Want to learn how efficient your home is? Want to learn how to save energy and money? Community Energy Services is a program (the Center for Energy and Environment) that is designed to make saving energy in your home quick, affordable, and easy. Just attend a CES workshop in your neighborhood, sign up for a home visit (it only costs $30), and get tips and materials that will help you start reducing your utility bills immediately. I’m one of over 4,000 Minneapolis homeowners who have already reaped the energy and money-saving benefits of the program.
After the home visit, you’ll get updates that show you just how much you’re saving. The report from the Center for Energy and Environment was simple and satisfying; with easy-to-read charts and graphs, I could see that my daughter and I used about half the electricity and about 10 percent less natural gas over the last year than others who lived in similar-sized homes. After the home visit, we implemented most of the recommendations by insulating crawl spaces, caulking windows, wrapping an insulating blanket around the hot water heater, installing compact fluorescent bulbs everywhere, and unplugging the “energy vampires” including the phone charging cords and computers that traditionally were always plugged in. We even unplugged the microwave. These were simple things that we could afford to do on our own with little or no technical knowledge, and with simple or no tools. Would it were that changing the world was as simple.
It is discouraging to even think about the lack of progress we’ve made nationally towards what scientists tell us is critical: reducing carbon pollution in the atmosphere back below 350 ppm. In fact, we might be moving backwards. With President Obama’s recent rulings in reducing the enforcement of certain EPA rules, and with a potentially bad ruling on the Keystone XL pipeline looming, it seems as if we are moving ever farther away from significant policies to reduce global warming pollution, and protecting this one small planet we share with so many.
Changing one’s personal behavior won’t solve the problem unless we can convince billions to do it. But changing the behavior of billions generally requires governments, and changing governments requires new politics, then new policies. The personal won’t get us where we need to go, at least not in the short term. Yes, organizations like Fresh Energy and many others around the nation will continue to lead the charge for smart, science-based energy policies at the local, state, and national levels despite the politics. With a little luck, we’ll start moving forward again soon.
In the mean time, with the money I’ve saved, I finally was able to hire an electrician to wire and install a light fixture in the dining room of my 1923-built bungalow. It’s pretty sweet to look around at dinner time and clearly see faces instead of shadows. Progress? Check. Lower bills? Check. Improved comfort? Check. Hassle factor? Small.
Imagine what could happen to the economy if we implemented a national carbon reduction plan? The hassle factor might be a bit bigger but the economy might just be bigger too. Seems worth, it don’t you think?