I went down to the National Mall yesterday to check out the Solar Decathlon that runs until the end of the week. It was only about eight blocks from my apartment, but I decided to take the Hummer. Lucky for me, I found a parking spot after only an hour of circling the monuments.
The first thing that struck me upon entering the festival was the lack of bell-bottomed, flower-haired, patchouli-soaked hippies. Now I just felt silly, having dressed that morning to fit in with such a crowd. As it turns out, the so-called “green movement” is catching on; there were more people at that festival yesterday than voted in the last presidential election.*
There may or may not have been more people here than voted in the previous presidential election.
I met up with James Bogdan, manager of green building initiatives for PPG. Like an episode of “Reading Rainbow,” he let me tag along while touring a couple houses and chatting with the people who built them. The experience blew my mind. I learned so much, and James’ enthusiasm was contagious.
As excited as I normally am about glass, I was jumping up for joy when I saw some of this energy efficient stuff. You know how in spring or fall you can put your hand against your window to see how cold it is to decide whether to bring that extra sweater? Well, with this glass, that doesn’t work! It was hot yesterday--witness my sunburn-- but when I put my hand on that glass it was cool as a cucumber, even with direct sunlight pouring in. This is great news for those of us who live like vampires in summer to save on cooling costs. And yes, it’s great for the environment, too.
While these solar houses were impressive, I asked James how I was supposed to get anything out of this since I don’t see myself attaching solar panels to my basement apartment any time soon. He said it was all about efficiency and conservation: “the least expensive energy is the energy that’s not used.” He recommended I start small, with those energy-efficient light bulbs that everyone’s heard of. I actually am ahead of the game on that one, out of pure laziness. Do you know, if you screw one of those things in today, you won’t be changing it for at least five years? To those of us that change light bulbs with a two-and-a-half-legged stool propped up by phone books, this could literally be a life-saver.
The afternoon sparked an initiative for change inside me. My first step of turning that new, energy-efficient leaf was to abandon my Hummer, which I think may have been towed anyway. Instead, I stole a bike and peddled home. Though saving the environment is an uphill battle, much like my bike ride home, I’m confident that the American public will soon come to grips with the changes that they individually have to make to stop killing our planet. And if you don’t make those changes? Well, you might just die trying to change a light bulb. That’s something to think about.
*This is probably not accurate.