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» Saturday, April 25, 2020Shortage Musings
I've read a couple of articles now about how, since stay-at-home orders and allowing those to telework who could has been in force, the environment has improved in one month. Yes, we're using more plastic bags because most of the grocery stores won't bag your stuff if you use your own bags, and of course there's tremendous medical waste, but CO2 emissions are way down (the graphic showing the NYC/Boston corridor is amazing). In some places like Los Angeles and Bejing and London there is actually clear sky again. There are fish swimming in the Thames River, and coyotes wandering through San Francisco.
Being in the suburbs we have the usual complement of wildlife: some rabbits, chipmunks, the occasional possum and raccoons, the less occasional coyote or fox, and lots of squirrels. This morning Tucker and I took one of our longer walks—amazingly, at one point he was the one wanting to go farther!—and I noticed how many more squirrels I was seeing this year. And I think I know the reason: fewer people driving to work. During the spring the young squirrels are often seen as squished bodies at the side of the road, having misjudged their sprint on an early morning or late afternoon dash across the asphalt. This year I've seen almost no squirrel bodies, but lots of live squirrels.
One of the things I've learned during all these shortages is that you really can get by on less. Back when I was nervous about getting another big package of toilet paper—back when you weren't seeing any in the store, and a poor friend of mine in a major metro area was so worried about a dwindling supply that friends sent packages because this person is ill and housebound and the grocery delivery services never sent paper towels and toilet tissue—I was parceling out the squares carefully. I'm still keeping an eye on how much I use and admonish myself to use only what I need, not a leisurely swath of squares. I've also found that judicious use of the Swiffer wet sweeper cloths means I can mop the kitchen floor just as clean with two as with three, and that I can use fewer Lysol disinfecting wipes cleaning the bathroom and get it just as sanitary.
Plus I realized with amazement that we are still working with the same package of one half-dozen XL Brawny paper towels we bought at Publix back on March 13 merely due to more judicious use of them. I washed my hands a lot even before COVID-19 and would always manage to spatter water on the bathroom counters, and I would think nothing of taking one sheet of paper towel (we get the Pick-a-Size, so it's a small sheet), wiping the sink, then throwing it away. Now, unless the spatter on the counters is dirty (like the other day when I washed the covers of the two books I bought on e-Bay), I will just leave one or two of the small pick-a-size sheets on the bathroom sink counter and wipe up with them over and over until the square starts to disintegrate, which takes about five days to a week. So...using fewer rolls of paper towels—and of course the ultimate thing to do would be to replace these squares with microfiber cloths and just toss them in the washer once a week.
Maybe after this is over we'll remember all the little conservation tricks we learned and buy less and toss fewer things into the trash and thus the landfills.
And hopefully supervisors will do their jobs and check the metrics on their teleworking workers and realize they can trust most of them to telework more and still get their jobs done. Face it, some people aren't "made" to telework; they need supervision or they goof off or they need constant guidance. Some find it hard to get into the discipline, but finally "get it" and do their work. And there are others for whom it just "works." I always thought I did more work while teleworking because there was no one walking by who just wanted to talk, no delays because the printer didn't work (about half the time) and no delays for the long distance walked to the printer, no delays because of environmental issues (like it was just so damn hot in the place you had to keep running to the bathroom to splash cold water on yourself). At home I just reached to my right to grab my printouts instead of walking 75 steps to the printer and 75 back. The bathroom at home was 10 steps away rather than more than 100 (and the refrigerator water dispenser was also 10 steps away, rather than 100+ for the bubbler). For James the rest room and the water fountain are even farther away, so when teleworking he's back at his desk in a trice and always available for a call.
So maybe when we can go out again, and quit wasting plastic bags and protective gear again, maybe we'll remember the lessons of using less and teleworking more. Maybe in the future coyotes will still be spied in San Francisco and more squirrels will chatter in our yards, and the skies will be blue over LA and London and Beijing because people learned by staying home they could get by with so much less.