Earth Day 2010: Turn Off the Lights!

Best greetings for Earth Day 2010. The school where my kids go encouraged all students to walk to school today. We usually drive them to school, so we had to get them up and out of the house a little earlier this morning. I got up and went downstairs to see if they had already gotten up and saw that all of the lights in the kitchen were on and all of the lights in the den were on and all of the lights in the TV room were on—and no sign of my kids who were still upstairs watching Mythbusters on a laptop. Now you have to realize that my kids are generally very environmentally conscious and very supportive of SolarTown’s mission to promote solar energy. But there sometimes is this huge gap between your views and beliefs and taking action on your beliefs. My son is a hard core believer but a less than hard core doer.

And that is the challenge we have on Earth Day: how do we move from what we believe to taking actions, even modest ones like turning off the lights when we are out of the room. I discussed with my kids this morning how we generate electricity and in this area; that means getting our electricity off the grid supplied by coal fired power plants. Leaving lights on in the room has consequences in terms of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and although the connection may seem attenuated to our kids, the impact is real and severe.

In the heyday of the environmental movement, we used to point to acid rain and other consequences of high sulfur coal from the Midwest to show the effects of human malfeasance on the environment. But today acid rain seems to be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Now we are talking about entire countries disappearing off of the map because of global warming.  Turning off the lights on Earth Day may seem like a small gesture, but even these small steps can have a huge impact.

That is the reason that we tell our customers to conduct an energy audit of their homes, before even thinking about placing solar panels on their roofs. Even small changes can save an average of 30% on your energy usage. And let’s say that you are all gung-ho for solar and want to meet 100% of your energy needs. It is incredibly more efficient to make some adjustments to your home by conserving energy than paying thousands of dollars—probably over $10,000—to invest in solar panels to create electricity that you may not even need.  Why not get a motion detector switch for some of your rooms, or replace some of your light bulbs with the more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, or replace that old refrigerator with an Energy Star Appliance, or replace your old windows with double-pane windows. Each of these small changes may not have a huge impact, but in the aggregate they can make a big difference in how much energy you use.

Celebrate Earth Day with your kids and know that the next time you turn off the lights behind you when you leave a room, you are doing this not only for the environment but also for the future of your kids. Happy Earth Day!

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