Extreme Conservation for a Dystopian Future (And WIN a Zombie Mug!)

In honor of our dystopican theme for today, 2 winners will receive a FREE GLOW-IN-THE-DARK ZOMBIE MUG! (see below)

City image courtesy ranker.com

Our great-great-grandkids will either love us or hate us. Of course, by that time, they’ll probably judge their own parents or grandparents, and we’ll be off the hook.

But let’s face it: at current rates of consumption, non-renewable resources will eventually run out. (Did you see that operative “non” in front of “renewable”? Kinda important.)

So, here are ten ideas for extreme conservation.

And here’s the caveat – they can’t affect our American freedoms. Want to drive from New York to California over and over and over? Fine. Want to take an hour-long shower? Go right ahead. But there might be a catch.

Here’s another caveat: these are my own views. That said, I’m not even saying that I endorse these; they’re just ideas.

Also, I’m shooting for ideas a bit different than simply, “Make everything more expensive” (like gas).

Got some of your own? Add them in the comments section. Let’s see what we can come up with so that history remembers us as the generation that gave a damn.

All right – let’s make it a top ten and count down…ready? Go!

10. You only get one new car every ten years – “Cash for Clunkers” showed us the flaws about trading in old cars. It pays, economically and environmentally to own a car for a long time. So pick whatever you want, but remember, you gotta stick with it for ten years before you get a different one.

9. Single-layer packaging on ALL food items – The bag-within-a-box days are over. All food packages can only be held in a single layer. I suppose this will have consequences for shipping and storage, since boxes stack easily, but hey, this is EXTREME conservation; why use two packages when one will suffice?

8. Quantize water use – Shower? Push a button for three minutes of water. Hands? Auto shut-off sensors on all new faucets. I get the feeling that if showers were timed, folks might get sick of pushing a button ten times for a half-hour. Maybe if it made a cash-register sound at the same time (since you’re charged every time) that would help too.

7. Garbage-recycling-compost bins – Recycling is getting easier. Large bins that hold all types of household recyclables is a big incentive to participate. But more comes out of a house that can be useful – namely, compostables. Make it easy, offer an incentive (like $$$) and maybe we can decrease fertilizer use at the same time.

6. Bounded thermostatsLimits on minimum and maximum settings. YIKES! I’m pushing the blue button, but my A/C won’t go below 74! I’m pushing red and it won’t go above 75! Hard-wired limits to thermostats. Want one without limits? Special permit or exorbitant pricing. Is this a limitation to freedom? I suppose. Maybe you should just get an electric shock every time you push it past a certain number.

5. Food transportation limits – Want a watermelon in December? Tough bananas, the carbon footprint is too high. We eat what’s in season and supplied by local sources within a reasonable distance. There would have to be some concessions to account for a sensible diet, otherwise folks in Indiana would sprout corn out of their ears.

4. No more shopping bags, anywhere, ever – Some stores already offer incentives if you bring your own bags. Now you’ll have to, unless you just want to throw the groceries from the cart into your back seat. According to the Clean Air Council, over 7 billion pounds of PVC plastic are thrown away each year in the U.S., and Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups and utensils to circle the equator 300 times…in case you were wondering how many times you could circle the equator with cups and forks.

3. FREE GYMS! – Yes, ill health is a major waste of resources. But I’m not sure free gyms are the answer. They’d probably breed some new strain of MRSA that would wipe us out and make our dystopian future even more so. But some kind of incentive to stay fit would help. Tax break?

2. Free tele-communications – What better way to entice people to stay at home than to provide free phone, internet, and TV?

1. Three-day work week – Commuting sucks. Traffic jams are fuel hogs and clean-air enemies. Reduce the work week, and cut down on all that. If it affects the economy too much, then at least provide more incentives to work-from-home. Might have to boost up wages to make up for fewer hours, or offer subsidies to companies that take advantage of this.

There you have it. Ten measures for extreme conservation. I didn’t go into detail about light bulbs or watering lawns, but I think it’s a pretty good start.

What did I miss? I’m sure there’s plenty more that people can do. Please weigh in and let me know what you think.

For a chance to win a GLOW-IN-THE-DARK ZOMBIE MUG: leave a comment. One winner from the first five comments, and one from the second five will be chosen at random. That’s it! If you’re nice enough to tweet or reblog the post, then you also receive my sincere gratitude…oh, and make sure to leave some way for me to contact you in case you win…website, twitter name, email address, or follow the comments, and I’ll post the winners. (If I don’t hear from the winners within three days, I’ll choose a new one) GOOD LUCK!

