Help Yourself and Help the Planet: Reduce Fussy Maintenance

One way to reduce your eco-footprint is to reduce the maintenance cost of your living and working environments. Maintenance cost can be viewed in terms of time, money, fossil energy, your personal energy, or all of the above. Reducing maintenance overhead is a particularly satisfying way to shrink your footprint, because you’re not only helping the planet but also freeing up your own personal resources, which you can then channel into the things that matter most to you.

Fussy landscaping is a huge drain on resources. As just one example, think of all the gasoline that gets expended each year in the United States of America just to create square shrubbery. I much prefer the approach in this photo. This business owner (a print shop in Daytona Beach, FL) obviously takes pride in the appearance of his/her lot. It’s neat and clean, not abandoned-looking. But the shrubs and other plants have been allowed to grow to a natural shape. Unlike those rigid rectangular landscapes you see, which start to look “messy” the minute one leaf falls onto the lawn, or one tendril grows up from a shrub, this site stays nice-looking with much less fuss.

Reduce your footprint by reducing maintenance. Other examples:

• Don’t have a sofa or carpet that shows dirt easily. Hey, don’t have carpet at all! Have rugs that you can quickly shake out. Or flooring that you can clean with a quick sweep or mop.

• Stop trying to keep your patio or driveway spotless. It’s outdoors; it’s not your kitchen floor or counter. Oil from cars, fruit from trees, bird poop, and just miscellaneous stuff of life is going to leave its mark on any outdoor surface. If some little spot is bugging you, the solution isn’t a scrub brush or (God forbid) a pressure washer; the solution is time. Let the passage of time bring the multitude of spots that add up to a natural, gently mottled surface. (Other solutions for an annoying spot on the driveway include a good book, or time with a friend, or some other worthwhile thing that takes your attention off your preoccupation with a pristine driveway.)

• Same with clothes. Refuse to own clothes that require ironing, dry-cleaning; that show dirt easily. Unless you happen to be one of those naturally neat eaters who never spill anything!

• Let all or part of your lawn revert to meadow or forest. Trying to exert rigid control over a large swath of land is like tackling a tar-baby. It ends up controlling you.

What are some of your favorite ways to reduce maintenance and free up your time and energy?