Opinion: Burst of energy


I obsess about how my lawn compares to others on my block. I noticed some bare spots this past summer, so I addressed the issue on a trip to a local nursery. Then at the Labor Day get-together, people were discussing Joe’s yard, which was suffering from the same problem. I thought, “There, but for the grace of sod, go I (that was a long way to travel for a joke, I know).”

Now, I have a new challenge to obsess over. It began with a letter from my electric company. The envelope looked like it contained my monthly utility bill, but the contents were far more ominous. The page was titled, “Last Three Months – Neighbor Comparison.”

I scanned the enclosed printout only to learn that I was consuming more energy than those identified by the electric company as, “Your Most Efficient Neighbors.” I felt so exposed that I closed the curtains and turned off the eleven lights, three TVs and two computers I had left on the night before.

The electric company claims I used 40 percent more electricity than my most efficient neighbor. Who was this person? Which house did he live in? It didn’t say. Was he hiding in the shadows? I’ll never know, because there are no shadows when there are never any lights on.

I asked my neighbor Ted if he received a similar letter. Ted is a nice guy, but he always leaves his garage door open, which is an eyesore. I thought he was just forgetful, but apparently this is part of his grand plan to be recognized as a “conservation superstar.”

“Every kilowatt counts,” Ted told me while we were standing in his driveway. “If I never close that overhead door, I can save $1.49 a year.” He asked what I was doing to conserve resources at home. I was tired of the discussion, so I told him I only shower once a month. Ted walked back into the garage…and down came the door.

The idea that someone is monitoring what goes on in and around my home is creepy. Whenever I look outside, strange people are reading my meters, putting colored lines on my neighbors’ lawns, installing invisible fences and looking through tiny telescopes mounted on yellow tripods.

Despite this, I really am going to try to do my part in this conservation initiative. I’m going to charge my iPad in the car, disconnect my clock radio when I’m not home and make toast only when absolutely necessary. The competition is rigorous to be No. 1 in the neighborhood, but I’m not worried. I don’t plan on expending much energy.