Rethinking television

When people ask me how I have time to do all the things I do—garden, raise animals for meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as write and speak regularly—the first thing I generally say is that I don’t watch television. That may sound like a simplistic answer, but it is entirely true. There was a time when I watched six to twelve hours of TV every day, and I accomplished little in my life. I spent my childhood watching television. I’d come home from school and immediately flip on the TV to watch reruns of the popular 1960s’ and ‘70s’ sitcoms until the news came on, which was when I’d do my homework and eat dinner. Then in the evening, I’d watch television until I went to bed. On the weekends, I’d watch from ten or eleven in the morning until ten in the evening or later. And we only had three channels when I was growing up. When I had small children, I kept the television on for much of the day.

The problem with having a hundred or more channels from which to choose at any given hour is that whenever you turn on the TV, there is bound to be something showing that you would like to watch. The average American watches more than 150 hours of television every month. That adds up to almost three, forty-hour workweeks. What could people do with even half of those hours if they were not watching television? Do the math for yourself, though. Write down the times you have watched television over the past week and add up the hours. Become a conscious consumer of television. Ask yourself which shows you really want to watch.

Television can be a positive part of our lives if used thoughtfully, and watching TV can be an ecothrifty form of entertainment. Consider downloading movies or renting them, rather than buying DVDs, which will eventually wind up in a landfill along with the packaging. And how many times do you really plan to watch the same movie? Some libraries have videos available to borrow or to rent at a cheaper rate than for-profit companies charge.

Savings: In addition to saving electricity by not watching so much TV, you will have more time to do things that are productive, and research shows that you will actually reduce your spending on discretionary purchases and junk food.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.

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