Friday, October 15, 2010

Richmonders Say Going Green Makes Cents

Listen to the full audio here.

Photos by Sarah Freiseis

Last Friday, October 8th, Virginia held its fourth annual money-saving spending experience dubbed the Energy Star and WaterSense Sales Tax Holiday. The four day event kicks off just after midnight the Friday before the second Monday in October every year. Local businesses provided informational brochures, offered additional sales incentives, created unique product displays, and promoted the event through the media.

By highlighting the benefits of the Energy Star program, the state of Virginia, and Governor Bob McDonnell, encouraged energy efficient products that can lessen the emission of green house gases. The program is backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Steve Haws, the Store Manager at Lowes of central Richmond said that it was one of the biggest weekends of the season, and there was an influx of happy customers. He described the benefits as symbiotic.

“It’s about Virginians being able to improve their homes and the environment, lowering their long term energy costs, and saving money,” he said. “If you are in need of appliances this is the best time to come out, it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Haws said traditional refrigerators are high on the list of energy and resource consuming products, followed by washing machines. He explained how the Energy Star clothes washers reduce the carbon foot print and also mean monetary savings for buyers.

“Some of the washing machines operate on eight dollars worth of electricity per year, when you get one of the high efficiency front load machines, saving water, saving on soap, saving on energy used, they all go towards helping the consumers with their bottom line,” he said.

As for the future of the event, Haws said he expects to see more ideas for energy saving, and more use of low energy products. He said he hopes it becomes second nature for people.

“I think it’s something just as simple as changing a light bulb in your home, it’s the easiest thing you can do, change an incandescent bulb to a florescent bulb, not only will you get longer life out of the bulb, but you’ll also use less energy, up to a third of what the normal incandescent bulb would use,” he said.

In the same vein, Clay Butler, Store Manager at Pleasants Hardware in Midtown Richmond also took time to encourage saving the world, and money, one light bulb at a time.

“The easiest thing that most folks can do inexpensively to lower their energy consumption around the home,” he said. “We have a wide selection of them that can pretty much fit anywhere in your home, and any type of fixture you have.”

Butler said the goal was to encourage people to always want to save energy.

“I think we waste a lot of energy, Americans do, so we need to find any way that we can to save energy, plus it saves us some money in the long run,” he said. “I personally would love to see America go energy independent.”

He explained although today’s floor model is better than before and improvements continue, essentially the more people buy them the more that can be invested back into research for them, leading to, the evolution of efficiency.

“The next thing that’s coming are bulbs that are LED’s, The one downside with the CFL’s, is there is some environmental impact on disposing of them, there’s mercury and some other things in the bulb, but the next generation is gonna be these LED bulbs, which don’t have that issue, right now they are just so expensive to try to produce, but once that gets down, then I think that’s gonna be the next thing, and they save even more energy, than the CFL bulbs do,” he said.

The sales tax holiday did however present limitations, especially for contractors and developers who could use the products commercially.

Eliot Clark, owner of Stonewall Construction, said that despite frustrations with not qualifying for exemptions during the holiday, he still prefers buying eco-friendly products.

He said, “today I’m buying light bulbs for ceiling fans, and exhaust fans because they last longer and they cost less, as long as we all have the option to do the right thing, it’s nice to do it.”

Clark said he felt it was his duty, at both a personal and professional level, to instill these practices in any way he can,

“In our company work we try to use as much of out materials as we can, we try to salvage as much as we can and reuse it, instead of putting everything in the dumpster, if we can reuse materials on the next job we’ll store them and do that, and then anytime we can work high efficiency appliance or light bulbs or any type of method into our construction we do,” he said.

The Energy Star and WaterSense Sales Tax Holiday encourages people to think like Clark, and go green as much as they can.

-Sarah Freiseis

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