Foreword of warning: this post might sound totally unrelated to Gentoo; it really can be meant as a metaphor for Gentoo, so if you don’t get it, please don’t say this shouldn’t be on Planet Gentoo right away. Thanks.
There are many little things in the world that count, when the numbers pile up; for instance the energy and water problem is such that little things like not keeping the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving are very common suggestions by Greens, together with turning off the lights when leaving a room, even for a few minutes.
But these already look big enough to be logical, in my opinion there are even smaller things, less obvious, less “logical” than should be considered to save energy, and water. The photo above pictures one of these: it’s a shower gel bottle, an used shower gel bottle (actually I finished it up yesterday). I think it’s pretty emblematic of the problem since it is left squeezed.
This kind of container seems quite nice: it’s usually recyclable, it’s plenty of gel so that you don’t have to buy lots in smaller containers and so on. On the other hand it has one huge defect in my opinion, when you’re almost done, you have a hard time to get out the last part of the gel. How is that a problem? When you’re under the shower you’re not likely to turn the water down while you squeeze out the gel, this is a waste of (hot) water.
Sure, it’s possible to just turn the bottle upside down and keep it that way when the gel is running low, but this can be quite tricky especially with bottle like that one that have larger bottoms: the center of gravity in that bottle, once turned upside down, is quite high and it tends to fall quite more easily.
For this reason I prefer other two types of bottles: the ones that have the opening at the bottom, and in particular the ones that are soft and squeezy. Both types reduce the amount of work, and time, needed to get the final part of the shower gel out. Unfortunately these seem to be quite less common form factors for shower gel, I don’t know why, maybe it’s a storage problem. On the other hand, using these types of bottles don’t require any extra time to squeeze the last part of the gel and does not require you to turn down the water any more than the start of it.
But of course, taking a look at the problem just from this side is not correct: there are more variables in play, for instance I don’t know what the reason for not using more down-opening bottles is (as I said, it might be a storage problem I can guess, but how does that impact the great scheme?), nor I know whether the softer material has different emergent properties. Indeed, it might be that upside-down bottles get wasted more often in storage, to an amount that makes the amount of water wasted look puny, or the production line for the softer material might waste much more energy. These are the non-obvious things that, most likely, somebody is weighting behind the scenes.
So why do I call this a metaphor? Well, it can be a metaphor for quite a few things: the small and big gains that need to be weighted about the efforts required along the software production line or the linear versus proportional time problem, and so on. In general, I think it’s just one of the little annoyances of life, and that it can make you think about lots of other issues when thinking of it more seriously than you’d normally do.