Green Button

The greening of America push-button style

Three items caught my attention in the last few days. The first was this story out of the Inland Empire that noted more home builders are touting green features such as energy efficiency, although traditional factors such as location and lot size still influence buyers more.

The second was this blog by K. Kaufmann of my old employer, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, who correctly opined that creating nifty green technology is one thing, but persuading people to change their behavior enough to use it is entirely different. Hence the Green Button campaign, designed to forge a more personal connection with power bills.

The third was this post about businesses having trouble keeping up with the demand for green products.

It is apparent that a green tint is spreading, albeit unevenly. Businesses, universities, governments and more individuals are heeding the message of clean energy and efficiency. This blog links to statistics confirming the increasing awareness that stems from a desire to either save money or to do the right thing environmentally.

But the transformation won't occur overnight. The benefits of new lights, air conditioners and weatherization are tough to sell, especially when there is an upfront cost.

I calculated a 9% return on an investment of $1,700 in energy-related upgrades at my 1,500-square-foot house near Fresno, but I've been putting off the work: A $1,700 expenditure is hard to justify with a kid in college, even with a payback of only a few years. Tuition payments sure aren't going down.

Energy efficiency is like an economic stimulus. Our nonprofit is wrapping up a grant project involving about three dozen local governments from Stanislaus to Kern counties in Central California. The cities and counties, using federal stimulus money, replaced energy-guzzling lights, pump motors, air conditioner components and other equipment, saving thousands of dollars and reducing their carbon footprints.

Most of those governments have shredded budgets and deep cuts in staffing, so saving money through energy efficiency is a boost. In some cases, it likely prevented additional layoffs.

 In another measure, Fresno city officials crunched utility data to calculate that a successful comprehensive energy conservation and retrofit program equates to an economic boost of $260 million.  Talk about stimulus! More on that here.

Energy conservation is the easiest and perhaps most cost-effective way to save money, improve the economy and start down the green path. That's why it is commonly referred to as the "low-hanging fruit" of the green-energy movement. Maybe that description isn't accurate: As the head of the federal Department of Energy says here, "It is fruit on the ground."