At lunch yesterday a colleague asked me what I thought about ‘Resilience’ as a alternative term for sustainability. I responded that I was still trying to figure out if I liked ‘Flourishing’. But I had no doubt at all about a term I coined myself recently – ‘R-R- Redundancy Avoidance’. First, a definition.
R-R- Redundancy Defined
R-R- Redundancy is what lets me close my apartment door and ‘flourish’ without speaking to my neighbors behind all the other doors down the sixth floor hallway of my Upper East Side co-op for an entire weekend or week if I choose.
That’s because in my large one-bedroom apartment (neatly divided into six ‘rooms’ – living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, office and bathroom), I have what real estate agents refer to as all the amenities – the kitchen with the gleaming white Whirlpool fridge, the GE stove and microwave, the black ‘Alfredo Accu-time’ toaster oven, the Krups drip coffeemaker with thermal carafe, and the Whirlpool ‘QuietPower3’ dishwasher.
Not One, but Two TVs…
In that same apartment are not one but two TVs with remote controls (which I sheepishly admit to running simultaneously when I’m cleaning), a Marantz stereo system with two sets of speakers (one set for the bedroom, the other, the living room) and two Panasonic DVDs and VCRs, one set for each TV.
Then there’s the three Apple MacBooks in the ‘office’ — one for me, one for my assistant and a more or less retired spare. We also have an old HP Laserwriter printer, an old Brother fax machine, two GE landline phone sets, a Panasonic cordless phone, and an Apple iphone 4. And just recently when the printer started to act up and the copier died, we got a brand new Brother MFS MulitFunction Center which houses a color laser printer, fax, copier and scanner in one.
In the linen closet, nestled within the sheets and towels and assorted household ‘stuff’, there’s an $850 Electrolux canister vacuum-cleaner with any number of plastic-y attachments I’ve yet to use. There’s also a spiffy Norelco ‘Ultima 80’ iron that whistles when I’m away for it for too long, and an ironing board with a really nice cotton cover with a pocket underneath that allows me to store an ironing cloth.
One Person With A Lot of Stuff
It’s not relevant that the fridge isn’t a Sub-Zero, the TVs aren’t high-def flat-screens mounted to the wall, or the coffeemaker isn’t a Keurig one-cupper. I think you’re getting the picture.
And things would be ‘worse’ if I owned a car, a boat, and a weekend place in Connecticut. Suffice it to say, for global comparison, I’m one person and despite my best efforts to live simply, I’ve got a lot of stuff.
Trouble is, all of my neighbors behind those eleven doors down the hallway have exactly the same things, as do all the neighbors on the other twelve floors in our building. And some of them not only have Sub-Zero fridges and wall-mounted TVs, they also have a car — likely a Mercedes or BMW — in our building’s garage, a weekend place in Connecticut, and/or an apartment in Florida with a matched set of the exact same amenities.
What Were We Thinking?
Some day I fear that we will all look back with horror (that is, if we and our kids and grandkids are still here) and say ‘What were we thinking?’
Most of us Americans haven’t given a moment’s thought to any of the implications of owning all of these sometimes multiple possessions in every home across our land, their embodied materials and energy, the space the vacuum hogs on the floor of the linen closet, or the time involved in shopping, maintaining, and repairing them.
Not because they are selfish or mean. Not because they believe they ‘worked hard’ for them. But because owning a full complement of possessions behind one door (or under one roof) is part of our consumerist society. We value independence from tyrants and zealots as well as from neighbors bearing empty sugar bowls.
How I Practice R-R- Redundancy Avoidance
Now that I’ve awakened from my independent possession-owning-maintaining-inventorying stupor (and in a city and country where the costs of doing same are starting to escalate), I’ve started to take some steps to avoid r-r- redundancy in my own life.
Share the Newspaper
My next door neighbor, Marlene gets the Wall Street Journal and I get the New York Times delivered each morning. As soon as we’re finished reading them (usually by 9 am), we simply open our doors and with one flick of our wrists, toss our papers in front of the other’s door. (Sometimes I add a stage whispered, ‘Paper!’) in case she’s sitting, per usual, at her desk just inside.) It might have the occasional article clipped out, but heck, the price is right, and the convenience can’t be beat; and of course, at the end of the day, it saves a heck of a lot of paper.
Today I took an extra step. I left my newspaper down on the coffee table in our lobby — a large, comfy space used mainly by real estate agents and their clients, and shareholders’ occasional guests. Fingers crossed that the shareholders themselves might take a seat during their comings and goings, read a free newspaper — and actually enjoy the space. It hasn’t happened in the 30-years that I’ve lived in the building, but of course, anything’s still possible.
Take a Book, Leave a Book
One ‘garbage night’ ten years ago, my equally green-aware super and I dragged in an abandoned shelf system from down the block, and instantly set up a ‘Take a Book, Leave a Book’ in our basement laundry room (the laundry room being a good, albeit passive source of r-r- redundancy avoidance thanks to building codes). Now neighbors (some of whom likely never met) anonymously exchange books, enhancing each other’s minds, lives and pocketbooks.
Share the Vacuum Cleaner
I learned from my Bissell client that the average vacuum cleaner is used for 20 minutes every other week. (Because of this, vacuums use so little cumulative energy, another client, Energy Star doesn’t even have a rating for them.) Given this, just one vacuum cleaner could literally rotate through every apartment in my building every two weeks with nary a dust ball in sight.
A Sharing Closet?
I’ve even started to wish for a little closet down the hall (right near the hopefully soon-to-be-obsolete compactor room) stocked with a vacuum-cleaner, an iron and ironing board, popcorn maker, espresso-maker, and a coffee urn and proverbial punch bowl for the occasional party — you’re getting the picture. An opportunity for a budding entrepreneur? A building looking to distinguish itself among the luxury high rises? And shudder to think of it, middle class people looking to stay that way? Let’s see…
Now that I’m getting into this, I can’t help asking: What other opportunities await for high rise neighbors to reduce r-r- redundancy by sharing, borrowing, and lending beyond the proverbial cup of sugar?