Sunday, April 6, 2008

On being a Practical Greengeek

It should be obvious that while I don't shun labels, I do often make them up to best describe myself in ways that I like best, to hell what anyone else might say: Low Femme. Curvy girl. Slowcavore. And a new one that I decided on last night while reading about the Energy Management program that my school plans to launch, which will focus on alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, Practical Greengeek.

So what does that mean. Well, the Green part is obviously about doing what I can to conserve energy. The Geek part is what inspired me to major in engineering, what makes math fun for me, and what gets me excited about technology. Thus, the Greengeek part is reflective of my excitement about different high and low-tech ways of conserving energy and lowering my personal and this country's and our world's dependence on fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources. As I wrote in another forum, if I were to have some renewable power source on my home, such as solar or wind, and if it were enough so that I could sometimes actually sell the excess energy back to the power company, I'd be ready to run off and have hot monkey sex the first time I saw that meter running backwards.

Then comes the Practical part. A friend of mine who is way into astrology tells me that it's the Taurus in me: Things have to make sense, in the big picture, not just in the moment. It's the Practical part that is one of my strongest incentives for eating locally: It just makes sense. It's the Practical part that got me into an almost-heated exchange with someone online about using handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues, after I said that the "green" benefits of handkerchiefs were far outweighed by the more pressing issue of spreading nasty bugs if the reason you were using a handkerchief was because you had some contagious disease that was making you snot and sneeze. It's the practical part that has me gradually replacing my incandescent bulbs with CF, while researching disposal options because of the mercury in them and not losing my awareness of how much damage that little tiny bit of mercury could actually cause. It's the practical part that keeps me from feeling gung-ho about vehicles that run on corn-based ethanol, since as things stand right now there is practically as much petroleum that goes into growing and processing the corn used to make that ethanol as that car would use, and dramatically expanding corn production to support widespread use of ethanol would have other significant consequences to our environment (taking out woods, for example) and to our industrial farming system (as if it could get much worse, but I believe that it could).

So I'm "green" but I'm not going to rush out and do a bunch of things that on the surface make me seem all greener-than-thou if I don't see the big-picture payback -- Or, if it's simply not a realistically practical thing for me to do. For example, there's no question that cloth diapering is far more ecologically responsible than using disposables, but anyone who thinks that I'm going to try to cloth diaper my baby granddaughter when she's over here is nuts; it's just not practical to do that when we don't have her full time. And yeah, a Prius would be more ecologically practical, but that's no reason to trade in a paid-off van that still has many years of useful life.

Where did this all come from? Well, obviously the whole topic is fairly consistently on my mind these days, but I also did some research last night into the Energy Management program that the school where I teach plans to begin offering, and I'm finding myself way excited about it. I'm seriously considering signing up to pursue that degree once it's offered. In addition to all kinds of other things related to energy conservation methods, energy audits, etc., they'll learn all aspects of designing and installing solar and wind-turbine based small energy plants for on homes and businesses. I want, I want, I WANT to learn about that. I will even get over my fear of being on a roof in order to do that. And I would seriously love to do something like that on my own home -- we have two unshaded south-west facing roofs (one on the back of the house, one on the garage) which would be good locations for solar panels without compromising the look of our beautiful old home.

And who knows, maybe it could lead to a second career for me: Spend a few years designing and installing these systems on homes in the area on a limited/part-time basis while keeping my current job, transfer to that department to teach as soon as the program grows to the point that they need a second instructor, and then retire with my state pension and keeping doing this as work that I love.

(Of course, I'm not forgetting the fact that I was totally certain that I'd love doing programming which ended up boring me to tears, and certain that I'd love having my own business which ended up sucking the soul out of me and leaving me with little balance in my life. But I won't know until I try it!)

No comments: