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‘Those clothes are going to freeze, Walt,” Michael Rosenthal said as he leaned on the fence and watched his neighbor hang up a load of laundry on clothes line strung between his garage and the back porch of his house.

“You might be right, Michael. You might be right.” Pastor Walter Mitty was shivering in the cold, humid wind, but his determination made his numb fingers reach for two more clothespins and another shirt. “My nephew looked up information on the Internet for me. Michael, do you realize that using cold instead of hot water saves 90 percent of the energy your washing machine uses and that each dryer load of laundry uses the equivalent of one-tenth of a gallon of gasoline in energy?”

“Walt, you’d have to hang your wash out in the freezing cold for like two months in order to save the energy in a gallon of gas! Are you sure all this work is worth what you save?”

“I know, I know,” Mitty replied, “but this environmental crisis is serious, Michael. We each have to do something.” The pastor of Poplar Park Community Church blew in his cupped hands before reaching for a sock. “What’s more, I’m going to propose some changes in the way we do things at church at the council meeting tonight.”

The next morning Michael saw Mitty taking down his wash. He went outside and leaned on the fence. “So, how did it go last night?”

“Terrible,” muttered Pastor Mitty. “They shot down everything I suggested.”

“Like what?”

“Well,” Mitty replied, “I suggested that we each bring a coffee mug from home to use instead of Styrofoam. Michael, the manufacturing of one Styrofoam cup puts one-fifth a pound of CO2 into the atmosphere.”

“But the council didn’t buy it?”

Mitty shook his head and sighed. “Hilda complained that all those coffee cups would clutter up fellowship hall, and Debbie Anderson said she washed enough dishes at home.” He threw another stiff shirt into his laundry basket. “One cup, Michael. She was complaining about washing one cup.”

“What else did you try?”

“Well, I said we should replace our refrigerator with one of those new Energy Star ones.” Mitty paused to pick up two socks that had fallen off his stiff pile of laundry and onto the ground. “Sharissa Hawkins led the charge on that one. She said I didn’t know what it was like to be poor and was being an affluent elitist … that buying a new one would cost too much.”

“She’s got a point there.”

“Michael, the people who used Energy Star appliances avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars. And that was last year alone.”

“I have to say you really have your statistics down.” Michael watched his neighbor try to balance the last frozen shirt on the pile in the laundry basket.”

“So I ended with a simple one. I proposed that we put a sign in all of the washroom stalls saying, ‘If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow. If It’s Brown Flush It Down.'”

Michael couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “Walter Mitty, that’s living proof that you’ve never been married.”

Mitty blushed. “That’s exactly what Dorothy Aschenbrenner said last night.” As the bachelor pastor struggled to get his load of stiff laundry through his back door, he turned to his neighbor who was still leaning on the fence and said, “You know, Michael, everyone wants things to get better, but no one wants to change.”