One of my recent columns prompted a reader named Paul to write, “I want to move toward a greener lifestyle, especially want to incorporate solar. But since I am renting a house, I’m concerned there’s little I can do without installing things on a house I don’t own. Any ideas?”
This is an excellent question since many others are in a similar position. There are several options available that fit into just about any budget. Since the emphasis was on incorporating solar, let’s start there.
I am going to make an assumption by redefining Paul’s preference for solar by including another form of clean, renewable energy: wind power. Both provide the same net benefit in the form of zero carbon emissions.
On a national level, wind turbines are the most cost-effective method for producing clean energy. Fortunately, there is a trading mechanism that deals directly with the clean part of the energy equation. Renewable energy credits are traded just like any other commodity. Buying them transfers the benefits of the clean energy to the purchaser (in the form of RECs), as if they had produced them locally. This method clearly won’t work forever nor should it be used at the utility level to abrogate responsibility to meet important renewable energy portfolio standards. However, RECs provide a viable method for reducing one’s carbon footprint and contributing to the growth of the clean-energy economy. And that is exactly the point.
There are many REC purchasing options but not all are available to individuals. I looked at several companies and found one that met my criteria, Renewable Choice Energy (www.renewablechoice.com) in Boulder, Colo. I’ve never used it but its informative website offers RECs to homeowners that are reasonably priced and easy to understand. Most important , its products are certified by Green-e (www.green-e.org), the nation’s leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions in the retail market. This is important since RECs should only be used once and then retired. Without reputable third-party certification and verification, you may not be getting what you are paying for.
What you are paying for is the clean-energy aspect of the power. NV Energy still provides the juice and the wind-generated RECs offset the carbon emissions, turning your home into a net-clean-energy household.
Renewable Choice offers a family-sized, wind-power plan for $15 per month. As they describe it, “This plan reduces the impact of the monthly electricity use of an average family. This plan supports 9,000 kilowatt hours of wind power generation a year and helps save up to 10,070 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution annually (similar to not driving 10,446 miles in an average car.)”
For someone who is renting, the $180 yearly cost is quite a bargain for so much peace-of-mind since there is no long-term commitment and nothing to leave behind when moving.
If you also like the idea of using your own locally produced solar energy, consider an American-made Sun Oven (www.sunoven.com). They are portable and fun to use.
Other paths to a greener lifestyle include making efficient choices when it comes to food (eat lower on the food chain — less meat or even vegan), transportation (walk and bike more, drive a hybrid or electric vehicle), using less water and consuming less overall (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle).
L et’s not forget that our reproductive choices also have a huge effect on the environment and is the driving force behind the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Condoms project (www.endangered
Neither our living arrangements nor the size of our bank accounts restrict our ability to make a difference .
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 Rypka, visit www.greendream.biz.