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The Unexpected Environmentalist

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Recently I was talking to my friend, Vance, from North Carolina (or as he would put it, yet again attempting to bore him to death with endless chatter about changing the world).


This time the focus of my curiosity was on the ease and cost involved in installing solar panels at your home. Much to my surprise, he told me that he had actually just added a solar powered water heating system to his house.


Now, to understand why my jaw dropped at this, you first need to know a little about Vance. He is a stereotypical Southern man, and for the four years that I’ve known him, his priorities have gone something like this: 1) his children 2) other family and friends 3) work 4) having fun 5) anything with a ball in it.


The closest we have ever come to discussing anything environmental in nature is when he is telling me what the best beaches are to visit or from which plant that “miracle of nature” tequila is made.

Once the initial shock passed, I was delighted to learn that not only was the process super easy (they installed the system in a few hours one afternoon), with the Federal and State tax credits, it was also extremely reasonable in price and in fact would put him in a position of saving money within a very short period of time.


Additionally, he got an extra water heater, which doubled the amount of hot water for the house. With two children, all the laundry that goes with that, and a teenage daughter who has a lot of sleepovers, that’s no small benefit. And, the solar system is designed to make sure that hot water is always available throughout the house, eliminating the need to run the water until it heats up and the waste that goes with it.


North Carolina, unlike California, has a real change of seasons and more cloudy days. The solar system is designed so that the original heating unit kicks in when the sun isn’t up to the task. And the panels are only about the size of a large double-paned window, so they easily fit on the back of the roof. They are out of sight of the neighbors, so it doesn’t negatively impact the property value. In fact, it is estimated that for every $1,000.00 spent on a solar system, you gain $20,000.00 in property value. Now that’s a return that is hard to come by these days!


Finally, I asked my unexpected environmentalist, “What made you decide to do this?” Then, yet another jaw-dropping moment occurred. He replied, “I try to do one thing every day to make the world better and to make a difference for someone.”


This from the man who when asked about his feelings said, “Oh yeah, I have two,” and proceeded to open his mouth and point to his back teeth. “Those are FILLINGS, Vance,” I explained.


I guess it’s true that at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.

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