Adopt a Home and Live Net Zero

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A lot of the readers of this blog are energy-savvy “ecogeeks.” Most of you share our enthusiasm for energy efficient, conservation-oriented living. We love you for that. In this post I’m going to frame our individual efforts in the big picture and encourage you to spread the energy-saving love.

We humans are a self-serving species. There are few places where this is more apparent than environmentally-oriented purchasing. We will go to great lengths to make our individual lives eco-pristine. Photovoltaic solar anyone? We will squeeze every ounce of energy waste out of our homes and we often do so at great monetary expense. The first 10, 20, even 50% might be easy, and then it starts to get costly. We start to rationalize things like 20-30 year payback periods.

At the point where we start looking at home improvements that take a decade or more to pay for themselves, we should all ask ourselves a question: “Why am I doing this?” Your answer to that question is important. If your goal is to stimulate innovation by pumping money into bleeding edge technologies, that’s awesome. If your goal is to have the most eco-bling on the block, that’s fine too (I guess). But, if your goal is to reduce the need for dirty power plants, fight climate change, end mountain top removal, pursue energy independence, or take up any other clean energy goal requiring collective improvement, I’d like to suggest an alternative to the big capital investments. The alternative is to adopt a friend or family member’s house. Help them save 10% and then adopt another.

Keep in mind, 10% of a serious consumer’s energy might amount to your home’s entire energy bill. When it comes to overall energy reduction, personal percentage reductions really aren’t important. This is a bit like the MPG Illusion. Our friends live in homes that burn energy like a Hummer with flat tires. Meanwhile we are giving ourselves a pat on the back for upgrading from a Toyota Corolla to a Prius. We are unplugging cell phone chargers to save watt-hours when we could be helping others to save kilowatt-hours.
We need to reduce the total number of kilowatt hours used. For that McMansion your brother-in-law lives in with the landscape lighting running at all hours, a simple timer might be worth a thousand times its weight in coal. So, let’s get off of our high horses, stop trying to get our own electric bills to zero and start going after the big opportunities.
Please don’t mistake my plea as presentation of a false dilemma. There is lots of room for a “both and” approach rather than an “either or” approach. Often, you can shave the watt-hours from your bill AND help your neighbor with the kilowatt-hours. If you’re thinking about spending the big bucks though, please do so with your eyes wide-open, acknowledging that you could almost certainly achieve the same end with much less capital and bit of friendly outreach.Want to see how we tackle energy waste? Sign up for our mailing list at to learn about becoming a pilot home.
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