Jewish Journal

Saving on Utilities

by Annie Korzen

September 19, 2011 | 12:48 pm

My darling husband, Benni, is a utility hog.  He leaves the lights on in the bathroom, the TV on in the living room, and the gas on under the coffeepot.  Since we both work at home, this means that I spend my day turning off, switching off and clicking off.  I’ve asked hubby many times why he wants to waste energy and money this way, and his lucid explanation is “Leave me alone.”

I read somewhere that the single most important thing we can do to slow global warming is to reduce our electricity use.  When the earth explodes in a ball of fire, I will at least have the satisfaction of blaming my husband.

I, on the other hand, try to (a) save money and (b) conserve precious resources.  For example, I do not shower every day. (I don’t really need to: I spend most of my time sitting on my butt at the computer, so I rarely work up much of a sweat.)  On no/shower days, I wash the essentials (PTA) at the sink, and with a little deodorant and perfume I’m good to go.  On the other hand, I know a woman who takes a shower every morning and a bath at bedtime.  That’s a little too clean for me, and much too wasteful.  Also, water dries your skin and hair, so the shower/bath woman must buy lotion and conditioner by the gallon.

I also conserve water by not flushing the toilet every time I use it, I just lower the lid.  During a drought in New York City, the mantra was “If it’s yellow, be mellow.  If it’s brown, flush it down.”  I think that’s a good system to follow here in water-deprived Los Angeles.

My friend Tony installed something called a pedal valve at his kitchen sink.  He presses on a pump with his foot, so that the water only runs when he needs it.  These greeny things are expensive at first, but the savings accumulate. 

Even when they’re not in use, your appliances are still drawing electricity.  Some noble souls unplug every machine that’s idle, but I’m much too lazy to keep bending down all day, plugging and unplugging.  Oh well, Nobody’s perfect.

Europeans do not take water and electricity for granted like we do. When you walk into an apartment building in Copenhagen, or Paris, or Rome, you turn on the staircase light, which is on a timer.  By the time you get to your landing, it switches off.  Timed lighting, however, is not an exact science and sometimes you are plunged into total darkness a few seconds before you reach your door.  This can be jarring, and I never travel without a small flashlight in my purse.

The Europeans also have toilets with two different flush buttons: press one for number one, press two for number two (and press zero for an operator). What a great idea: so simple, so logical - why didn’t we think of that?

Not everything those foreigners do makes sense, though: like the bidet.  This has got to be the dumbest invention ever (along with the mini-vac).  In a bathroom that’s usually so tiny that the shower is on a cord in the tub, why waste space and water on a fixture whose function is easily accomplished by a washcloth?

And the Brits are a little too thrifty for my taste when it comes to central heating.  The indoor temperature in England in September is the same as the outdoor temperature in Maine in December.  This is even true in ritzy hotels like the Savoy – where I had to wear fleece-lined boots at night to go to the bathroom.  We were being charged a king’s ransom for two nights in the River Suite (someone else was paying) and I had to beg for a space heater. 

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Annie Korzen is a comedy writer and performer. Her humorous essays have been printed in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and more. She has...

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