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SAVING ENERGY IN THE HOME

Don't equate frugality with deprivation. Indeed, the Latin origin of the word, frugalis,m means useful or worthy, Professor Johnson points out. In other words, the frugal life of the future is one which retains that which is useful and worthwhile.

In his book Professor Johnson puts it this way: "If the earth is to be a true home for us, a place of refuge and nurture, we may as well start to think about how we can make it such a place. The task will not be as difficult as it may sound, and requires no wishful thinking about technological breakthroughs, effective government, or heightened human consciousness. We can move toward a secure, sustainable way of life easily if we accept the logic of frugality."

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What then is frugality? Everything from wearing a sweater indoors during winter to turning off unwanted lights to developing new handyman-type skills. It means buying or making durable products that can be used and reused, worn and repaired rather than briefly enjoyed and then discarded. It means buying for function more than form. Ask yourself, "Will it meet my need?" rather than, "Does it look good?" It means finding new uses for used items, even using a screw- top bottle as a hot-water bottle in the reduced heat of your bedroom. It also means making a compost heap from the 500 or so pounds of kitchen waste the average family throws away each year and growing some vegetables with the finished product.

The future will challenge our ingenuity. The need will be a search out ways of avoiding waste and to act accordingly. In short we must make energy efficiency a personal goal. Don't underestimate the possibilities. Of all the energy used in the US, more than one- quarter is consumed in the home.

Whatever doesn't have to be manufactured or transported long distances means that much less energy consumed by the nation as a whole -- and that much less vulnerability to the political whims and fancies of foreign oil suppliers. But in the end, a much more convincing force than patriotism will convert the general public to this conserving way of live: It will make simple economic sense to be that way.

As both Professors Godfrey and Johnson point out, in the future the difference between moderate wealth and marginal living is less likely to be governed by income than by one's ability (or lack of it) to fend for oneself and generally live without waste. What you can save, rather than what you have to spend, will become the determining factor. "Wealth by saving" is how both professors express it.

"If you can put in a new sink without calling on the plumber, do your own auto serviing, or convert an old packing case into a kitchen countertop, you can readily be a thousand dollars ahead of the game," says Dr. Godfrey. "The age of the specialist is coming to an end," he adds. "The more skills, preferably artisan-type skills, a person develops, the better equipped he will be." These savings are the "unmeasured wealth," of many families and such savings are tax free.

Dr. Johnson expresses the same sentiment this way: "The people who are probably best prepared for the future are those who have never been wealthy, are skilled with their hands, and know how to get by on less -- the repairman, the mechanic, the 'Mr. Fixits' of this world." Those least equipped, he feels, are those specializing in services and commodities least needed -- the luxuries that people first dispense with in hard times.


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