Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

How could any green-thinking individual not offer an increasingly gladdened salute to the day? It's hard not to consider where we could have been by now if the original Earth Day, 40 years ago, had been embraced more widely. But by golly, at least now the momentum has shifted, and even though every institution with an advertising budget is busily greenwashing itself — for example, the one that brags widely about their "ecoimagination" on one side, while continuing to oppose the cleanup of the Hudson River they publicly agreed to on the other — there are real and tremendous strides being made.

So let's toast the day with a glass of pure water, giving some grateful credit to all the pioneers of this awareness — like the people PBS is chronicling in "Earth Days," the story of "the dawn and development of the modern environmental movement through the extraordinary stories of the era’s pioneers.

And while we're at it, let's not forget to celebrate to whatever force or forces deserve the credit for the amazingly beautiful planet we're standing on.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Finally, It Pays To Go Greener

For the longest time it's been the case that if you wanted to leave a lighter footprint on the earth, it was going to cost you. Now, thanks both to general awareness and government subsidies, you hear of people who are actually saving money by going a little more green.

Says right here that this one guy in Shreveport, guided by a website, spent $260 on small energy-saving devices, which saved him $300 off his utility bill in just a few months, plus they gave him three new trees in his yard. Sounds like a deal that bears looking into.

The anthropomorphized focus of the Associated Press story (beginning, as all reporting must these days, through the eyes of a single person,) purchased only a couple programmable thermostats, blankets for the water heater, and a buncha them new-fangled lightbulbs to gain all that green - the metaphorical, financial, and photosynthetic.

The website he used was, only one of many new Web services for reducing home energy consumption; the story also mentions Google PowerMeter, My Emissions Exchange, and the EPA's "Energy Star" Home Energy Yardstick. They offer graphs that track a home's natural gas, electric and water usage, with impressive integration with utilities, allowing homeowners to spot and optimize where unnecessary amounts of energy are being spent. Earth Aid, for example, also will highlight "the rebates, tax incentives, and discounts that make it even more economical for you to save energy."

"Each year the average household spends about $2,200 on utilities and spews 22,300 pounds in carbon dioxide emissions. With just a few basic energy upgrades, consumers could pocket an average of $660, or 30 percent of their spending, and shrink their carbon footprint by as much as 8,000 pounds each year, according to the EPA."
With the DOE saying residential emissions account for an eighth of the U.S. total, a healthy response to these upgrade campaigns could have a significant impact on how often we as a country need to fill-'er-up.

Some of these Web programs further reward reduced emissions with various prizes, in services or cash. Adding the rewards component to what's fundamentally a cost-saving offer appeals and speaks to more than just the person who pays the electric bill.
'''It makes it easier for us as parents to explain it to our kids and for them to see a tangible result of their actions,' Kincaid said. Now the kids are quick to switch off lights and shut down electronics, with the hope that in a few months they can plant another oak tree."
- Online Ways to Cash In on Going Green - AP, April 9, 2010