20 thoughts on “Extreme Conservation for a Dystopian Future (And WIN a Zombie Mug!)

  1. oooh!! Will I be first?? I say a national law allowing everyone to keep hens for personal food and composting (hen’s are awesome recyclers of organic waste) or grow a garden if they want. I recently heard of an HOA that actually bans gardens of any type. It’s not even a fancy shmancy neighborhood. In fact, they’d probably benefit from people having to garden instead of avoiding it. Fun post.

    • Leight – great ideas! Yeah, the whole suburban hen thing is really taking off. And gardens are always a great idea.
      YES! You’re the first post, so definitely in the running here…pretty good odds too. Good luck! As soon as we get five, we’ll have the first drawing!

    • Hey Leigh — Congrats on winning the mug — I sent you an email, if you don’t get it, please shoot me one at scienceforfiction at gmail dot com and we’ll work out shipping. Congratulations! Hope you don’t get a taste for brains from it!

  2. Leigh stole my first idea — can’t tell you how many people lately have told me they want chickens so they can have fresh eggs. :-)

    My other idea: Required rainbarrels attached to the gutters. They’re inexpensive to make, and great for collecting rainwater to use for gardens, irrigation, etc. Make sure to get a food-grade barrel if used for human/animal drinking water, though.

    Great post!

    • Yes – rain barrels are another great idea. Our neighbors have them, and they are horticultural mutants — they had like tomatoes flying around by April I think (my plants were big time jealous) — anyway, they watered the entire year using rain barrels practically. Really sound investment for anyone who would use them.
      Thanks, Anna!

  3. Love most of your ideas, especially because most of it is painless and makes good sense.

    But how do you get the irresponsibles to “get with the program?”

    Chickens, compost bins, rain barrels, using those grocery bags as trash bags in the home, telecomuting, using fruit in season locally, decrease in packaging, keeping cars a long time… why not?

    That zombie mug looks really nice, but keep me out of the drawing because it won’t go with my pink Hello Kitty home furnishings!

  4. I LOL’d at free gym MRSA!

    Totally agree about single layer packaging — excessive packaging really irks me, and I see it everywhere.

    I’m also on board with the no shopping bags and three day work week!

    Being of the Murphium tribe, though, I cannot endorse the idea of a thermostat which goes no higher than 75. Sorry, Tim, but I already live most of my life at home swaddled in blankets and thick socks. I need to be able to crank it up to 82 now and again.

    Also, I’m unwilling to give up my uninterrupted LONG showers. HOWEVER, since it’s just the two of us, we do practice one method of conservation which may be a little gross to some, but it saves a LOT of water: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…” :)

    • I imagine the long showers will be a hard one for most to give up. I know that during the weekdays, I’m pretty much in-and-out to get to work, but come Saturday, I do like it to pelt down for a while…incessant button-punching and cash-register sound effects would kind of disrupt that mood…

  5. I grew up in Africa and the rainwater collection was used constantly. We “settled” it and boiled it, used it for drinking water. The regular “bad” water (that came from the pipes and couldn’t be drunk) got used on the garden. I’m always surprised how much rainwater gets wasted in this country.

    I’m like LJ about the long showers. I have fibromyalgia and need the warm water to get the muscles moving in the morning. I also need heat, but we use a wood stove. Your choice, which is worse?

    Otherwise, I’m good with most of your suggestions. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I compost and recycle nearly everything (we have a reputation for excessive recycling up here). We only take garbage to the dump once a year. So most of your stuff I pretty much do.

    Good thoughts. Hope I win that zombie mug.

    • You’ve got a pretty good chance for the mug — let’s see how it goes. If I don’t get another five replies in the next day or two, then we’ll have a drawing for two mugs for the current posts. Rainwater collection can certainly go a long way. There’s also the opportunity to store water on rooftops in dark tanks so that the sun could help heat the water — obviously more prudent in the southern latitudes, but even that is barely done.
      I think that one of my main points regarding this post is that we’re nowhere near the maximum amount we could be doing to conserve resources. It’s admirable that you’re so consistent about recycling and composting. Imagine if that were the norm instead of the exception!

      • Part of the problem with composting is people say you are putting co2 in the air from the decomp. Really? is it really going to make that much difference? Is it worse that filling the landfills full of garbage that doesn’t break down or leaks leads, cadmiums and other toxins? Somewhere there’s a balance. I like growing my own “natural” (organic) garden, having chickens, recycling, burning wood, having rainbarrels and doing what I can without going too crazy about it.

