Eco-Thrifty Popes and Buddhists

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Vatican goes Eco-Thrifty! Pope shuns chauffeur-driven limo for the bus.
I am humbled by the humility of the newly elected pope: Francis the 1st. I am not a pope-watcher, and usually have no more than a peripheral interested in the comings and goings of the Vatican, but just one sentence changed all that: “The Argentine is known for taking the bus to work and cooking his own meals in his small apartment.” This was in stark contrast to the one thing I knew about his predecessor, Benedict XVI: that he wore designer red shoes.
I confess that I am not a Catholic, but I fully-endorse the teachings of Jesus, especially those in support of the poor and those condemning moneychangers. Over the last decades the wealth gap between these two groups has expanded to a breadth that would make ancient Roman elites blush. This gap prompted the Occupy movement (the 99 percent), countless European protests in the last 4 years, and probably the Arab Spring. Good on the Cardinals for electing a pope who appears to put social justice issues – including the impacts of globalization on the poor – at the forefront of the Catholic Church.
And choosing the name Francis: icing on the cake, but not a decadent cake, more of a pancake with a pat of butter and maybe a tab of real Vermont maple syrup.
While not a practicing Buddhist, I have Buddhist tendencies, although you may not believe it if you have seen me play softball for Whanganui’s Athletics Softball Club. One of my favorite ‘teachings’ from Buddhism is an eco-thrifty ‘lesson’ that goes something like this:
When their robes become too worn to wear, the Buddhist monks use them as blankets on their beds. When they become too worn for blankets, they use them as mats on the floor. When they become too worn to use as mats, they use them a chinking in the walls to keep our draughts.
Along those same lines, we have come up with a use for old towels and off-cut bits of wood for draught-proofing the bottom of the doors in our home. This is a variation on what can be found in everyone’s Gran’s home: the cloth tube filled with beans. I prefer my version for a few reasons. First, a piece of timber wrapped in a towel has a square edge whereas a bean tube – even when squidged up against a door – still has a rounded edge. In most cases – even our wonky home – the junction between a door and a floor is a right angle. Second, my version can be made virtually for free, as almost everyone has some odd bits of timber or can get them from a friend, or even free from a lumber yard. And old towels, everybody has one or two of those. Third, call me crazy but I believe food should be used for eating and not draught-proofing. (Also, what if the mice eat it?)
Another method of draught-proofing doors (and windows) is applying a ‘store-bought’ foam seal. At less than $4 for two rolls at a number of local merchants, this approach is practically free. This is suitable for all timber doors and windows where you can feel draughts, but most aluminium doors and windows are manufactured to be draught-proof.
These strategies for low-cost / high-performance energy savings are included with many others in the Project HEAT presentations that are making their way through Whanganui one suburb at a time. Please see the sidebar for more upcoming events.
Peace, Estwing