Walking The Talk

Posted by Alana Shindler and Macie Melendez on August 16, 2012
Walking The Talk
Some of the Home Energy staff at work, along with resident "sustainable" pup Cooper.

Carol Markell, our sales manager extraordinaire, always appreciated the people in this industry because she found them to be conscientious, hardworking, and generally a kind and socially engaged community who walked their talk. To honor her memory, we (the staff at Home Energy) asked ourselves how we walked our own talk. Following is what we discovered about each other:

Kate, our production manager, reported that every night she turns off all her electronics on power strips so that not even a bit of electricity is used. She hangs her clothes out to dry as much as possible, rides her bike as much as she can, recycles and composts everything—including her worm farm for the compost—and tries not to take any jobs that require a commute. If she needs to travel out of the area, she carpools as much as possible. She buys local organic produce at farmer’s markets. She has a limited heating system and doesn’t use much heat; when she needs heat she uses an energy efficient space heater. And, she talked her landlord into getting a new, energy efficient furnace installed.

Maggie, our office manager, reported that she drives an energy-efficient Prius, does not have air conditioning, is conscious of water usage, purchases only local and organic food, utilizes her small garden on her deck, and uses canvas bags at every grocery trip.

Jim, our editor, said:I had been working at Home Energy for 7 years when my wife Michele and I bought a house, and that's when everything I read, edit, and write about started to make sense. We had an energy audit and retrofit done after we had been living there for only two months. The biggest problems were the nine can lights in the ceiling that were leaking like mad. After the guys from Advanced Home Energy sealed up the ceiling/attic floor, including the can lights, and added insulation, we got a letter from PG&E saying we dropped our energy use by a third. It really means we use a third less than the family of four who lived in the house before us. But PG&E lets us compare our energy use to similar homes in our neighborhood and we are among the most efficient. We try not to use much water and so we got rid of most of the grass that was there when we moved in, and planted more sustainable trees and shrubs. Two big old Sycamores give us lots of shade and we don't have AC, so that helps a lot on the few days each summer when it gets over 100 F. First we swapped out any incandescents with CFLs, and then switched several of those for LEDs.”

He also drives a Prius and works remotely two days per week. “I should really take public transportation, but it takes too long and costs me more than the cost of gas in my Prius. Nobody is perfect (besides Steve Greenberg of course),” he said.

“My wife Michele was raised in a recycling family, and we do a lot of that. We don't eat very much meat, though we aren't vegetarians. And I bring our dog Cooper to work. Not sure it saves us any energy, but it sure makes our workplace at Home Energy more sustainable!”

Tom, our publisher, said:On my way to work I either ride a bike or, when I need to use a car, drive a restored 1966 Mercedes diesel sedan that runs on 100% recycled vegetable oil. [Pictured above.] At home, we recently replaced our 40-year-old behemoth heating furnace—with one thermostat for the whole house—and a hot water tank, with a Baxi combination boiler that provides both hydronic space heating and domestic hot water. We use recycled steam radiators and retrofitted them for hot water and have them on thermostatically controlled zones for each room.  

My partner and I also like restoring early 20th-century homes in Berkeley, including a 1902 City and State landmark home that we saved from the wrecking ball by moving it across town to another lot. [Also pictured above.] Remember the greenest building is the one that's already built!” (Read more about Tom and his partner's house-moving adventures here.)

Alana, our fulfillment manager, said:All of our light bulbs in lamps are low energy compact fluorescents or LEDs; new kitchen can lights are insulated and low energy. We have Energy Star appliances (updated our refrigerator and washing machine), have a low-flow shower head, did a home energy audit and remediation (wrote a blog about this, you can read it here); have begun to weatherize original windows after having them all repaired and in working order; we share one car between two adults; and recycle yard and food wastes, paper and cans/bottles/aluminum through the city of Berkeley. We’ve also planted some drought resistant landscaping and have a programmable thermostat which helps keep energy costs low.”

Macie, our assistant editor, said she shares a car with her husband and only commutes to work 2 days/week. She uses canvas bags at the grocery store, and on the days when she forgets she always refuses plastic bags in cities that allow it. She doesn’t have air conditioning (although she admits this isn’t necessarily by choice), doesn’t buy or use plastic water bottles, composts, and recycles.

Toni, our office assistant, said: “Home Energy has influenced me and my family. We have changed the type of light bulbs that we use in our house, and instead of everyone having their lights on in the house when we are all home, we have one central lighting area in the living room—if we’re all home, we’re in that one room reading, writing, etc. It’s also a good way to have family time. Our house is so old we don't have A/C but we also don't use plug-in fans. Instead, we just leave our doors open. I also walk a lot and catch BART, and my grandfather rides his bike to get around if it's not too far (at the lovely age of 85). We recycle everything that we get, our newspapers, cans and bottles, and cardboard. We reuse the plastic bags that we get from the store as lunch bags or even garbage bags for our little garbage cans. We are taking more steps to becoming more energy efficient.”

What do you do for the sake of energy efficiency at home? (Please comment below.)

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