On a recent visit to a friend’s home, I received a special tour of a very green house. Outfit with solar panels, rain cisterns, a massive herbal garden, and fruit trees, this is a house with very little impact on the environment. As we walked through and he explained all of the features and equipment used, I became curious about how I could implement these strategies at my house. While it would be so satisfying to go all in, so to speak, I cannot reasonably expect to purchase and install all of the necessary equipment. I feel as though my host saw the gears turning and as I asked my question, he almost laughed. “What is the most important thing you can do to be sustainable?” I asked him. “Ride a bike.” was his immediate response. He said that in terms of energy savings and low environmental impact, trading a car for a bike is the most profound difference a person can make. Secondly, making a home energy efficient is more important than using alternative energy sources, or at least more attainable. He said that their energy usage would far exceed their production capacity if they were not taking every measure in efficiency that they had available. Insulation, LED light bulbs, a super-efficient refrigerator, and simple behavioral changes make all of the difference. I was inspired. It may be a long while before I install a solar field on my roof but I can do a lot to have a smaller footprint right now. In the house I am renting currently, I went through all of the rooms, swapping out all of the light bulbs for compact fluorescents (LED are a bit out of my range still). I put weather stripping around the doors and windows and I am still working on putting up the shrink wrap plastic. I am covering floor vents for the non-working furnace. I have even started using lamps and task lights rather than lighting a whole room when I am home alone.

When a person becomes aware of the impact they are having on the world, or the impacts that the energy providers have on the environment, it can be overwhelming and desperate. With water this is also true. However, we must not be bogged down with impossible goals and statistics. Instead, we can change our own lives a little bit at a time. I am living much more sustainably than I was a year ago, and by next year my hope is that my bicycle commute time will have replaced  a large portion of my car commute time.

Although there are many factors involved in the quality and quantity of our water resources, it is important to realize that our small changes do make a difference. In Springfield, water usage has gone down significantly since last year, hopefully in part to the changing of attitudes after the 2012 drought. Individuals do make a difference. As rules and regulations change, hopefully industry will be more responsible with water resources, as they have. It is much more difficult to change the habits of individuals. As we continue to learn to water our yards responsibly or just let them turn brown, and as we continue to teach others to turn off the sink while brushing your teeth or put a brick in the toilet tank (or even better take advantage of the City Utilities rebate on a low flow model!), our culture continues to move toward sustainable water usage a step at a time. I encourage you to keep conserving water and teach your neighbors how to do the same.

 

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator

P.S.     Be sure to ask us about our water saver kits!

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