Slightly Dimmer Ideas

Slightly Dimmer Ideas

By Mordechai Schmutter

So apparently, April 22 is Earth Day.  Most of us don’t care about Earth Day, because we don’t get off of work.  (Though this year, it’s Shabbos.)  If you want to promote awareness of something, you should really let people stay home from work.  That way, people are talking about it.

“Why are you home?”

“Earth Day.”

“Oh.  I thought that was Rosh Hashanah.”

And before you say, “Another Holiday?!”  I should tell you that Earth Day isn’t the kind of holiday where you eat a huge seudah and take a nap.  Earth Day is the kind of holiday where you focus on cleaning the planet.  And before you say, “Again?  I just cleaned my house!” I should tell you that I can’t help you there.  When you went through your garbage before Pesach, did you take each item apart and put everything in the correct recycling bins?

“No, I want to throw out my garbage; I don’t want to file it!”

The point of the Earth Day is to raise awareness of environmental issues.  So here goes: There are environmental issues.  The environment is everywhere.  It’s behind you right now.  Don’t look; you’ll spook it.  And regardless of what any one person believes about the extent to which we’re wrecking our planet, it’s going to get pretty gross if some of us don’t do something.

Hence Earth Day – a day to clean roadways and plant trees and not shower and harass elected officials.  Preferably in that order.

Being green is not a new thing.  Your father has always been green, telling you to turn off lights when you leave a room even though you clearly intended to come back to that room eventually, and you almost always, when you were in the room, needed the light on.  When have you ever gone into the pantry, for example, and said, “I sure wish the light was off in here”?  He also tried to encourage you to walk everywhere.

So we should all think about doing something to conserve:

-When possible, dry your hands on your pants.  You can also blow your nose on your laundry.

-If you spill something on the floor and you’re not wearing shoes, wipe it with your sock.  If you’ve spilled an entire container of something, get the rest of your family to use their socks as well.  Unless it’s pickle juice.

-Experts recommend that you keep your freezer full, to the point where, every time you open the door, everything falls out, and you spend ten minutes dodging frozen items as you simultaneously reach down to grab them and try to keep the freezer from closing on your head.  That uses less power.

-If you use cloth diapers instead of disposables, you’ll have trained your kids by the age of two weeks.

-Never let your father know how long you leave the shower running before you finally decide to get in.

Sure, some of these methods are unconventional.  But not all the conventional methods are entirely thought through.

For example, people say we can save electricity by replacing all of our old, round light bulbs with corkscrew-shaped light bulbs that were clearly designed by someone who was drunk.  These light bulbs supposedly take fewer ethnic minorities to screw them in, because you change them less often, and the only downside is that they sometimes smell like smoke.  (The light bulbs.)  (Also the ethnic minorities.)

Another downside is that the new light bulbs are much harder to draw.  I’m a writing teacher, and I occasionally draw a light bulb on the board to illustrate the concept of “ideas”, in case one of my students, while writing an essay, suddenly realizes that he doesn’t know what ideas are.  (They’re light bulbs.)  I still draw the old bulbs, because my period is only 45 minutes, but this year my students started asking, “What’s that?”

But my point is that our ideas are represented by lower-energy light bulbs these days.  Which is apparently appropriate.

Another thing we’re supposed to do is use less water.  So I drink soda.  That’s only like 25% water, right?  The other 75% is sugar.  But on the other hand, they say we should drink 8 cups of water a day, which sounds true, because there’s probably one magic number that applies to everybody in the world regardless of size.

One big tip that every article seems to say is to turn off the water while brushing your teeth.  Who keeps the water running while they brush their teeth?

“Just by turning off the tap while brushing,” one article says, “you can save more than 200 gallons of water per month.”

Wow, you are grossly overestimating how much I brush my teeth.

They also say we should take shorter showers.  Regardless of size.  They say that an average shower uses up to 50 gallons of water.  A typical family in Africa uses a tenth of that for an entire day, including laundry, drinking water, and running the tap while they brush their teeth.  And they probably drink it last, so that’s disgusting.

We’re also supposed to drive less.  They say we should walk everywhere, because if we don’t, the world is going to run out of fuel, and we’re going to have to walk everywhere.

So it’s a question of walking everywhere today or tomorrow?  I’d rather do it tomorrow, then.  No offense, but I push off all my exercise like that.  And if we’re at a point where everyone’s walking, people wouldn’t roll their eyes when you say you’re late to work because you walked.  Also, we could take the highways.

They also say to not carry extra things in your car, because that uses gas.  But then they say to carpool.  The way a carpool works is that one day you drive the kids to school, and the next day the other person asks if you can take their day.  Make sure to spend ten minutes honking in the morning with your motor running while your neighbor’s kid looks for his shoe, which he arguably doesn’t need because you’re driving him to school.

There’s also the option of public transportation, where, instead of worrying about traffic on the way to work, you can worry about whether you’ve missed your stop.

Which brings us to bottled water, which apparently is bad for the environment, because, as scientists recently discovered, bottles are made from plastic.  And plastic is made from oil.  And we toss millions of bottles per year.  Why on earth are we drinking 8 cups a day?

So experts recommend that you filter your own water.  Get a Britta.  With a Britta, you’re never more than an hour and a half away from six ounces of lukewarm water.  You just pour water in the top and leave for Shabbos, and by the time you come back, it’s still filtering.

And then you peek in to see what’s taking so long – like you’re going to see a clog in there – and you see lots of black pieces floating around.  This was not in the water when I poured it.  Was it?  Is this part of the filter?  I hope it’s at least filtering this out.

Our Britta doesn’t even fit in the fridge, so we filter the water, and then we pour it into used seltzer bottles.  (One huge Britta pitcher fills a 1-liter bottle of seltzer until about the word “seltzer”.)

And then our guests drink some and complain that our seltzer’s flat.

“It’s water.”

“I know.  That’s what I’m saying.”

Hey, you know what else would make there be fewer bottles in landfills?  If they made the water bottles bigger.  We don’t see this problem with soda, because they make 3-liter bottles.

So now they’re trying to sell something called “reusable water bottles.”

Wait.  Aren’t all bottles reusable? 

Not anymore.  They keep making them flimsier.  It’s kind of like those reusable cloth shopping bags we’re supposed to be schlepping everywhere, because you want to come home from the fruit store and put your shopping bags in the laundry.  But my point is that all shopping bags were reusable (free garbage bags, mostly), until they started making them too flimsy to carry home my huge bottles of soda.  And they want me to walk?

So a lot of these tips don’t make sense.  Like how they say we shouldn’t use paper plates.  (Except for Seudah Shlishis.   Being green is one thing, but who do they suppose is washing all those dishes on Motzoei Shabbos?)  But if we’re not using paper plates, aren’t we using more water?

So my point is that I think most of us are already saving in some way, unless we’re using paper plates and washing them.  So you should do something for the environment, but you can’t drive yourself crazy.  Especially since a lot of these things – driving, showering, loose papers – are kind of necessary if we have to go to work.

Hey, here an Earth Day idea:  How about giving off work?

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist for The Jewish Press, and has written three books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to