The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Reducing our Fossil Fuel Use

Posted by | March 18, 2013

Tom Twist, Sustainability Officer at The Chewonki Foundation, visited the Wells Reserve last week to present our very first Climate Stewards evening lecture. This series is funded by NOAA's Climate Stewards Education Project. Tom TwistThe lectures aim to enable community members to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of climate change, thereby appreciating the impact of their choices more, reducing their carbon footprints, and becoming more impassioned stewards of the planet.Tom Twist's presentation sent us all down this path towards climate stewardship.

Tom began his talk with reasons to move away from fossil fuels: They run out, they pollute, they cause climate change, they fund tyrannical dictators, and they help widen the divide between the wealthy and the poor. Tom explained the inverse relationship that exists between freedom and the price of oil (learn more in Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded), and echoed Bill McKibben in saying that Exxon Mobile is the "richest company in the history of money."

Tom's presentation empowered participants to overcome obstacles to change, using the following hierarchy of steps:

1) Energy efficiency and conservation

  • Requires very little technical knowledge (to combat a drafty window, homeowners can fill a plastic bag with fiberglass and stuff the bag in the leak)

2) Space heating system changes

  • Wood gassification boiler
  • Pellet boiler
  • Electrothermal storage (just electric heat)--only runs at night at off-peak rates (with separate meter installed)

3) Solar hot water & solar photovoltaic arrays

  • Solar electricity has become much more affordable ($12,000 estimate for a house minus the $6,000 rebates available = $6,000 cost)

4) Geothermal heat pumps

  • Extract heat from underground (stored solar energy)

5) High mile per gallon verhicles

  • Volkswagon diesel is what Tom drives (50 mpg)

6) Small wind systems (under 100 kw)

  • Chewonki has a small wind turbine that powers their largest dormitory on campus for the entire year

Tom finished up his talk by discussing how to overcome obstacles to change:

1) Financing: There are rebate programs, simple ROI (return on investment), green revolving funds, and SPPAs (solar leases)

2) Inertia: A critical mass is needed, social feedback is needed (if your neighbor does it and it works, you will be more inclined to do it too), and also knowledge/familiarity

3) Not Knowing What To Do: Attend lectures (like the Climate Stewards series)!

Tom reminded us all that investing in renewables is no longer simple philanthropy--doing it is the right thing to do AND saves us money over the long term. It allows us to take action and give back.

We finished up the evening with a free raffle for all participants who filled out a brief evaluation of the program. Two lucky winners went home with their very own temperature guns, which will help them to conduct home energy audits! Congratulations to Peter and Ruth!

The next Climate Stewards lecture, "Solar Energy for Your Home," will be held in the Mather Auditorium on Wednesday, April 3rd with Jennifer Hatch of ReVision Energy. Come join us!

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