Declaring your energy independence

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | July 4, 2009 | Climate Change, Energy Efficiency

This 4th of July, celebrate the anniversary of our country’s independence with more than a cookout and sparklers. This Independence Day weekend, declare your independence from our fossil fuel past and take some small personal steps towards a clean energy economy.

On July 3, 2006 my Irish husband returned from the hardware store with bags full of supplies declaring he would observe America’s independence celebration by making our home more energy efficient and less dependent on our coal-based and natural gas utilities.

Frugal by nature (with ceiling fans in lieu of air conditioning and hot-water bottles and warm duvets in lieu of an over- warm house at night), our utility bills tended to be lower than average, but there was still room for improvement. While we were not in a financial position to invest in solar panels or upgrade our relatively-new appliances, we were inspired by the hands-on approach to energy savings advocated by the filmmaker in Kilowatt Ours and had one year of utility bills for our 1920s house to compare against once we completed our energy efficiency upgrades.

We spent the better part of a week changing every light bulb in the house to compact fluorescents (I bet few people have any idea just how many light bulbs are in their house), wrapping our hot-water heater with an inexpensive insulation blanket, and covering the first five feet of hot-water pipes with foam sleeves.  Our energy savings were noticeable and immediate – in the first year our electricity and gas bills dropped by an average of 10% despite our acquisition of a 7 cubic foot chest freezer.

In the years since, we caulked cracks that are ever-present in an old house, upgraded our ‘solar-powered’ clothes dryer by hanging a more durable clothes line and invested in a larger indoor drying rack to realize even greater savings in our monthly power bills. In fact, we now use our clothes dryer rarely given our set-up and the knowledge that it’s the second-biggest electricity-using appliance after the refrigerator.

These individual actions have inspired my professional work in advocating for decision makers to draft much-needed energy policies to halt our country’s global warming pollution through reduced energy use and a transition to clean energy sources.  Just before the 4th of July Congressional Recess began, the House of Representatives passed such a bill – and now this bill awaits the Senate’s approval.  In the coming months, it’s critical we voice our support for these policies to our Senators in order to pass the nation’s first-ever comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

In the meantime, spend some time this holiday weekend visiting Repower America to pledge your support for clean energy independence for America and take a trip to your local hardware to begin (or continue) working towards energy independence in your home.

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