Saturday, October 16, 2010

Retirement Planning – Greening Up the House

As if the road to salvation weren’t challenging enough, the Catholic Church added polluting to its list of mortal sins. That’s right, Gianfranco Girotti, The Vatican official who heads up the B-team on confessions and penitence put contamination of the environment right up there with the seven deadly ones. No word on what the head of the A-team thinks of this, though I’m sure he’d agree with Girotti’s postulate that “sin is social” in today’s global culture.

I’m not exactly a poster child for green living. I’ve never even hugged a tree, unless you count my lame attempt to rescue one of our cats when she was still a kitten. Still, I find it irresistible to improve my chances of making it through the pearly gates by reducing my eco-footprint. There’s the added benefit that greening up could shorten the time to sell our house when I retire. I read that home buyers are increasingly interested in how “green” a property is.

I resolve to become a cleaner, greener, holier (than thou) neighbor. My new mantra will be “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.” To get organized, I start two lists: “to do” and “to buy.” My first “to do” as a born-again environmentalist is to locate my folder of dog-eared articles on conservation and the environment. It’s a fat folder, one of many on a variety of topics I’ve researched. (My previous mantra was “If you can’t recycle it, file it.”)

First on my eco-agenda is something called xeriscaping—an approach to landscaping that minimizes water usage. This is a propitious discovery, since the timer on our sprinkler system died last season. I consider the options, given that the only lawn we have is in front of the house. “Put a deck over the areas that get a lot of traffic.” That would be our entire yard and I’ve never seen a fully decked house-front on the East Side.

I rule out “Cultivate plants that require minimal water.” If I planted beds of cacti around our Victorian, the garden police would be at my door before you could spell xeriscape. I decide that keeping our grass is not really a social sin, since our lawn has proved to be the most sociable place for the neighborhood dogs to do their business. I add a “to do”: fix lawn sprinkler.

Next in my files on green technology is “geo-engineering.” Scientists are planning to put enormous mirrors into orbit so they can bounce sunlight back into space, presumedly to reduce global warming. As I gather information for constructing our “thousand points of light” cooling device, it occurs to me: our home is in a historic neighborhood. Construction not of the period (pre-1900 for us) is not allowed. I consult McAlesters’ “Field Guide to American Houses.” Surprisingly, roof mirrors are not included as identifying features for late 19th century styles. Yet another of my attempts to become greener has withered on the vine.

Increasingly frustrated and on the verge of panic, I add “Prozac refill” to my shopping list. Then I remember a leaflet someone stuffed in our front door years ago. It promoted greener alternatives to toxic cleaners and pesticides. I rummage through the kitchen drawer that every household has as its de facto filing cabinet and voila! I skim the section headings and pause on “Controlling Garden Pests.” Maybe I can create a “green” exterior.

The leaflet advises me to “promote beneficial pests such as fly larvae, aphids and thrips.” With all the holes the cats put in our screens, if I promoted fly larvae, I’d be scouring my supplemental insurance policy to see if it covers therapy. Aphids and thrips are two of the creatures I spray to get rid of. I’m skeptical that they can be their own natural predators, unless of course they have a primary system designed by the Democrats… Clearly this is another dead end on my path to salvation and a quick sale of our house.

With no more dog-eared files or leaflets, I remain a socially-challenged sinner. I realize I’m doomed. I am going to hell. I just hope it’s in an eco-friendly hand basket.

1 comment:

Elisa Hebert said...

Elaine - I'm cracking up. I'm so glad you started blogging!