Andrea Marr is being honored as a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champion of Change.
My grandparents were green before green was trendy. They had a solar hot water heater on the roof of their home and a garden where they grew most of their vegetables. My grandfather built a sunroom attached to the house, and during winters in Colorado they had only to crack the door of the sun room and warm air heated by the sun would flow into the living room. They lived in a suburb very much on the grid, but embraced self-sufficiency as much as they could. The modifications they made to their home and the way they lived saved them money, utilized less energy, and improved their quality of life.
I grew up instilled with this notion of conservation, but I have more in common with my grandparents than that. They both served in the Navy during World War II – my grandmother as a yeoman, my grandfather as a pilot. Like them, I wanted to serve my country; eventually I too joined the Navy.
I loved the military and completed five years of service before retiring, confident there was another way I could contribute to our great nation and have an impact: by promoting clean energy.
We stand at an incredible moment for clean energy. Solar is on the verge of grid parity – by 2017, the cost of solar in the U.S. will be truly competitive. Wind energy has the capacity to power over 15 million homes and that number is rapidly increasing. But we also have a huge opportunity to reduce the amount that we consume, opting for smart technologies and common sense approaches to energy reduction. As a nation, we have the chance to emulate my grandparents by using less energy and saving money while improving our lives.
In the last year my work has focused largely on educational facilities, from middle schools to universities. I’ve discovered auditoriums with the lights and air conditioning left on for the entire summer following graduation. I’ve found classrooms where kids are getting less fresh air than recommended and places where the A/C is left on high but doesn’t work properly and never actually cools a room.
There is nothing political about energy efficiency. There is nothing overwhelmingly complex or risky about implementing measures that improve our homes and offices and create safer, more productive environments. Nationally we spend $32 billion dollars heating hot water in our homes; the installation of solar hot water heating alone could reduce the average household’s energy expenditure by half. It’s estimated that commercial office buildings waste 30% of all the energy they consume. That equates to energy we can avoid buying on the world oil market, savings in our pockets, and better environments in which to live.
It’s not about being green for green’s sake. It’s about the future we want to create and the opportunity to exercise American leadership to make us self-sufficient in the best sense of word – in a way my Greatest Generation grandparents would respect.
Andrea Marr is a professional engineer and energy efficiency expert in California. She is also a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.