Greening Our New Home – So Far, So Good…Mostly.

July 22, 2008

So here we are in week #4 in our new home, 1000 miles away from our old home. Back in California, we had our “green-ness” down pat – we knew where the good stores were, we knew how much water we were using, we watched our energy usage and knew what to expect when the utility bills showed up. But now it’s a different story as we have to re-learn the different ways we can be green here in Taos, NM. Starting over is both very exciting…and a lot of work at the same time.

The Little Green Things

One of the first things I did when we got here was to run out to the local grocery store and pick up a cheap reel of clothesline rope and set it up outside. It is discriminate and low enough that the neighbors don’t see it (nothing worse than being that new neighbor), but long enough that I can hang an entire load of laundry outside, saving both electric use and carbon emissions. Plus, the sun likes to provide free bleach for our whites, which is always nice.

We continue to wash all of our clothes in only cold water, for 3 reasons – 1. the cost of heating water just for the laundry machine, and 2. the waste of natural gas to do so, and 3. the wear and tear on our clothing from hot water. We want our clothes to last as long as possible, and cold water helps that. (Although, I will admit to washing out our sheets in hot water when we first arrived – you never know what could be living in there after a big move like that!)

Once I found the box with all of our CFL bulbs in it, I went to town finding the lights that I could use them in. Strangely enough, there weren’t that many of them! Our floor and table lamps took them, but track lighting seems to be very big here in New Mexico – it’s everywhere we go! It is the better kind with the smaller 11 watt little lights, (not the full-size incandescents) but there were so many of them that I removed a couple from both the front living room and the kitchen, saving both energy and money. We just don’t need that many lights up there and they were easy to take off the track, so we put them aside for a bit. Also, the kitchen has a giant skylight, so during the day it doesn’t need light at all. If I ever build a house, I am definitely putting skylights in the kitchen and any bathrooms we have – it’s really a no-brainer to get that much light for free all day.

The Big Green Things

Thankfully, the town has a great natural grocer that rivals Whole Foods but is privately owned. We can get anything that we could get in Southern California, and the prices are about the same. Score for that one!

Our car gets better gas mileage because we are not sitting in traffic 75% of the time we are out in public. In California, the best we had gotten was about 25 MPG, but here it has been consistently 28 MPG for the last 2 tanks. It may not sound like much, but an extra 3 MPG equals an extra 36 miles per tank – or about 100 extra miles a month we can drive on the same amount of gas. Add in the fact that gas is about $.80 cheaper per gallon, and it really adds up!

There are plenty of restaurants here serving fresh, organic food – something you wouldn’t think you would find up here in the mountains. There are even a few very high-end restaurants that we will have to try for special occasions, and we are looking forward to that. My cousin sent me a gift card to a very fancy place in town here, so that should be fun!

Coffee, coffee everywhere. There are several fantastic organic coffee shops here in town, and no chains. Can’t beat that! Now, we just have to get used to the fact that they close early every day and if we want some we cannot head out at 8pm like we used to in California.

The Green Problems

The town of Taos does not recycle plastic, and this is really bothering me. (And too many people don’t recycle anything – it should be a law like it is in most other places) Supposedly they take paper, glass and aluminum, but I have not been able to confirm that as I cannot get anyone on the phone at the recycling center. Also, they don’t have a website to inform people about what they do and don’t do, so I might have to offer my services to make a basic one for them for free. As for the plastic, I have to figure out something we can do – either work with the people trying to get plastic recycling started, invent new ways to get people interested in recycling (incentives like, say, money or gift cards?), or start collecting it all myself and driving it down the hill. Supposedly it costs too much for the city to do it, but consider this – how much are they paying Waste Management to haul the weight of plastic in our regular trash to the landfill? I imagine if they took that expense out of the equation, the costs to send the recycling down the hill would not look so extreme.

