Editorial : Thoughtfully green
The enthusiasm for all things green is, without doubt, commendable. But if all politics is local, and if it takes a village, and if generosity begins at home, and if we ought to think globally but act locally, then beginning the greening process at the bottom makes eminent good sense. Having these allied principles in mind, and following their reductionist thread to its simplest terms, maybe erecting a wind turbine is not the way to go, but looking carefully around the house may be very smart.
So, we ask, as Times writer Steve Myrick does this week, in one of several news reports under the Green Martha's logo, "What is the most economical thing a homeowner can do to make his castle greener and save money at the same time?"
The answer seems to be, Do the math, then do what makes sense. But doing the math is complicated, and the result may be surprising and maybe dull. For instance, conservation first - a theme that recalls the free love and passive solar dreamscape of the early seventies - may be the best first step. But, you think, maybe better windows.
No, maybe not, according to Rob Meyers, an energy analyst for South Mountain Company, with whom reporter Myrick spoke in preparing his news story.
"Windows are very far down the list, because they are very expensive to replace," Mr. Meyers said. "It's never the first thing we look at." Instead, it's air sealing things up tight and insulating. Size your furnace properly. Consider a heat pump.
And, what about solar? Kate Warner of West Tisbury, the devoted, relentless, level-headed alternative energy architect who has been preaching the green gospel for more than a decade, puts it plainly and sensibly, in another Green Martha article this week, about solar power, also written by Mr. Myrick.
"The first people that want to know about solar are the people with big electricity bills," Ms. Warner said. "Until they do the energy efficiency stuff, solar doesn't really make sense. If you go out and buy a new refrigerator for a thousand dollars, the amount of energy that that might save you is often greater than the amount that the same thousand will generate as part of an investment in a solar system. Doing things like getting a more efficient refrigerator, changing light bulbs, turning things off, insulating your home, all of those things save you money."
We like the drift of this research. For homeowners with modest monthly electricity bills and blooming energy bills, the smart thing may be to have a comprehensive energy audit, to insulate, to scout out and end heat loss and cold gains, to have that older furnace cleaned, to change out the incandescent light bulbs. And, nearly all of this can be accomplished by the homeowner, perhaps with some help from the kids who would otherwise be hanging out on the sofa or in front of the computer. We won't merely be greening the house, we'll be greening the whole family.
The result may be that we save some money, save some carbon dioxide emissions, save some heat from escaping, and do it all sensibly and thoughtfully.