It’s not easy being green. So sung Kermit the Frog back in 1970. The popular song by Joe Raposo has gotten a lot of mileage over the decades and even though the original intent was introspection of identity and individuality, modern culture has repurposed this line to refer to the environment.
Being green is actually not that hard, but it does take commitment and dedication and as with any cultural changes, the resolve to stay green can be challenging. It’s Earth Day and we figured we’d talk a little about what we’ve done to maintain a neutral carbon footprint on the environment.
1) Going solar.
The biggest change we made was in 2010. We put forth some money to install a 5.4 KW DC photovoltaic solar system that generates power for us and puts extra electricity back into the grid. The system is somewhat seasonal and we generate a lot more in the summer and somewhat less in the winter, but on average we manage to maintain an annual balance by consuming about the same amount of power as we generate. Our summer excess is banked by our utility company and is credited to us when we use more electricity than we generate in the winter.
2) Switching to CFL.
In 2009 we made a decision not to buy any more incandescent bulbs. Instead, we only purchased compact fluorescent lights and slowly replaced all of the incandescents as they burned out. Old CFLs consumed 25% the energy that incandescent lights used. Today that number is down to about 17%. The 80% savings in energy usage has gone a long way over the years and CFLs last much, much longer than traditional bulbs!
If you open your faucet and let it run, you’ll be using two to three gallons of water per minute. That’s a lot! The good news is that you don’t have to replace your faucets to conserve water. We upgraded all our faucets with flow control tips that restrict the water flow to one gallon per minute. It sounds like a big change, but you never notice the difference when you are washing your hands. The only time you’re aware of the slower flow rate is when you’re filling a bucket to mop the floors. And that’s okay, because it gives us the opportunity to debate who the lead mopper for the day will be. And you can do the exact same thing in the home with showers by adding flow control showerheads to throttle back water use.
This has probably been the change that our customers noticed the most. We try very hard to recycle packaging by reusing the boxes our vendors send merchandise in. We get tons of boxes from various vendors, usually half filled with styrofoam or peanuts or air blisters or a similar protective material to keep the merchandise safe. If we went the traditional route of tossing these boxes in the trash, we’d need two to three times more trash pickup. And we’d be paying extra to get rid of all that packing. It just doesn’t make sense! Studies show that customers don’t save the boxes. They tend to be thrown away fairly quickly, so the added expense of putting our logo on the side of the box doesn’t go very far, either.
Some of our more astute customers may ask about the occasional hotdog box that ends up being used for packaging. That’s an easy one to explain. On warm summer days we’ll light up the grill in the back and have a little cookout. Hotdogs are a great picnic food and are a favorite year-round treat for our organic security system, Shadow, the German Shepherd Dog.
Of course there are many boxes that we don’t send to our customers. Some of our vendors ship us huge containers that are three or four feet long on the side. Extra cardboard, paper, plastic, glass, metal and the like are all sent to recycling. We find that about 80% of what we would traditionally call trash is actually recyclable materials that can be repurposed, saving landfill space, conserving energy in the process and not draining the natural resources that would otherwise be used to manufacture new products.
Most of these environmentally friendly steps are easy to take and don’t require a major capital investment up front, sans the solar system, of course. In retrospect, being green is a pretty easy proposition. We know we won’t save the planet on our own, but every little bit helps. We hope that we gave you some good green ideas to celebrate Earth Day. And we’re always looking for new ideas to help the planet.
Happy Earth Day!