I recently reunited with an old college buddy, Rod Reyna of Pflugerville. As we talked, I learned he and his family have made several changes around the house to reduce their energy use, and related carbon footprint. I asked Rod to share his experience:
EnviroMedia: Tell me about your electric bill (how much it used to be, how much it is now (roughly)).
Rod Reyna: In May, for my 2300 sq. foot house, it was $69. In previous three months it was $29-$35. I go over $100 two months out of the year.
EnviroMedia: What did you do around the house to become more energy efficient?
Rod Reyna: Things add up: roof radiant barrier, thick insulation, energy efficient A/C (with programmable thermostat) and fridge (no extra freezer) and dryer and dishwasher, power strips on all electronic equipment including microwave. Everything is off when not needed: TV, DVR, VCR, DVD, stereo, microwave, etc. Laptops are unplugged when not needed. Only thing left on at night is fridge, stove clock, and outside lights. I’ve bought 40 compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), mostly 5 watts (from Wal-Mart). My home is white limestone exterior, so that and white blinds/curtains reflects the heat. I have solar screens on windows.
EnviroMedia: What else?
Rod Reyna: I’ve wrapped my water heater, put in lower flowing showerheads and sink aerators, am getting a rain barrel, water in morning, cut grass when needed because taller grass needs less water. I bought a Kill-a-Watt device that measures how much electricity any a device uses. My DVR uses a lot. I’ve got a solar panel bid but since there are no extensive rebates in Pflugerville, I get a better ROI by reducing my electricity. Would I like to go solar, yes, plus have a windmill. Thought about solar attic fans but may put in wind turbines instead. Waiting to buy a very fuel efficient car or renewable energy powered car. I mainly drive to Austin on my superscooter that gets 65 mpg.
EnviroMedia: What was your motivation to make these changes?
Rod Reyna: I am thrifty person who wants to reduce my family’s carbon footprint. I like to see the electric meter spinning super slow (perhaps backwards someday). I keep thinking that there is more that can be done though. I watch “Living with Ed” or read “HomePower” magazine, for example, to get ideas. I’m also motivated since one of my kids has asthma and I’m thinking the environment played a role.
EnviroMedia: Have there been any sacrifices in the process, or things you miss?
Rod Reyna: I can’t just click my remote or microwave or DVR. I have to flip a switch first. I don’t have lights or A/C on as much and use fans more and/or open windows. If I want to read I find a spot with one of my stronger bulbs, since CFLs I use are dimmer than others. In my bathroom, instead of my eight lights above my mirror using 320-800 watts (40w-100w bulbs), my 5watt bulbs equal 40watts total. I have a stronger light on my sink for when I shave or my wife putts on makeup.
EnviroMedia: How important is reducing greenhouse gases for global climate change?
Rod Reyna: We need to do more in the U.S. since we contribute a high amount of greenhouse gases. We need to set an example and make wise choices.
EnviroMedia: Where did you develop your environmental ethic?
Rod Reyna: During college, when I hung out at the University Catholic Center at UT Austin, the priest would always go around turning off lights to save money. My father-in-law does the same. I notice that at work, our staff wastes a lot of energy. My thriftiness and knowing that the world only has a finite amount of resources has me wanting my family to do my part, plus save money.
EnviroMedia: A 2008 national poll of Hispanics said energy and global warming is viewed as one of the two most important environmental problems for Hispanic families, and four-fifths of these voters consider it to be a major problem. What do you think?
Rod Reyna: I am Hispanic and I agree with the findings–that energy and global warming are major problems that need to be addressed on a broader level and personal level. I think we should shift to a clean energy economy, etc.
EnviroMedia: Would you support climate change legislation if it meant the price of electricity would increase by 30-40 percent?
Rod Reyna: That’s a tough one, because electricity just went up that much. My electric company just left the market and I’ve had to sign on at a higher rate. I’m willing to pay more if the company is investing heavily and/or employing renewable energy, not just buying credits.
This is the first in a series of interviews I’m posting about how Americans react to “change for the better” as is relates to adaptation to global warming.