In conservation terms, Dave has seen a lot. His passion for environmental activism began in the heady days of the Sixties and continued through the passage of the Clean Water Act. As president of the Izaak Walton League, he helped ensure legislative protection for the Boundary Waters and promoted the switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs and “bridge fuels” such as natural gas that could serve as an intermediate step between old-school fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. He knew how important taking environmental action was to fight climate change and protect Minnesota wildlife both for their ecosystems and for the hunters and fishers who value them.
What he didn’t know was how his home fit into the picture.
“To my surprise,” he says ruefully, looking at the results of the home energy audit he and his wife Margo had conducted through Ecolibrium3’s interfaith pilot program, “this house was porous!” There was so much energy escaping from inside to outside that they were appalled. “It’s like how the shoemaker goes barefoot because he’s so busy making shoes for everyone else,” Dave says.
Well, if the shoe fits…Dave and Margo switched out their fuel oil furnace for natural gas in the summer of 2014. They then turned their attention to some of the other energy-saving measures recommended for their home. “I got into the attic crawl space for the first time in about a century,” he remembers. “It looks like the builder kind of stopped just short of actually insulating it.”
After installing insulation in their crawl space, they noticed that improper bathroom venting was whisking moisture into their attic and damaging insulation there. They considered new windows, but realized covering them would be less attractive but much more cost-effective. They insulated basement space and caulked doors.
One improvement led to another—something that makes a lot of homeowners nervous. Dave acknowledges that there’s definitely an up-front cost to making these changes, but they estimate that the improvements they made to their home will pay for themselves in a few years because of the money they will save keeping their house heated.
He encourages other homeowners to start making a difference even in small ways. “It’s like eating an elephant,” he says. “It’s so big you don’t know where to begin—but if you don’t start at all, the elephant just keeps growing.” Climate change is costly over the long term, he points out, so taking action now saves money in the end.
That’s the challenge: to stop thinking of energy conservation as daunting and start thinking of it as a fascinating challenge. “You just do the best you can,” says Dave. “When you quit putting it off, it gets fun. Being able to take control and see tangible benefits—that feels great. It just makes you think, ‘Yeah, I’m doing my share.’”