I must confess I'm not a great conservationist. In fact, I don't even consider myself a good one. It's not that I don't care about the environment or the depletion of the world's natural resources, but I guess deep down I just never really felt the need to alter my lifestyle to help combat our country's dependence on oil and natural gas supplies. However, I must admit that lately I find myself thinking about this issue more and more. Based on what's happening in the government, private, and public building industry sector these days, I'm convinced I'm not alone. Energy conservation is making a comeback.
About the only thing I remember from the energy crisis of the 1970s is sitting in my big brother's four-door Chevy Bel Air in a huge line of cars while we waited our turn at the pump. As far as I was concerned, this was a total waste of my playtime. Pedaling around town, powered by my own fuel, I guess you could say I started out with an energy-efficient attitude, but that quickly changed.
As soon as I reached the legal driving age, I ditched the bike for a gasoline-powered machine — a Chevy Monte Carlo with a big block V8. My need for speed far outweighed any remote thoughts about fuel efficiency. Although my current Dodge Dakota pickup weighs a lot less than my first car, it's also powered by a V8 engine — not the most economical choice.
I'm not much of a conservationist at home either. I've thought about converting my gas fireplace into a wood-burning unit. In fact, I just read an article in USA Today about how the sale of new wood-burning appliances and number of people using their existing units to heat their homes is soaring. But the same article also points out that U.S. officials are already trying to figure out how to reduce the smoke pollution from the nation's 37 million home chimneys and 10 million wood stoves. This makes me think I'm better off sticking with my gas-fired fireplace, even though I know I'm going to face outrageous heating bills this winter.
OK, I hear you. The least I can do is turn my thermostat down an extra degree or two this winter, right? Listen, I've tried this a few times before, and it's not easy for a guy like me. I'm rail thin and equipped with very little insulation so the cold goes right through me. Plus, it just doesn't feel right to walk around the house wearing a turtleneck and winter jacket.
So is there any hope for a guy like me, who's long ignored the call for energy efficiency? I believe there is. I took special interest in this month's cover story, “The Laws of Conservation” on page 26, written by Staff Writer Beck Finley. Her research and presentation of new standards and regulations recently put in place to help our nation better manage its energy supplies and use of energy actually made me stop and think about my “conservationless” actions.
Maybe there is something to this “green” building attitude. Maybe it's time for me to throw on an extra layer of clothing this winter and kick that thermostat down another notch. Maybe it's time for me to change out all those incandescent light bulbs in my house to more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps. Maybe it's time for me to let go of my “need for speed” and look for a car or truck powered by a more energy-efficient engine. OK, that's probably pushing it. Asking a car guy like me to give up his V8 is like asking a meat lover to become a vegetarian.
But no matter where you fall on the conservation spectrum, there's always more you can do to preserve, conserve, and protect. Join me in an effort to shake old habits — no matter how hard they may die — and at least attempt to make the transition from conservationless to conservationist.