The Good Wife Works, By—Elizabeth Ellis Is ‘Going Green’ just a money-making machine?

Elizabeth Ellis Square

The current buzzwords today are “Go Green.” We’re being told to go paperless, recycle, replace our wood sash windows, buy fuel-efficient cars and new household items like light bulbs, toilets, kitchen appliances and even our furnace, and remake our lives with fuel efficiency.

“Bear in mind a weird American paradox,” University of MN student Patrick Anderson wrote in his MN Daily editorial (10/07/07). “We want to absorb ideas, but hate the idea of being forced to.” So the Go Green campaign is subtle. It encourages cooperation. As Somerset Maugham put it, “You believe with your generation,” your contemporaries. We go along to get along.

Statistics claim that our private residences account for about 22 percent of energy use in the United States. Ever see Las Vegas lit up at night? Manhattan? Those who consume that other 78 percent of energy use in the commercial sector should get lectured as well. Or fined. After all, Walter Mosley reminds us, “Pain is the only way most men learn anything.”

There’s something to be said for some of the old ways they tell us to throw away. My last boom box lasted 15 years, and my audio tapes circa 1990 still play. In The New York Times (3/7/07), ran an advertisement: “Don’t throw it away, there is no ‘away.’”

New aluminum bike tire rims might be lighter, but old steel ones don’t bend like soft butter. That new bumper on your car might be lighter, ergo fuel efficient, but an owner told me that bumper is softer than your old — read: inefficient — heavy steel bumper. It bends and cracks on contact with frozen Minnesota snow banks.

And don’t even try to fix your car these days. The computer will outfox you. We pull over to the side of the road in these fuel-efficient automobiles for a variety of other non-driving uses: eating lunch, shuffling paperwork, making phone calls, talking on the phone and trysting — engine running.

A retired furnace man told me that old furnace — the one we’re supposed to replace — “was built to last 100 years.” Go down to the used appliance store on Payne Avenue in St. Paul, and you can get an old refrigerator for pennies.
We’re supposed to go paperless and stop using postage stamps (“You could’ve paid this bill online!”). Still, junk mail arrives in our mailbox several times a week.

A neighbor replaced six old windows for new, supposedly energy-efficient windows at a cost of $9,000. Or was that nine windows for $6,000? Either way, she could’ve had her old wood sash windows repaired for $25 apiece.

A half-dozen ads in the paper tell you people still do that work and a class tells us it’s not about the glass, it’s about the leaks. A real estate agent once said, “I see lots of new windows in foreclosed homes.”

We can either give our money to Menards — $700 for new attic insulation — or pay Xcel Energy $100 a month for heat in the winter and wonder if Going Green is a money-making machine.

Elizabeth Ellis is the mother of three grown children, a college graduate, a 10-year veteran of the Foreign Service and a native of the Twin Cities. She welcomes reader responses to