As well as the recycling issue, it seems that some people find places other than trash cans to dump their waste. Trash pickup service in town might be pricey for a small town like this, leading those who cannot afford it to take their trash to out-of-the-way places, like the Gorge Bridge or to dead-end roads. This is incredibly unfortunate, and I think we will have to organize volunteer clean up crews on some of these roads before they become formal dumping grounds! I am a big believer that if a town is going to have have trash pickup, it should just be hidden in your real estate taxes, so no one notices that they are paying for it. I imagine less people would try to discard their trash in public if that were the case.

The Green Verdict

Overall, we could not be happier about our decision to move here. Between the slower pace of life, the lack of traffic and pollution, our great adobe house within walking distance to the town plaza, the natural grocer, the organic restaurants, and the progressive nature of the people living here, we really feel like we made the right choice. There are just a few little things that need to be worked on, and hopefully we can get involved with them somehow. It feels good to move to a much smaller town and find that most people care about the environment and sustainability here too, just like in Santa Monica where we used to live!

Filed in: Green • Tags: , , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (14)

  1. Lynnae says:

    Good for you! I was laughing at your laundry line dilemma (hanging it low). That’s what I do now. When we went to our (hopefully) new house for the inspection, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a big laundry line, complete with hanging clothes, in the neighbor’s yard. I was SO happy!

  2. david says:

    Believe me, we will be looking when we finally buy too!

  3. Summer says:

    Hey, congrats on the new place!

    For lights, I love the ceiling light covers that are warmer colors and cover the whole bulb… to counteract that sickly glow that cfl’s give off =)

    Good luck with the rest of the new house projects!

  4. david says:

    Hey Summer, thanks – will look into the covers!

  5. David says:

    Since we are renting, we don’t. But when we buy, we most certainly will, it only makes sense!

  6. cchiovitti says:

    I hope you have an HE washer (I’m sure you do) – I can’t believe how much water, energy, and detergent we save with these. Especially being on a septic tank, I couldn’t keep up with the laundry if we still had the old top-loaders. I’ve also invested in making thermal, ligh-blocking window shades. They keep the house nice and cool.

  7. Best of luck at the new casa! ;-)

  8. Pam says:

    Hi, Neighbor! I live in Ranchos De Taos. I share your concerns about plastic recycling. I moved here from Colorado last fall and where I lived there I could recycle #1 and #2 plastic. The Taos city recycle center at 201 Bertha St. will take newspapers, glass (any color), aluminum (cans and pie plates), steel, and tin cans, corrugated cardboard (but not flat cardboard like cereal boxes and 6-pack containers, although I have seen those in the bins), brown paper bags, junk mail, magazines and catalogs, phonebooks, and white office paper. Also, there is a bin for electronics. I hope this helps !
    I’m getting better mileage here, also, with my 4wd Escape Hybrid. Got 28-30 in the Denver are, running ethanol the whole year. Get 30-32 here with “real gas”, not ethanol, except in the winter when the mileage goes down anyway because of colder temps.

  9. David says:

    Hi Pam! Why is it that they wont get involved with plastic? Is there anyone or any group trying to get that started?

    Thanks for the info on recycling, glad they take most of the stuff. But not cereal boxes? How weird…

    And the mileage is amazing here, isn’t it?

  10. Pam says:

    Maybe the folks at Sustain Taos have more info on the plastic recycling issue.

    http://www.sustaintaos.org/index.php

  11. David says:

    Thanks Pam. I tried them, and their website has not been updated since 2007. I just sent them a direct email, we will see if they respond. I think they could be a valuable service here in Taos!

  12. Nature Deva says:

    Congrats on your move to Taos! It’s one of my favorite places (although I admit Santa Fe is really my favorite place). I visit every year – I live in CO and one of my closest friends lives in Taos for sev’l years and knows everyone and everything about that town. Email me if you would like his contact info – really, he’s like a mini mayor and knows everyone – he’s a lawyer, too.

  13. CindyW says:

    I was out for a very long vacation. Checking back. You have moved to Taos, NM. Wow! Congratulations. That’s amazing.

  14. David says:

    Thanks guys, appreciate it!