Thursday, February 01, 2007

IDEA: Green Your Brain!

Going green is all the rage, but many still see the process as all sacrifice and conservation -- when nothing could be further from the truth.

What is wanted is a simple but complete change of mindset that allows one to make green choices without particular sacrifice, and as second nature.

The culture of waste and despoliation of the planet has been in place a long time, however, and such a fundamental change can be frightening, even daunting.

Even the mental change to so-called "conservation" can be daunting, not the least because it carries images of sacrifice and deprivation. It (wrongly) foreshadows the end of America as the land of endless everything.

Worse, mere conservation is, in fact, an inadequate response to a growing population made up of folks who each also want a growing piece of the pie.

Again, what is needed is a change of mind, as much as a change of habit.

One Example

Consider: At my house, according to the electric company, we've managed to conserve 90% (yes, ninety percent) on our electric bill last year. Even with the hottest summer on record this year and the AC running 24/7, we are on track this year to "save" 50% of the electricity we would have used in the past.

But we've made NO sacrifices. Really.
We have made a green choice that was so painless, and seems like such a no-brainer from our changed mindset, that we don't understand why most homeowners, builders and city governments haven't made the choice too.

Remember: No sacrifices.
We have only one compact fluorescent light bulb on in the house, have four TVs, five computers, and a microwave, central air and heat that runs non-stop. We have kids who leave the lights on. Our change costs us only about $40 per month, and has reduced our electric bill by 90 percent.

We have solar cells.

We didn't want the approximately 70% coal-fired electricity that our local utility offers. It didn't make sense when there was an affordable option.

Forty bucks a month -- with price rises, ever, and no coal.

And because right now we can afford to do so, we splurged and pay a tiny premium to the electric utility for wind and small hydro for our remaining electricity.

No Pain, All Gain

Although Pasadena gets nearly 70% of its electricity from coal, ours is 100% renewable, clean and green. No sacrifice. No actual conservation. No big deal.

And it is no big deal precisely because we have come about half-way 'round to changing our mindset.
Awareness of one's impact; a commitment to minimizing the impact; and, in these early decades of serious environmental change, a commitment to push past "business as usual" mindsets to get the green thing, or do the green thing wherever possible.

Green. It's all in your head, really.


Anonymous said...

"Our change costs us only about $40 per month, and has reduced our electric bill by 90 percent.

We have solar cells."

Ok, so how did you go about getting solar cells for only $40/month? Links? Resource reference? I'm local and am considering, researching same.


Anonymous said...

I agree - how did it cost that little - I've researched going solar and it's much much more up front -

Roger, Gone Green said...

Ok folks, here's the short scoop:
The invoice cost is just the first calculation. (There are ways to reduce even that, but let's start there.) Then we have many deductions. So a typical solar installation calculation looks like this:

+ Invoice Cost
- power company / state rebates
- State and Federal Tax Incentives

Net Out of Pocket

You should also take into account that the value of your home will increase 3-5% or more, which increase, in California, is not subject to property taxes.

To pay the up front cost you can do any number of loans -- ranging from simple credit card (shudder) to a home equity line. Most lenders, since your home value will be going up, will make such loan readily.

(In Pasadena, when I was on the Utility Advisory Commission briefly and now the Environmental Advisory Commission I have and will recommend a Solar Bank for the city utility -- advancing the costs at low or no interest secured by the real property. Some areas may have them now.)

SO: If you get monthly payments, that's how you figure your monthly cost. In our case, I simply spread our cost after rebates (but without accounting for the saved electricity cost, tax deductions, etc.) over the 25 year warranty of the cells. It is predicted that they will last much longer, but since the warranty was "only" 25 years, I stuck with that. So, actually, since it doesn't include the increased equity or the tax deduction, or the saved electricity bill cost, my $40 per month figure is a little too high !

More on the economics with real numbers later. . .