Blog: Andrew Brix

Tree Town's goal of moving to 20% percent renewable energy by 2015 makes it a LEEDer in the state's green movement these days (pun intended). Andrew Brix, energy programs manager for the city of Ann Arbor, talks this week on all things efficient and on how Michigan can become the next Sunshine State.

Post 1: A Conservation State of Mind

What if I told you we could reach the Kyoto Protocol's greenhouse gas emissions targets overnight?  Seven percent below 1990 emissions levels tomorrow?  I know, it sounds improbable, like something you might see advertised on the shopping network in the wee hours of the morning. "Free-energy powered CO2 vacuum sucks greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere at no cost?just set it and forget it!"  

If only we could buy our way out of trouble that easily!  Especially when you consider that most of the world, Ann Arbor included, uses more energy and emits more carbon (in total and per capita) that it did in 1990, it sounds like some sort of pipedream that we could just snap our fingers, wake up the next morning and be done with it. (Of course, then we'd still have to keep working toward an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and eventual stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 350 parts per million (ppm) – but Kyoto would be a great start!)

Now, I'm not talking about some sort of magic technological innovation that is going to rescue us here. Technology?wind power, solar energy, LED lighting, etc.?has a role to play, but it tends to provide silver BBs in the climate fight. What I'm talking about is more of a silver CO2-slaying rifle slug that you can put to use without tax credits, rebates, or grant funding. In fact, you can start right now, because the thing is, it's all in your head.

What I'm talking about is an energy conservation ethic: moving past dollars and cents, and "this is how we've always done it" and simply taking an active role in using less energy. Because it's the right thing to do. Because someone once said, "waste not, want not."  Because it means sending less money out of Ann Arbor, out of the State of Michigan, and out of the country. Because you want to save some of the earth's bounty for your children and grandchildren. And their children and grandchildren. Because you don't think it's a good idea to return the earth to another carboniferous period.

So what happens when we all wake up tomorrow morning and start living according to this great new energy conservation ethic?  Are we all going to start hanging our laundry out to dry and riding unicycles everywhere?  I don't know, and I don't believe it particularly matters exactly what each of us does. Sure, there are some obvious things we can all do like dialing down the thermostat in the winter and getting by with a fan rather than A/C, but what matters is paying attention, noticing how and where we use energy and simply thinking about how to use less. And that's a lot better than looking at a list of "ten ways to save the planet" because you're going to come up with ideas that are specific to your life and your daily routines that no one else can.

Did I mention you can start today?

Next: The LED Revolution