Little things really make a difference

If you have been waiting for the right time to apply for a solar system rebate through NV Energy, this is your reminder. Rebate applications are only accepted during certain windows and one of them is currently open.

In past years, the program used a first-come, first-served application process that produced a mad rush at the very start, rewarding those with the fastest Internet connection and typing skills. This year’s process will incorporate a lottery system for the first time.

The application window opened Sept. 16 and will end Wednesday, so we are right in the middle of it. The lottery selection will occur on the 30th. This particular application window is limited to 25 percent of this year’s program capacity so there will be more opportunities. However, the rebate amount is not set in stone and there is no guarantee it will remain at current levels (as much as $17,000 per residence).

Full details can be found at NV Energy’s site. The actual URL is quite long so I’ll post it on my website (or just try, which fortunately still works). Program administrators have done a great job providing information on the program and process. Be sure to download the 2011 SolarGenerations Program Handbook, an essential step-by-step guide that is both clear and concise.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you know the value of energy efficiency. It is really the most important aspect of a rooftop solar array. Don’t spend more than you need to on energy or solar panels. An efficient home is more comfortable and affordable, plus it can be powered with a much smaller array of panels.

Now I’d like to switch the subject and talk a bit about the little things that we can do to live lighter on the planet. Not everyone is ready for solar panels, but there are lots of other options open to everyone. Despite the efforts of many, we are still a throw-away society. Water bottles, grocery store shopping bags, coffee cups and paper napkins all come to mind. It has taken a while, but the personal changes I’ve made are adding up and have greatly reduced my use of these items.

At least 20 years ago, some very good friends gave my wife and me a gift of two stainless steel mugs. We have used them daily ever since and they show no signs of wearing out. They regularly remind us of our friends, they are easy to clean and well-insulated so they keep our drinks warm or cold longer. For the road, we have similar mugs with screw-on lids. I even use mine on the occasional visit to Starbucks where they give a small discount if you bring your own cup. A stainless steel Thermos serves as my water bottle of choice.

At home we use cloth napkins. They work better and are easy to clean and fold. Our use of paper products has plummeted. When we shop for groceries, we always take our cloth bags and have now reused them hundreds of times. Trader Joe’s has a weekly drawing for customers who bring their own bags. It’s real. We actually won once.

Quite honestly, I can’t imagine going back to our “old ways” since it would feel much too wasteful. Companies pushed the “convenience” of disposable products but there’s nothing convenient about a planet under tremendous stress from our prodigal habits.

So whether it’s your energy source or your choice of bags, cups or napkins, they all make a difference. Simply giving a friend a lasting gift of quality is an act of green living that can last a lifetime.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Steve, please visit

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