Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Save the planet and save money: some recommendations for going green affordably

I am pleased that Pasadena has decided to become a Green City and has an Environmental Advistory Commission. I'd like to suggest some models that could help our city (and others like us) to reach this goal. I'd also like to offer some policy and lifestyle options that could move us in the right direction. 

Jill and I are both excited about Kaupuni Village in Hawaii because it is the first net-zero energy affordable housing community in the state. "Net zero" means it produces as much energy as it consumes. This is significant because Hawaii has been importing 95% of its energy, and that's just not sustainable. Hawaii can no longer afford to be so utterly dependent on fossil fuel, so it is examining otheer alternatives. Kaupuni Village is a model for what Hawaii's future, and our future, could look like. Because of HUD requirements, affordable housing is some of the greenest housing in the USA. Let's make sure that all new construction has solar and can recycle water for landscaping. And let's make sure that schools and government buildings are "net zero." This is not only possible, but makes economic sense, as President Obama has argued very persuasively. See

The state of California is committed to producing 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, and to reducing significantly its water consumption. Since Jill and I have reduced our electric bill by 90% and our water bill by 50%, we know this is doable and not outrageously expensive. Here are some tips on how we can  live more sustainably and affordably as a city and as individuals. I'm sharing this information with members of our City Council and our Environmental Advisory Board so we can move forward on our plan to be a Green City. Please share this info with your neighbors, friends and elected officials.

1) Take advantage of  AB 693, which creates a $100-million program for financial incentives to install solar panels at affordable apartment buildings. By providing solar panels, you can reduce operating costs and make rents more affordable. See

2) Let low income home owners know about programs like GRID that provide low or no cost solar panels, 

3) Let residents know about rebates for energy efficiency. Pasadena offers a ton of rebates to those who switch to energy efficient toilets, etc.

4) Let people know about the HERO program, which provides loans for energy efficient improvements (like solar) and  allows borrowers to pay back their loans via their tax assessment. When you sell your property, the buyer repays the remainder of the loan (although he may choose to require you to pay). HERO also offers advice so you can decide what energy improvements are a good investment.  This could be a significant financial boon for folks in our district. For example, I called HERO and asked them how much it would cost me per year if I took out a loan to pay for my solar panels, grey water, and turf removal (which cost a total of $18,000). I was told that the cost of the loan was around $1600 per year. But my annual savings in electrical, gardening and water bills is over $2000 and will go up around 4% annually over the next few years. So from the very first year I would have saved money if I had taken out a loan to go green. People need to know this kind of information.  See

5) Companies like SOLAR CITY install solar panels with no upfront costs. Purchasers receive a small reduction in their energy bills and Solar City uses the savings to pay for the panels and installation. This makes solar affordable for everyone who qualifies, i.e. ithose  paying more than $100  a month in electrical bills and roofs with sufficient exposure to sunlight. 

6) Save money on green cleaning products. When we installed our gray water system, we had to stop using toxic cleaning products and use instead the cleaners our grand parents used--vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, pure Castille soap. We ended up saving money as well as saving the environment. See

7) Encourage residents to plant fruit trees and vegetables. A great way to save money and save the planet. You can save hundreds of dollars a year by planting an edible garden instead of water-wasting lawn. It also helps build community since gardeners tend to share their harvest with friends and neighbors.

8) Incentivize going green by giving out awards. Claremont gives a yard sign called CHERP to everyone who makes a significant commitment to energy efficiency, i.e. installs solar panels, etc. See

9 Follow the example of the CHERP program in Claremont and create a city program that helps home owners to go green. See


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