    • Habisha — Congrats on winning the zombie mug! I sent you an email — if you don’t get it, please shoot me one at scienceforfiction at gmail dot com and we can work out the shipping. Thanks for reading and commenting! More to come!

  6. AND THE WINNERS ARE…pause for like ten seconds, because that’s what they do on TV to build the suspense and all, so we may as well do it too (okay, that ate up a couple seconds)…Habisha and Leigh!
    I wish everyone could get one, but I only have two to give away (and since we didn’t get another five comments, they both go to the first five!). I’m uploading my next blog post, so the contest for this one is officially closed. Rest assured, more to come in the future!
    Congratulations to the winners! Feel free to leave a picture or a comment when you get your mug! Always nice to see them in action!

  7. Really great post! Have you ever visited Germany? A lot of things you mention are in place there. Most people (non-urban) have compost heaps, you have to pay for every bag you need at the grocery store so everyone brings their own bags or picks boxes out of the recycling container in front of the store to put their groceries in, and you don’t generally get a lot of the fruits and vegetables unless they are in season. I love your ideas, though, and they really shouldn’t be too hard to implement. Once you know you don’t have a choice, you just make the changes anyway. If we start now, our children and grandchildren won’t know any life any different.

    • Hey Christina — I visited Germany some time ago, and can say that the concept of conservation as a way of life is much more ingrained than in America. I also think I heard a lot about other environmental movements that are much more commonplace there, green roofs for example.
      I also agree with your two concepts: 1) if you don’t have a choice, you make the changes anyway, and 2) our kids wouldn’t know the difference if we just started adopting these efforts today — it would be a part of their lives.
      Just found you on Twitter — look forward to exchanging a few more ideas!

  8. I so wish we would adopt more of the German model. An old friend of mine worked for Bosch for a few months in Germany and in Switzerland, and he griped not about the programs themselves but how his neighbors held him accountable. I’m all for calling people out on their lack of conservation conscientiousness (and yes, I realize that my 45-year-old car gets only about 11 miles to the gallon, but I’m willing to pay higher gas prices to enjoy my little time capsule on wheels).

    I was hoping with the dystopian theme that you’d have some outlandish hyperbole going on…none of your examples seemed that unreasonable to me, and most (as with the thermostat) could easily be offset by folks being granted exceptions or paying a premium for the luxury of a few more degrees or a few more minutes in the shower.

    One step I’d love to see taken… placing insane tariffs on all goods transported from over X miles (you name the distance, but mostly, I’m thinking of anything that comes from overseas). We need to focus more on local manufacturing and food production, and your point about eating what’s in season should be extended to wearing what’s made down the road.

    I suppose that one could argue that I should just seek out local merchandise, but I challenge folks to find a decent outfit of items made in the US without having to spend half the day driving all over creation or far too long surfing the web (and then dealing with the possibility that the fit will be incorrect). I miss the days when I could drag my carcass to JC Penney and buy a reasonably priced shirt and tie that was made here in the States. Now, I can go to Penney’s and buy the same outfit for about the same price I paid in 1995, but nothing will be from the States. I still want the ability to buy foreign goods (and I will, but only when I want to buy them, like when I bought a Mini Cooper S on a lark, or when I continually go back to Mazda for vehicles that deliver performance and reliability), but I don’t want to have no choice whatsoever when I want to run into a store, grab the few things I need, and get on with life.

    The amount of resources we waste on sending cheap crap overseas (yes, this argument goes both ways…our exports should be pricy) is appalling, and frankly, I think only those items we can’t grow or manufacture here should be what we import. I’d love for banana and coffee farmers to be making tons of money off of us… and for folks elsewhere to pay out the nose for whatever we have that they want.

  9. Interesting that no one has addressed the concept of population control. Fewer people mean more in a lot of areas and less in a lot of areas. Less waste both sewage wise and trash wise. Less demand on electricity, food consumption, water consumption, fuel consumption. Oh of course there have to be children if for no other reason than to continue the human race, but the fee should be VERY high, and the fines atrocious. Fewer people to fill jobs would make working a privelidge again, artisan work in local areas would become more valuable and planned obsolescence would no longer be a viable option. College would still be expensive, because a higher education would be a higher education and the degree would again have value. Travel would be self limiting as we would need to travel less often and would be able to reveret to slower less expensive modes of travel. I agree that imports should be limited to what we CAN’T grow or produce in our individual countries, and regulations on some of the things we could produce here and do not could be lifted, this would allow for possible trade deals between states as well as other nations. What do ya think?

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