An article by Indira Pintak, The Jakarta Post.

Kermit the Frog once sang that “It’s not easy being green .,” lamenting his skin color and wishing he was of a different hue. Kermit was just ahead of his time: There are many shades of green now, and they all come with a certain level of prestige; being green is about identity, determined by level of socio-environmental consciousness and lifestyle.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy.

The Bay Area in Northern California, for example, to where I moved from Bali nearly 10 years ago, is home to many die-hard progressive, left-leaning environmentalists who are often characterized as belligerent, tree-hugging, vegan nutcases. You know what we’re like.

Everything must be organic. We Bay Area residents like our coffee and vegetables pesticide-free, our reading material made from recycled organic paper, and our mode of transportation human-powered (i.e., bicycles); although, if we crave something faster, gas-electric hybrid vehicles would do nicely too. A sign of the times: Even Hummer is coming around with the Electric Hummer H3 that boasts up to 100 miles-per-gallon. (I’m not sure whether the average Bay Area green person would like the Hummer option, but at least long-time Hummer fan Governor Schwarzenegger will be safe from militant greenies pelting his ride with rotten eggs.)

Although many green-leaning consumers in other parts of the US prefer to shop for their organic goods at the popular national chain Whole Foods, we Bay Area residents like to support our own and go out of our way to back Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) cooperatives or shop at home-grown, totally organic natural or farmers’ market. In some areas, we even try to buck the system and run underground (i.e., illegal) farmers’ market to support eco-friendly merchants who don’t have enough money to prepare or cook their items in commercial, inspected kitchens.

As much as possible, we like to show that being green is beyond buying organic; it’s how we live our lives.

The enemies are items that use too much electricity – the clothes dryer and washing machine. Of course, we’re much too busy to actually hand-wash our laundry, but that’s OK: here in the land of plenty our household appliances are rated by Energy Star, an international standard and stamp of approval for energy-efficient products.

And given what we save by not eating meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, we don’t feel too guilty splurging on a high-end, Energy Star-rated, front-loading, steam washing machine (which use as much as 35 percent less water and 21 percent less energy than conventional machines).

Even without steam, regular highly energy efficient washing machines can use up to 50 percent less energy than the conventional ones. If I were disgustingly wealthy, I could even have my plumbing system designed to recycle and treat greywater and rainwater for both doing laundry and flushing the toilets.

There are further aspects of laundry-related energy-saving behavior. I know many households in Jakarta have domestic help who do the laundry, but even these simple steps can be followed by your average Inem Pelayan Sexy. Setting the water temperature to “cold” is the first step. Even the mighty red-wine or ketchup stain can be soaked in cold water mixed with eco-friendly, non-chlorine bleach alternative rather than using about 90 percent of a washing machine’s power just to have the cycle run with heated water.

Second, don’t overload the washing machine drum, but don’t under-load it either. At the right level, the machine can be agitated (for top-loading machines) or tumbled (for front-loading machines). Overloading won’t result in cleaning, and under-loading just wastes energy and water.

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