Going Green is a Commitment

Wow. That was like the most exciting thing I’ve ever witnessed. The inauguration of our new President, who seems to be a sincere, level headed man with his feet on the ground. I was not a supporter of his originally and came around later in the race but I was blown away by the numbers of people who are smitten with him, excited about him, all of those who have so much faith in him. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, sort of like when the Beatles landed in 1963. But DO NOT quote me as saying that Obama is like the Beatles. I think he is much more than that. And actually I do believe, at this point in time, that he will be good for our country. One of his first initiatives is to reduce costs in government buildings by simple methods like changing light bulbs and introducing energy reducing methods. This is a great green initiative that will save everybody money. But not all green initiatives are this easy and this immediately rewarding. Some of them will be expensive on the front end, will require some sacrifice on our part and may take years to make a palpable difference. Do you think America is ready for that?

You have to admit it, America is addicted. Addicted to our comfortable way of life. It is much easier for us to drive ourselves to work instead of tacking 10 minutes on to our commute by taking public transportation. Or huffing our way there on a bike or by foot. I rode a bike to work for years because of a problem I had with my vehicle situation and I can tell you, it’s not easy. If we have a choice, we choose the easiest and believe me, anything was easier than riding a bike in the rain, in the freezing cold, with a flat tire, against the wind, after a long, hard day at work. Anything. Most especially a car. But even with the use of a car, it is much easier for us to do things on our own schedule, on our own whims, instead of offering to carpool with friends or co-workers, planning this out in advance, being ready at a certain time, etc… We are known for being cranky and mean when being slightly inconvenienced by waiting for five minutes. Believe me, I know this to be true. I worked in customer service for years.

And, as we have learned, much to our chagrin, easier is not always smarter. In fact, the demand for easy pickins has complicated our society exponentially to the point that there are a million servants at a million windows, doors and street corners attempting to please us with excellence and speed. Businesses are using tons of gas and human energy to get stuff to our door asap and to serve us dinner when we snap our fingers. We have become a society of demanding kings and queens who work like dogs. Go figure that one out. And whether you like my analogy or not, you must admit that this drive for fast, easy, right now, has driven the environment into the ground at the same time. Now that the cost of energy, both in terms of dollars and in loss of resources, has become a burden to us, we may be finally realizing that the faster, easier choice in the short term does not do well for all of us in the long term. And now is the time to be thinking about the long term, something we have never, ever been good at.

Now, I do understand that the idea of renewable energy was a relatively new one not long ago. We have talked about conservation, saving a buck, shoring up resources many times in our history but the idea of sustainability is variably new. It’s one thing to save a few old things for next year compared to creating whole systems that literally feed themselves. The idea is revolutionary, visionary and nearly ideal. But is “going green” on a personal level going to be inexpensive, easy or quickly finished? Or is it going to be years of work, lots of money and a personal commitment to change in your life that is tantamount to upheaval? You must consider that our society may be focused on consumption and speed but it is also focused on providing the consumables and making them easy to get. The need arises, someone will fill it, for sure. Demand will fuel supply. It always does.

So we must make the change so that we will create the demand. Just falling back on the quick and easy solution is going to put us back where we have been, digging a deeper rut. So all of us must make the commitment to go green, to conserve, to save money and resources with every possible effort. And if you think about it, there are already a number of different types of renewable energy available that can be used to power one’s home, for example. The most prevalent and well known is solar power, which converts sunlight directly into electricity through photovoltaic cells, often placed on the roof of a house. But there are smaller, less expensive solutions such as wind turbines, geothermal and hydropower systems. And, indeed, the set up costs can seem prohibitive but the long term gains more than make up for it. These long term benefits are what we need to keep our sights on, even as it hurts to spend right now. Watch this blog for a new site that offers a layaway and interest free payment plan on large green upgrades like solar water heaters and energy star appliances. That site, to be up and running shortly, will be available for online ordering of what used to be contracted services.

Renewable, sustainable resources should be the keyword of the future. Gas may stop pumping but as long as we are on Earth, the Sun will keep shining and the wind will keep blowing. I mean, really, if the Sun stops shining, we’re out of here, dead and gone, you know. But sustainable does not always mean a big investment; in fact, some sustainable resources are available for free. Consider warming your home with waste wood burned in your furnace or boiler. Or insulating your home with old clothing. Or shading your home with plantings around windows. Or using a clothesline instead of a dryer. The ideas are endless.

What it comes down to is a commitment you must be willing to make. It is not only on a large scale basis but often on a smaller, day by day basis. If your house is not able to take on renewable energy sources or the initial financial burden would be too great, consider purchasing renewable energy credits from your utility company to offset the amount of electricity you are using. Read my post on incentives to go green for more information on local government rewards and rebates for individuals upgrading to renewable resources like solar, wind or hydrogen energy. And for the smaller, less expensive, day by day choices, it will take a monumental shift in thought and attitude. Here are some examples of what I mean.

To save on food and the resources that are used in manufacturing food, think about changing your buying and eating habits. Start composting. Buy local. Lessen your dependency on animal resources, which are environmentally destructive and getting too expensive and begin to use more renewable plant materials in your diet. The epitome is of course to grow your own food and if you are interested in doing that, it is a big commitment that is exceptionally rewarding over the long haul.

To save on gas and energy resources, try carpooling, riding a bike, walking more or taking a bus. If you can’t get out of a car, get a hybrid or the highest mileage vehicle you can find. Practice hypermiling to save money and gas when traveling or driving distances or in heavy traffic.

To save energy costs at home, use more ceiling fans, switch to CFL bulbs, buy a programmable thermostat, switch up to energy star appliances, take more cold showers, use the dryer and dishwasher only at night and only once a day or less. There are many, many choices you can make every day that will not only make your life smaller in the carbon sense but larger in the savings sense. It is true that conservation not only saves the planet, it saves money, too.

To save on water costs, switch to low flow showerheads, single flush toilets or air toilets, buy only recycled toilet papers, make the kids take showers not baths, etc… And there are a million other such small and simple decisions you can make on any given day to not only save natural resources but save money you have simply been wasting.

We are in a cycle now where we are reaping the sad results of our fast paced, throw away society. We can no longer afford to rush on through things, without thinking, with the end result being only that we got something done at the expense of the world around us. It is time to slow down, to give up some of the glitz and the goodies, to make sensible adult choices about how we impact our world. We would be careful about who we dated, wouldn’t we? We wouldn’t go out with someone who had the inclination to destroy our lives… I mean, if we at least could see that from the beginning. You can now see, from the beginning, the straight line from our demanding and self indulgent behaviors to the crumbling planet and the faltering economy. It is no longer the time for greed or speed, as it is only sensible at this point to slow down, pay attention and truly live in the moment, as it might affect the next.

So, going green is simple in some ways, expensive in others, but at all times will require a complete and honest commitment from people like us. Are Americans ready for this? Are we ready to jump off the Cadillac and get onto a bicycle? I mean, in reality? Only time will tell. And time will definitely tell the story, probably sooner than later, if the wrong choice is made.

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