11 June 2009

Frugalein has a Frenemy

Some of you may have missed my introduction of Frugalein into this blog. Since then I've mentioned her off and on. She's the frugal part of me, the part that lives to save money; to use it up, wear it out, make do AND do without, preferably all at the same time.

Well, wouldn't you know, Frugalein isn't the only voice in my head. She's got company and company's name is Grünelein. Grünelein loves to save the earth the way Frugalein loves to save money. Sometimes they get along, singing to me in two part harmony when I hang my clothes up to dry, bake my own (damn!) cookies, switch off the AC, or think up clever ways to use less plastic. They pat me on the head as I shop second-hand, ride my bike instead of driving the car, and wash my clothes in cold rather than hot water.

But Grünelein and Frugalein don't always get along. Frugalein knows it saves not one dime to compost my kitchen and yard waste. She knows that I'm not doing her any favors at all when I sort the trash, ensuring that every recyclable thing in our lives ends up in the right trash can. Last month when I bought an antique watering can, Frugalein shook her head in disgust. I could have bought 3 new ones for what I paid for the beat-up old one.

Meanwhile, Grünelein suffers under an extreme lack of funding. She wishes we had rain barrels, but Frugalein won't pay for them. She wishes we had better insulation so that we would use less power to heat and cool, but again, Frugalein isn't convinced that the investment would pay for itself in enough time for us to break even on it. Grünelein wants tankless water heaters, but Frugalein said the (ancient, inefficient, wasteful) one we have has to break first.

You see how delicate a situation this is, I am sure.

Earlier today Grünelein got very excited when she saw this article about a "zero net energy and zero wastewater building" out in Eureka (about 40 minutes west of St. Louis on HW 44). It will house Washington University's Tyson Living Learning Center, where students conduct environmental research. One of the architects described the structure itself as a teaching tool--it was built to meet the requirements to be designated a "living" building. Think local materials, sustainability, rainwater, solar power, etc. It is off the grid (needs no municipal electric), runs entirely on recycled rainwater, and has no sewer. Waste (of all kinds) is composted. This building has it all. The builders reported that the Tyson Living Learning Center is the first "living" building in the US.

Although Grünelein was practially glowing with happy-pride for this greeny-progressive building, Frugalein's lips were pursed, arms folded, foot tapping impatiently. She was waiting for it, and yes. There it was. In there with all the descriptions of the trouble they endured to ensure that they met these standards was this small detail: it probably costs three to four times as much to build this way. Ah, yes. Frugalein knows all too well how much green-dreams cost and she doesn't hold with any of that.

Frugalein mocks Grünelein's starry-eyed wonderment of all things eco-chic however impractical and money-pit-ish, while Grünelein derides Frugalein's maddening thrift-first mentality.

I think I had better go bake cookies and hang wet laundry. I so much prefer to keep their voices in harmony.


Kris Farrar said...

LOVED this post!!!...I have those voices too, only my Frugalein is named Steve :)

Matthew said...

Very well written. I'm glad to see such a good representation of the costs of green-ness, which are so often overlooked.