Monday, May 3, 2010

Taking Charge: A Campaign to Save Energy

On Earth Day I happened to stop by our co-op grocery store, and there were a bunch of tables set up by local activists getting the word out about their worthy causes. I was kind of in a hurry to buy my bread and milk and get back home to painting my new beehives, but I saw Wendy Penner. I know Wendy because she had organized a big event for Climate Action Day last October, and I was part of her team of volunteers. Managing volunteers — managing any people, whether they're paid or not — is a tough job, but Wendy was aces. She was collaborative, respectful, organized, focused, and easygoing. So I was inclined to stop and talk to her about her mission to "Take Charge." The Williamstown COOL (CO2Lowering) Committee is running the Take Charge campaign to get town residents to save energy. They had a brochure, and on the spot you signed up to commit to things like getting a free energy assessment, save on heat and cooling, save on lighting, drive smart, and so on.

This is what I promised:
Save on hot water
Already, I wait to run the washer until I have a full load, so I get a gold star there. I decided to be better by using only cold water. We've been buying this eco-friendly laundry soap that claims it's specially formulated to work in cold water, and it's not like our laundry is usually heavily soiled anyway. I don't notice any difference. The clothes seem plenty clean.

I like my showers hot, but I've been making a serious effort to get out of the shower once I'm clean instead of standing there for 10 minutes daydreaming.

Reduce my carbon footprint
Over the last year my husband and I have been making concerted efforts to buy as much local food as possible. Year-round we only buy local meat, and during the growing season we only buy local produce. For everything else we look to see if local options are available: Vermont cheese instead of Wisconsin cheese, for example. We've learned to read the labels closely, though, and look for the distributor. Cabot Vermont cheddar is made in and distributed from Vermont. Stop & Shop's Vermont cheddar gets shipped down to Maryland before coming back up here to our local store.

Support green energy on your electric bill by paying a tax-deductible premium (
This one was particularly interesting to me. You can choose to pay a little bit more to have your electricity come from renewable sources like wind, solar, and biomass facilities, all of which are local to New England. Choosing this option costs just $10 to $15 a month extra if you go with 100 percent green energy. You can also choose a 50 percent option if you can't afford to go all the way. I think I'd received a brochure in the mail about this before, but having an environmental activist that I know and trust endorse it went a long way toward convincing me to sign up. There's so much "greenwashing" going on that you can't always trust what you read. Everyone from McDonald's to the coal industry is claiming to be eco-friendly.

Save on lighting
This is a tough one. We're careful about turning out lights that we're not using, but I haven't made the great migration to compact fluorescent bulbs. I've done some research in the last week that hasn't particularly encouraged me. Incandescent bulbs use heat to make light, like the sun and fire, and create a warm light that we're programmed to respond to on a primal level. Fluorescent tubes create light from gas and cast a cold, diffuse light that makes the skin look sickly. I've seen ones at the store that claim to reproduce the quality of incandescent light, but I haven't read a good product review from any trusted source. I'll guess I'll pick one up and see for myself.

Alethea Morrison, Creative Director


Ambra said...

About the light thing. Just my 2 cents worth.
I, for one, am dead set against these fluorescent lights. Conventional light bulbs are a simple construction of glass and metal. The fluorescent alternatives are a complicated fabrication of over 20 components, including mercury and some gasses. They end up in landfills poisoning the surroundings with mercury because they are impossible to recycle!
So where is the green element in that?

Alethea Morrison, Storey Creative Director said...

Thanks, Ambra, that's an interesting perspective.

ilona sherratt said...

Solar hot water is the way to go. After 30 years of using it I can attest that it pays for itself many times over.

Sam Bagwell said...

I think Vermont is ahead of most states on relieving our stress on the earth. I wish Georgia had the green electricity. That is great. I hadn't thought as much about the local food. I can improve there.

Become a police officer said...

Wonderful blog. I also have something to share to save energy.

Turn off your electronic appliances when they are not being used and use compact fluorescent bulbs to light your home

Wendy Penner said...

Thanks for a great post, Alethea!

Ambra and all-The largest source of mercury contamination in our air and water is the burning of coal. That's why there is mercury in our water and fish-it's from burning coal!! The small amount of mercury in CFL bulbs is a vapor. These bulbs can and must be disposed of safely so that the mercury is not released into the atmosphere. Home Depot will take them back. Locally, Aubuchon Hardware takes them back. They send them for proper and safe disposal. Because the bulbs use 60-75% less energy (and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs) they reduce waste as well as carbon emissions.