every year I had to use more chemical fertilizer and more antibiotics to get the same result as the year before.

Does the last sentence here remind you of something?  Chemical fertilizers and the antibiotics (which Lyman explains all cattle need because of the unnatural living conditions) develop a dependency on the part of the land and the cattle. It takes more each year to get the same result.

Is there land rehab, or cattle rehab where detoxification might start?

I I weren’t already concerned about Agri-Business and their love of synthetic chemicals in replacing the natural ability of creation to nourish plant growth, I am now!  If I hadn’t already determined to eat only beef that is grass-fed rather than grain-fed, I am now!

I suppose it makes sense in some ironic way that we are, apparently, doing the same thing to the land and to livestock that we are doing to ourselves. On the other hand, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be building up tolerance for unnatural chemicals; neither do I think the land and livestock should be.

Get Wormy

100_0022I’ve been wanting to share this with you for some time now.  A year and a half ago Rachel and I became farmers. Worm Farmers.  You can see our vermicomposter, or worm farm, in the picture to the left.

We tried starting a compost pile in our back yard, but there are too many critters aruond, and we didn’t want to splurge for cost of a full-fledged outdoor composter as they run pretty expensive.

We we got worms instead.  We feed our worms food scraps (anything except meat products) and shredded newspaper, and even dryer lint.

Our worms have been happily eating almost half their weight each day for quite some time now.  Avery month or two we pull out the bottom layer and turn it into soil and start a new top layer.

The worms seem content.  We are happy because we don’t have to throw away or waste our food scraps.