Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Environmental Stewardship: Oikos

by John Berge

Economy and ecology both stem from the Greek word for household, oikos. The former also includes the root for managing, and the latter for studying. So it should be no surprise that when we look for ecological solutions, we frequently find economical benefits.

Switching from incandescent lamps to compact fluorescents and then to LEDs (light emitting diodes) has produced financial savings as well as energy and pollution savings. One of the larger energy usages in our household was the fluorescent lamps over my tropical plants in the basement. Since they are on twelve hours per day, 365 days a year, they were a significant cost to operate, but I also had to periodically replace the burnt out bulbs or even ballasts. I recently replaced them with LEDs – no bulbs to replace for probably the next 14 or 15 years and much less electricity used.

I have also replaced the old circular fluorescents in the kitchen with some nice-looking LED fixtures and am looking forward to replacing the fluorescent lamps in the basement drop ceiling. We buy our electricity generated solely from wind power, so I am not actually reducing our carbon footprint with these changes, but I am lowering our costs and maintenance problems. (Have you ever had to change a fluorescent bulb in a basement drop ceiling, fighting cobwebs and the little mementos left by a vole or mouse that came in for the winter?)

These first paragraphs were all about our household (our oikos) but I hope that this will give you some ideas and impetus to reexamine the lighting in your household. It will not only save you money and hassle in the long run, but if you still get your electricity from a coal-burning power plant, you will reduce your household’s carbon footprint and contribution to global warming or climate change. If you want to check into a wind power source for your electricity, contact me or one of the other clients of Arcadia Power.

There are other energy saving changes for your oikos that each of us should consider to be good environmental stewards in both the economic and ecological sense. If there is considerable condensation on your windows as the weather gets colder it is time to install doubly- or triply-glazed windows that will probably be much better sealed and weathertight than those originally installed in your home. If it is too late to install them this season, you can get almost the same saving with the shrinkable plastic film that is stretched over the inside of your windows. Check for leaks around your doors and upgrade your caulking and weatherstripping as needed.

Full house insulating or re-insulating can be expensive and possibly too difficult to do in the winter, but it is economical in the long run. Attic insulation may be the most important as heat rises and can escape through the ceiling and attic. Extra layers of insulation can generally be easily added in the winter. When our house (and maybe yours) was built, eight or nine inches was fairly standard. Now double that amount is suggested or possibly required. So get up into the attic and see what is there and what must be done. Since batts of attic insulation are added from the inside, there is no reason to wait or procrastinate.

Saving energy is good environmental stewardship, saves money in the long run, and will be doing your small part in fighting global warming. Wisconsin has no fossil fuel deposits, but it does have wind and sunshine. Why should we be sending so much money out of state for coal, natural gas and fuel oil?

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