Although our country has been through one of the worst economic recessions, and consumer spending has slowed to a trickle of what it was a few years ago, I don’t think Americans are ready to abandon their consumptive shopping habits for good. Call me crazy, but I think that Americans love to shop and spend money, and one of the things that we love to spend our money on is the constant upgrading and remodeling of our homes.
Well, just imagine if that uniquely American, keeping up with the Joneses, one-upmanship attitude that we have towards consumerism and home improvement, which results in the U.S. consuming about 25 percent of the world’s resources, actually solved some of our environmental problems instead of just creating them.
Here’s how it would have to play out:
- After you notice that your neighbors have switched out all of their home’s incandescent light bulbs, in favor of energy-saving LED lighting, you then decide to purchase an array of solar panels for your home. Now your newly purchased, low-wattage light bulbs are powered by the sun while your neighbors still receive monthly power bills from a coal-burning energy conglomerate.
- A co-worker comments to you that she has just completed a home window replacement project, which she estimates is going to cut 20 percent off her home’s annual power consumption because her new vinyl windows are insulated with double glass panes that have energy-saving reflective coatings. Suddenly, you’re motivated to replace your home’s old single-pane windows with new triple-paned models. Plus, you install some R-50 insulation in your home’s attic and replace your ancient, oil-burning furnace with a new ground-source heat pump. After completing a home energy audit, which estimates that you may have helped reduce your home’s annual power consumption by a third, you boast to your co-worker about your goal of becoming a carbon-neutral household within five years.
- During a holiday meal, your brother-in-law brags that his family has dropped its household water consumption by one-third simply by installing low-flow showerheads and ratcheting back the number of days they water their lawn to once a week. Not to be outdone, at the next family get together, you show your brother-in law the rain harvesting barrels that you have purchased, which are connected to drip irrigation lines that feed your new organic vegetable garden and the drought-tolerant native landscaping around your house and…
Well, you get the picture.
All it takes to accelerate our country down a path towards energy-efficient living and environmental sustainability are some groundbreaking changes in how we spend our home improvement dollars. If only we could covet our neighbor’s super-insulated house walls instead of their super-sized, four-car garage.
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