by Jess Cropsey
America truly is the land of plenty. There are so many basic resources that we just take for granted because they’re always there — food, water, electricity, fuel, etc. In Burundi, we encounter shortages in these areas on a pretty regular basis, and that’s even when we have the financial resources to buy them, a luxury many Burundians do not have.
In recent weeks, there has been another fuel crisis in the country and we’ve had to restrict travel to essential trips only, coordinate trips with each other more than we already do, and use the most fuel-efficient vehicles for those trips. While there is certainly inconvenience that comes with these choices, it’s so much easier to be grateful for the resources that we DO have when we see how much others DON’T have.
The Fader brothers (Jason and Caleb) are masters in the art of using resources wisely. During a team business meeting, we were discussing the new solar power system at the hospital and how we can make lifestyle adjustments to maximize battery life and deal with power shortages when it’s rainy or nighttime. As an off-hand comment, Caleb said, “You know, defrost your cheese wheel in the fridge instead of the counter so that the fridge doesn’t have to work as hard to stay cool.” Two things struck me about this comment. One, he said this like it was obvious, but I have to admit that I never would have thought of that as an energy-saving move. Two, I found it interesting that he used cheese instead of meat as his example, but more on that later. Unfortunately, many of us on the team don’t naturally think like conservationists simply because we’ve never HAD to (until we moved to Africa)!
The Faders are slowly transforming me into a conservationist, but I still have a long way to go. Here are some nuggets of conservationist wisdom that I’ve gained from them over the last 10 years.
- Your fridge and freezer function most efficiently when full (because the already-cold or frozen items keep each other cold or frozen), so use water bottles to fill the space when needed.
- Keep a bucket in your shower to collect run-off and use the excess water to flush the toilets or water your plants. Jason says that he never flushes the toilet with the handle anymore thanks to this tip.
- Minimize your meat intake. Per earthsave.org, “it takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef”. Yikes.
- Pull something relatively “clean” from your dirty clothes pile to blow your (or your kid’s) nose to reduce the amount of toilet paper that you use.
- And of course, something that is now a regular bathroom routine… “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” (We’re still trying to teach our kids that this rule doesn’t apply when you’re visiting someone else’s house in the USA.)
While thinking about this blog, I thought that surely there must be so many more habits that are so natural to the Faders that they don’t even notice them. After pressing for more info, this is what I I discovered:
- To conserve cooking gas, Heather never cooks only one thing in her oven. If she’s going to bake something, she’ll fill it up as much as possible (and yes, cookies are actually the filler sometimes). She only uses her oven twice a week (and that's not because she's eating out).
- She sorts laundry not by color, but by dirtiness. The less dirty load gets a quick wash and the other stuff (like a surgeon’s bloody scrubs or kids’ muddy clothes) gets a normal wash.
- Leftover drinking water after a meal is not poured down the sink, but instead used to soak laundry.
- She admits to still wearing clothes from her high school days. Of course, not many of us could do that even if we wanted to!
- She routinely erases post-it notes to re-use them (can’t replace those in Burundi!).
Really, there are so many gems here that I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. The Dutch-missionary combo is a pretty good way to ensure maximum thriftiness.
Thankful for these teammates who have pushed me to think about how my lifestyle choices impact our world. If you want to see how many planets we’d need if everyone lived like you, check out https://www.footprintnetwork.org.