Commentary: City’s Quakers Calculate Their Energy Usage

Friday April 30, 2004

Is your concern for the environment a spectator sport? Or does it go beyond sporting a bumper sticker? A butterfly in Brazil can affect the climate here; what will happen if you turn off your kitchen lights? 

Members of Berkeley Friends Meeting (Quakers), hoping to contribute to the national dialogue about energy and environment, wanted to start by understanding their individual energy use. They decided to take a hard look at how much energy they consume—and how they could consume less. 

They began by collecting data about their own energy use over the course of a year, from energy bills to airline miles. 

After entering the data, members received a printout with graphs and charts showing their data, the average among participating members, and California and U.S. averages. Charts include: 

• Electricity and natural gas use (with a conversion to compare carbon emissions from both). 

• Residential and transportation carbon emissions. 

• Oil use for car and airplane. 

• Carbon emissions and oil use compared to the group, the U.S., the E.U., Portugal, Japan, and France. (Among rich countries (per capita income at least $5,000) the Portuguese report the highest level of happiness.) 

• Driving, compared with the group, the Bay Area, and Americans of various ages. 

“Now I know that I have to do more than install compact fluorescents. To really protect the planet, to really reduce energy use, I have to fly less, or not at all. This will be more difficult than I thought,” Joe Magruder learned. Meeting Clerk Miriam Berg noted, “This confirms that my house really needs to be better insulated.” Others were pleased to discover that they used less energy than the national average. A participating Midwesterner found, “I thought our family was better than the typical Americans, but we’re mo’ bettah than I thought. Also, I was struck by how much driving we do, even though I’m no longer commuting a long way to work several days a week.” 

Looking at energy use is more than an environmental concern. Our energy consumption has political effects. Degraded environments are expected to contribute much to this century’s conflicts. Control over diminishing energy resources also sparks conflict, igniting war and violence worldwide. Based on a foundation of non-violence, some Berkeley Friends have made these links between energy, environment and peace the focus of their work. 

To share their findings, the Berkeley Friends will host a booth at the May 8 Green Home EXPO and Energy Symposium in Civic Center Park, next to the farmer’s market from noon to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. Stop by with your energy use data and see how your use compares. 

You can also submit your data early at www.quaker.org/fep/COTE.html and pick up a printout at their booth. More details on the Green Home EXPO and Energy Symposium can be found at www.GreenHome.EXPO.org. 


Karen Street is a member of Berkeley Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.›