What Can You Do?

Wed, 2009-09-23 23:54

It’s always interesting to speak with people about energy conservation and liberating America from its energy dependence. Last night, I attended a wine party in my neighborhood, and the conversation invariably turned to politics and energy. Once I tell people that we have created a company aimed at improving quality of life (sustainable development) and liberating America from its disastrous dependence on foreign oil (resource efficiency), people usually get excited. Every person agrees that energy is a matter of great national importance, and most people claim to despise the suburban sprawl that has fed our appetite. However, last night I met two interesting people that really made me think. 

I met a well-educated gentleman, a PhD engineer, in fact, who thought that the most important thing we could do as a country was “Drill, Baby, Drill.” What! How incredulous that people actually think we can drill our way to energy independence! I’m not against drilling on American soil and shores. However, that is in no way a liberating energy policy. In fact, if it did lower energy prices through domestic drilling, that would be counter-productive. I hate paying $4.00 per gallon of gasoline, but it sure made me think about how much oil costs us every time I filled up that tank.

Additionally, another person said proudly that the most important thing she’s done for the environment was get her company to change the Styrofoam cups to paper ones. Wow! I corrected her because the most important environmental decision that she’s made was to buy a house in our densely built, mixed-use community where we can access the gym, the movies, restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and more without the need for a car. Compared to how much energy that decision saves by not wasting land and saving energy on every errand she doesn’t drive her car for, the Styrofoam cups almost don’t matter.

So at the end of the party, I was left thinking that the average person has no clue how they can help their country with regards to energy use. How about planting trees to shade the sun from your home in the summer? How about a more fuel-efficient car? Lower the hot water thermostat? Properly insulate your home? Air-seal your home? These are realistically achievable measures.

We as a country need to change the conversation. The new badge of honor needs to become “Can you believe that I saved $100 last month on my electric bill?” or that “I only drove 3 miles last week.” That second statement is one that I can make. I work from home and cut out my 15 miles each way commute. Each week, I’d drive over 200 miles, and now I run to the gym, walk to the supermarket, and can go a whole month on a tank of gas – that is change!

So what have you done for our country and our planet? How have you saved your energy?

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