The third instalment of Earth Saver sees Clare’s mum, after weeks of Clare trying, agree to give eco-living a go.
The dinner discussion turns out to be a disappointment. Instead of talking about switching to low energy bulbs Dad, Mum and Daisy get into a fight over something she’s been doing on the internet. Ben listens to his MP3 player to avoid being pulled into the argument.
However, I am not put off. For the next two weeks I try and continue my one woman eco-campaign. But nothing goes as planned. Mum won’t swap brands to eco-friendly cleaning products. Dad finds my box of batteries, intended for recycling, leaking fluid onto the hall table. Daisy comes in one day and says my compost bin, a more suitably re-used jar, is causing a stench and throws it into the normal rubbish.I also keep seeing Mum throwing stuff away without bothering to separate it and recycle stuff properly.
One night cleaning the fridge, she throws out a bag of never opened, wilted salad, straight into the bin – it should have been compost and plastic. I even get my pocket money docked when Dad finds out I’ve used a whole roll of kitchen foil, putting it down the backs of radiators to reflect the heat. The book said to put it behind radiators against outside walls, but all our radiators are inside. So I just did all of them.
The final fiasco was when I tried to turn down the temperature on the thermostat programmer. I’d read on the Energy Saving Trust website that if you turned down the temperature by one degree, you saved 230kg of carbon dioxide a year! I thought I might as well turn it down three degrees and save even more. However, I wasn’t quite sure how the programmer worked, and I wasn’t able to see clearly anyway as I had to reach through a mass of coats.
So I think I must have turned it up instead of down. I didn’t realise until later though, when I saw Dad in a T-shirt asking Daisy if she’d turned up the heating. Daisy likes a tropical climate as her clothes aren’t practical in conditions other than a heatwave. I went back to the under-stairs cupboard to fix the problem, but unfortunately Mum spotted the door was ajar, closed it and locked me inside. I was eventually found by Dad when he went to check the thermostat programmer. He wasn’t impressed when I explained what I was doing in there.
So here I am, at the end of another evening, doing my maths homework, and feeling pretty fed up. The only place that’s anyway near eco-friendly is my own room, and that’s only because I’m attempting to do algebra by wind-up torch light. Meanwhile the rest of the house is running like normal. Heat on high, lights blazing, Dad washing our third car, Daisy having another bath and Ben listening to music, watching TV and playing Halo all at once. I sigh and put down my calculator. Perhaps it’s time for to me to give up. Everyone’s either too busy to go eco-friendly, or just not interested. And as I’ve found, at age 11, there’s not a huge amount I can do without my parents’ permission, or without someone moaning at me afterwards.
I decide to take a break and go down to the kitchen to pour myself a drink. Mum is sat at the table with a couple of books, which is a little unusual, as she’s normally in her office. She watches me as I open the half-empty fridge. I sigh, we’d save more energy if was full – and I don’t mean full of week old, sodden cornflakes left in the bowl by Ben.
“Dad told me about the thermostat”, Mum says suddenly, looking at me over her glasses. It’s not quite the ‘questioning the witness’ look she gives you when she’s about to tell you off, but my heart sinks anyway.
“I was trying to turn down the heating. To conserve energy”, I mutter, taking out the orange juice bottle.
“Yes, I noticed you’ve been trying to do that recently”, Mum says, “I also remember what you said about the electricity bill, before I got distracted by Daisy’s online boyfriend…”
I look up, mid-pour.
“What?” I exclaim.
“Don’t worry, your father and I are dealing with that”, Mum says casually, “I want to talk to you about being eco-friendly. You’ve stuck to it over the last few weeks and I’m very impressed. You’re obviously passionate about it.”
“Of course I am! I love polar bears! I don’t want them to drown!”
Mum smiles at me as if I’ve said something funny.
“Well I agree, the environment is important, and goodness knows if we can save some money that would be great too”, Mum says, “So, I thought, we might actually give it a go. Try and become completely carbon neutral.”
“Really?!” I say, gobsmacked.
“Really, really, really?!” I repeat. I can’t believe it.
“Yes”, Mum smiles, “I’ve been talking to your Dad about it, and he agrees it might be a good move, especially with oil prices at the moment.”
“Great…” I start, but Mum interrupts.
“But, before you get too excited, we also decided we’d try it for one year first, see how we go. What do you say?”
“Good. Because since it’s your idea, you can be in charge of the project, with me and your Dad. What do you think?”
“Yes please!” I cry, putting down the juice and the glass, and giving her a hug. Mum laughs.
“Alright, but first we need to do some research, make a plan…”
“I have a list, and some eco-living books from school!”
“Excellent, that’ll be our starting point. Go and fetch them.”
I run to the kitchen door excitedly. Yes! I have made a difference, we’re going to be eco-friendly! I skid to a halt at the doorway, with a sudden thought.
“What about Ben and Daisy?” I ask.
Mum gives me stern look.
“Who pays the mortgage on this house Clare?” She says.
“Err… you and Dad?” I guess.
“Exactly. So they can either like it or lump. Now, go fetch those books.”
I just nod and head off to my room, still wondering what a mortgage is.
Clare and her Mum form a plan to work through the house, starting with the energy aspects, and start by putting in energy efficient light bulbs and recycling the white-goods they don’t need.