Ada-Lou's green strategy: fleece, a bike and a clothesline

Blaine Kyllo For


For Ada-Lou Ellett, keeping the temperature down in her house isn't just a way to be an active member of Team Power Smart, it's a way of life.

"I see no point in using energy when you can just put on more clothes," she says on the phone from her Pitt Meadows home.

As we're talking, Ada-Lou says her house is about 14 degrees Celsius, and she's keeping warm with socks on her feet, a blanket on her legs, and a couple of layers of fleece. "I own a lot of fleece," she explains, "because fleece is warm."

Turning down the thermostat is a simple way to reduce power consumption. "If you're cold, go and get a fleece." On cool nights, she takes the chill out of her bedsheets with a few minutes from a hair dryer.

A registered and practicing physiotherapist who works with women and children, Ada-Lou working only part-time for 12 years due to health issues. Now, as she approaches the age of 65 this October, she's just started working full-time again.

She gets around the Pitt Meadows community by bicycle, and is known to cycle into Coquitlam on a regular basis, loading groceries into her two panniers and asking friends to help transport objects too large for her bike's saddle bags.

The two-minute drying cycle

Ada-Lou has a clothes dryer, but she only uses it two minutes at a time. "I always put clothes in for two minutes to get rid of wrinkles," she explains. "You don't have to put them in for 20 minutes to get wrinkles out."

Two minutes is also all that is needed to soften towels and sheets.

After the short stint in the dryer, her laundry gets hung to finish drying. When the weather cooperates, she uses the umbrella clothes line in her back yard, which collapses into a simple pole – just like an umbrella – when not in use.

On those grey, rainy days, Ada-Lou uses a short clothesline that she's strung up in a shed in the back yard that houses her boiler and hot water tank. "It's warmer in there than in my house," she says.

Hanging clothes to dry is one of the best ways to cut down on energy use.

How to build a recycled garden

Her philosophy of conservation extends outside her house, too. In her back yard, Ada-Lou has a small herb garden and grows blueberries, strawberries and rhubarb. Her front garden, primarily flowering shrubs, was constructed out of materials that were "begged, borrowed and recycled from other people".

The railroad ties that frame her garden came from another yard that was pulling them out in a redesign. The dirt for her berm came from a neighbour who was digging out a driveway. One of her garden's features are pieces of a tree trunk that she found while on a walk.

She gives a home to plants that others don't want anymore, and is a fan of sharing her garden with others, by offering and trading cuttings with other gardeners.

And Ada-Lou hydrates her garden with the cool water captured when running a hot bath or shower.

She knows that her actions are good for the environment and good for her bank account, but don't call Ada-Lou frugal. Instead, use the word "conscientious". Or "creative".

"That's just the way I live, whether I had tonnes of money or not," she says. "I'm just really conscious of what we're doing to our Earth."

Blaine Kyllo is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and regular contributor to