The Not So Sustainable Shave

…an update on The Sustainable Shave

My bit of irony for the last few weeks has been life without my electric razor – the subject of my last post. The electric razor was the star of the show, the hero, my savior from a life of scraggly scruffiness.

It was ranked #2 on my list of things-not-very-sustainable-but-I-don’t-care-I’m-keeping-them-anyway, or TNVSBIDCIKTA.

Somehow my beloved electric razor got dropped, thrown, kicked, or drop-kicked against something. Unaware, I started up the right (my right, your left) side of my face and got about halfway up the cheek by the time I felt the pain and realized something wasn’t right.

My screen had a sizable hole, big enough to leave a small series of vertical, reddish-hued streaks on my poor, unsuspecting cheek.

The hole rendered the razor useless. If it was on one edge or the other I could work around it and, in the past, in times of crisis not unlike the current situation, I’ve been known to do just that until I could get a replacement screen. It’s a tricky, delicate operation, not for the faint of heart. But I’m no coward (notwithstanding the fact that I’m still squeamish about the idea of using a straight razor – that’s just common sense!) and have plenty of manly tolerance for pain. A nick or two here and there is good for the constitution, builds character. But a hole in the middle of the screen – that’s another story. There’s no skirting the issue. There’s no getting around it. I’m stuck.

Having suffered the week-long, emotionally-scarring ordeal involving letting my facial hair grow, I wasn’t anxious to repeat that particular episode. Wal-Mart might have a replacement screen, or they might not. It’s a one hour drive just to find out. I could call, but I’ve been down that road before and learned Wal-Mart employees will say whatever they think you want to hear just to get you off the phone. Call me cynical.

I could order a new screen online, but it’ll take a few days to get here, maybe as long as a week. I don’t have that kind of time.

So I bought the cheapest triple-blade disposables available at the local grocery store, spending $3.47 plus tax for four razors and buying myself some time. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to weigh the options again…

I hate the idea of throwing disposable razors in the trash. But I’m actually enjoying the process of lathering up and shaving. The electric razor seemed impersonal by comparison.

I’m undecided… Lip balm’s still firmly ensconced at #1 on the TNVSBIDCIKTA list, but #2’s up for grabs.


Two Generations of Environmentalists

My Dad was an environmentalist, decades before the term was coined.

He was constantly yelling at one or more of his five children to shut the refrigerator door and turn off lights when nobody was in the room, and we rarely enjoyed the childhood pastime of running beneath a sprinkler.

But Dad was no hypocrite. He practiced what he preached.

When he shaved or washed his hands or face, he didn’t let the water run.  Instead he filled the sink with just enough water to complete his task. It was a habit from way back, when the farm he’d grown up on lacked an adequate water supply. There was a well on the farm and plumbing in the house, but if he, his mom, dad, or sister used too much water, the well ran dry. It might take a day or two for the spring-fed well to catch back up. Dad’s habit of bathing once a week, “whether he needed it or not,” was borne of the same water-well short supply.

Photo by NOAA

On the farm in the 1950’s, they lost power frequently. If a thunderstorm blew through, the farm might be without power for days at a time. Sometimes, like when a tornado in the next county up-rooted utility poles and flung them around like toothpicks, they lived many weeks without electricity. Out to the root cellar went perishables, where they hoped the food wouldn’t spoil before they could eat it. Into salt barrels with salt of questionable quality (usually left over from the last time the power had gone out) went meat from the deep-freeze. The wood cook stove still sufficed for baking bread and biscuits, cooking pancakes, and frying ham and eggs, just as it had in the days before electric co-ops sprang up along the countryside and wires were strung all over creation. That stove was hot to cook on in the summertime, but better than nothing. All the laid-up canning jars full of vegetables, tomatoes, jellies, jams and preserves served them well.

Power outages or no, the electric bill came like clockwork, once a month. On a largely subsistence-oriented farmstead, “cash money” was hard to come by. They, like most of their neighbors, usually bartered for material needs. What cash they earned came from the sale of crops at harvest time. The annual paycheck depended on factors like weather conditions throughout the growing season and current commodity prices. If they “wasted” electricity, they might not have enough money to pay the bill.

Dad learned the hard way to conserve resources and use them wisely. When he moved off the farm and into the city, the seemingly inexhaustible supply of water didn’t cause him to change his habits. Although electricity was comparatively cheaper and his paychecks came more frequently, he still acted as if its continued existence depended on frugal use of it.

“Wasting” electricity and water was something I learned early on not to do. Dad admonished me for the same things I admonish my children for, but for different reasons. Today we worry about depleting resources and diminishing supplies.

Come to think of it, in Dad’s day they worried about the same things.

The Bottomless Water Bottle

Years ago we bought four of these reusable, recyclable water bottles for about $7 each.

At the time I thought they were expensive. In retrospect, they were among the best investments I’ve ever made for the environment, for my health, and for our bank account.

How so? It’s simple. I fill this water bottle straight from the tap in the morning and drink from it all day, filling it up whenever it gets low. When I leave the house, this water bottle goes with me. On the road, it’s easy to find places to fill it up.

Because I carry my water bottle wherever I go, I drink from it. I don’t get the urge to stop at a convenience store and by a 320z. plastic or styrofoam cup of something syrupy and carbonated.

When I’m thirsty, I drink water. Water’s good for me. Water’s free, or nearly so. Reusable water bottles are the ultimate in simplicity.

Tap water, incidentally, gets a bad rap. We hear about impurities and so on, but who’s badmouthing tap water? Companies that sell water filtration systems and bottled water are. Come to think of it, anybody who wants to sell any kind of drink would want you to think your tap water is tainted.

The Story of Bottled Water tells that story more succinctly and better than I can.

The Beauty of Footprinting

photo thanks to

Generally, we think about our ecological footprint in terms of how our decisions affect the planet, the environmental impact of what we personally own, buy, and throw away.

But calculating your footprint and finding ways to reduce it has other consequences you might not have thought of.

Try this: take the quick, simple quiz on  and see where you stand. After taking the quiz, you have a snapshot image, a mental picture of your ecological footprint.

Now, take that mental image, forget about the environment for a moment, and instead focus on how simple your life is. Or rather, how complicated your life is. Imagine ways to reduce your footprint from the perspective of simplifying your life. Think about all the things you own, the money you spend, and what you throw away.

Would reducing each of these parts of life make things simpler? If life was simpler, would you have more time and energy to focus on what you want to do, instead of what you have to do?

OK, now, still holding that image of your current ecological footprint in your consciousness, forget about the environment, forget about simplicity, and instead focus only on your finances. Think about all the things you own, the money you spend, and what you throw away. Would your financial situation improve if you focused on reducing your footprint? Would you have more money if you consumed less and had fewer things to maintain, repair, replace, and throw away?

By reducing your footprint, you inevitably make your life simpler and less expensive while simultaneously living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

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