One of my recent columns prompted a reader named Paul to write, “I want to move toward a greener lifestyle, especially want to incorporate solar. But since I am renting a house, I’m concerned there’s little I can do without installing things on a house I don’t own. Any ideas?”
This is an excellent question since many others are in a similar position. There are several options available that fit into just about any budget. Since the emphasis was on incorporating solar, let’s start there. First I am going to make an assumption by redefining Paul’s preference for solar by including another form of clean, renewable energy: wind power. Both provide the same net benefit in the form of zero carbon emissions, and wind is not nearly as hazardous to wildlife as some have claimed:
“When ranked against other threats to birds, however, wind is trivial. A 2007 report by the National Research Council found that turbine collisions account for only 3 out of 100,000 human-caused bird deaths. Birds are killed in numbers many orders of magnitude greater by collisions with buildings and power lines, poisoning from pesticides, and predation by domestic cats.” - Wind Rush: Conflict Avoidance, Sierra Magazine
Wind and RECs
On a national level, wind turbines are currently the most cost-effective method for producing clean energy. Fortunately, being the capitalist society we are, there is a trading mechanism that deals directly with the clean part of the energy equation. Renewable Energy Credits are traded just like any other commodity. Buying them transfers the benefits of the clean energy to the purchaser (in the form of RECs), as if they had produced them locally. This method clearly won’t work forever nor should it be used at the utility level to abrogate responsibility to meet important renewable energy portfolio standards. However, at this point in time, RECs provide a viable method for both reducing one’s carbon footprint and contributing to the growth of the clean energy economy. And that is exactly the point.
There are many REC purchasing options but not all are available to individuals. I looked at several companies and found one that met my criteria, Renewable Choice Energy in Boulder, CO. I’ve never used them but their informative website offers RECs to homeowners that are reasonably priced and easy to understand. Most importantly, their products are certified by Green-e, the nation’s leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions in the retail market. This is very important since RECs should only be used once and then retired. Without reputable third-party certification and verification, you may not be getting what you are paying for.
What you are paying for is the clean energy aspect of the power. NV Energy still provides the juice and the wind-generated RECs offset the carbon emissions, turning your home into a net-clean-energy household.
Renewable Choice offers a family-sized Wind Power Plan for $15 per month. As they describe it, “This plan reduces the impact of the monthly electricity use of an average family. This plan supports 9,000 kilowatt hours of wind power generation a year and helps save up to 10,070 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution annually (similar to not driving 10,446 miles in an average car.)”
That plan would be a perfect fit for my household if we did not already have solar on our roof. We invested thousands of dollars in our permanently attached system. For someone who is renting, the $180 yearly cost is quite a bargain for so much peace-of-mind, with no long-term commitment and nothing to leave behind when moving.
Additional Green Ideas
If you also like the idea of using your own locally-produced solar energy, consider an American-made Sun Oven. They are portable and fun to use. Other paths to a greener lifestyle include making efficient choices when it comes to food (eat lower on the food chain – less meat or even vegan), transportation (walk and bike more, drive a hybrid or EV), using less water and consuming less overall (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle).
If You Care, Don’t Go Bare
Lastly, let’s not forget that our reproductive choices also have a huge impact on the environment and is the driving force behind the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Condoms project. Every choice we make is important at this crucial time.
Neither our living arrangements nor the size of our bank accounts restrict our ability to make a difference. Green living is an important aspect of creating a sustainable society that we should all participate in as quickly and deeply as possible. So whether you own or rent, now is the time to go forth and greenify!