S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0826.greener.htm

Getting greener starts at home
By Andy Brack, Publisher

AUG. 26, 2007 - - After spending a week in 11 states over the last week talking about environmental policy ideas, it's pretty clear that Southerners are interested in being greener.

In Chapel Hill, N.C., schools incorporate cisterns to hold rainwater collected from roofs. The "gray water" is used to flush toilets and irrigate school property. The school saves about 2,000 gallons of treated municipal water a week.

In Kentucky, Arkansas and elsewhere, universities are constructing major buildings to green standards to save energy and create efficiencies. The University of South Carolina, which has the world's largest green dorm, is saving thousands of dollars a year in energy and water costs through green design.

With gas prices at $3 per gallon in some parts of the South, folks seem more open than ever before to fresh ideas that can save energy and money. Some of these ideas require big policy shifts by state and local leaders. But there are a host of practical things that anybody can do to get greener.

Many of these ideas for households are outlined in a chapter of a new book, Getting Greener: Progressive Environmental Ideas for the American South. (You can access this online for free at: www.GettingGreener.info). Among the ideas:

  • Change bulbs. Changing just 15 regular incandescent bulbs to fluorescent bulbs will save a ton of carbon emissions a year. Over the last couple of years, the cost of fluorescent bulbs has dropped dramatically. And since they last several times longer than regular light bulbs, they pay for themselves pretty quickly.

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    Conserve water. Because today's detergents and washing machines clean clothes effectively in cold or warm water, you can save energy by using less hot water. Also, replacing leaky toilets can save 200 gallons of water a day. Low-flow toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons to 8 gallons for toilets built 15 years ago.

  • Eat locally. Most food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table, according to research. If you're able to buy food grown locally (or grow your own), you can help cut down on expensive food transportation costs.

  • Be smarter about driving. By combining errands, being a smoother driver and keeping your car in tune, you'll be a more efficient driver. If you trade an SUV for a hybrid or better-performing vehicle, those $3 gallons of gas won't hurt as much.

  • Conduct an energy audit. Homes and buildings in the United States account for more than 70 percent of electricity usage and almost 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. There are numerous online tools available to help you conduct an energy audit of your house to help you identify ways you can save energy. Experts say you might be able to cut yearly heating and cooling costs per year by up to 40 percent by implementing audit recommendations. Additionally, you might be able to reduce your home's carbon gas emissions by up to 11,000 pounds a year.

  • Plant trees. Trees absorb carbon and give off oxygen. If every family in the US planted one tree, sources indicate that a billion pounds of carbon dioxide would be absorbed and not released into the atmosphere.

  • Buy energy efficient appliances. If you buy more efficient air conditioners, water heaters, DVD players or other appliances, there will be a significant drop in energy usage. The book highlights how up to 10 new power plants wouldn't have to be built in the South if every Southern states adopted appliance efficiency standards.

Bottom line: It's not terribly hard to be greener because there are numerous things you can do that save energy and money without dramatically impacting your day-to-day routine.

Governments have a major role to play in reshaping the South to be greener. But if everybody does just a little bit to conserve energy and cut down on greenhouse gases - without major impacts on the quality of their daily lives - the South would become a greener place.

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, also chairs the Center for a Better South. He can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

Santa Elena was Spanish outpost in South Carolina

Founded in April 1566 by Pedro Menendez de Aviles on present-day Parris Island, Santa Elena was the northernmost settlement of the Spanish province of La Florida. At that time, La Florida in theory extended from the Florida Keys north to Newfoundland. Spaniards had used the name "Santa Elena" for the area around Port Royal Sound south to Tybee Island, Georgia, since 1526, when Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon's expedition explored these lands on August 18, the feast day of St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine. Fear that the French would claim the excellent harbor at Port Royal Sound led Menendez to the Parris Island site, where in 1562 Captain Jean Ribault had built the short-lived Charlesfort in the name of France's king.

A jug excavated from Santa Elena. Learn more about the site by clicking here.

Santa Elena was the capital of La Florida for much of its first 10 years, during which time the growing settlement conducted political and religious outreach to the native population of a broad region. As part of these interactions, the Spaniards also sought to extract food and labor from the Indians for this growing colony, which chronically faced supply shortages. ... The Spaniards' demands on the Indians grew as families arrived in the town, beginning with a 1569 expedition of nearly 200 colonists. War with the Orista, Guale and Escamazu tribes eclipsed internal squabbles in 1576, as these peoples -- angered by years of Spanish demands and abuses -- united to drive the Spaniards from their lands.


S.C. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

Indians destroyed Santa Elena in 1576, but one year later, Spaniards rebuilt there by order of their king, who feared that the French would learn of their absence and occupy this site. Santa Elena again became a thriving community -- albeit one supported by the Spanish crown -- when Philip II ordered the town's abandonment following Sir Francis Drake's 1586 raid on the new capital of St. Augustine. The Spanish destroyed the fort in 1587 and relocated its inhabitants to St. Augustine. In 1979, the archaeologist Stanley South verified that Parris Island was Santa Elena's location and since then he and others have conducted extensive excavations.

-- Entry by Karen L. Paar, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Safe house

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

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Is SC headed for recession?
By Bill Davis, editor
From the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

AUG. 24, 2007 - - With the state's unemployment rate jumping by half of a percentage point from 5.4 percent in June to 5.9 percent in July, officials and experts around the state found themselves wondering the following:

  • Was the jump to fourth highest unemployment rate in the country a mere statistical blip?
  • Was it the first harbinger of doom for the state's ongoing economic expansion?
  • And perhaps more importantly, what could the state do to mitigate a downturn economists had been forecasting for years?
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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.