When I was growing up, my grandmother owned a four-family house in Brooklyn. My family and I lived in one apartment, my grandmother lived in another, and we had two tenants. Because saving money and keeping the bills down was very important, my siblings and I were constantly reminded to “shut the lights!” “don’t leave the water running!” and “close the window; you’re letting the heat out!”
These days, I don’t own the house where I live or the building where I work, but I still follow this simple, common-sense advice to save energy and water. I always turn off lights in unused rooms and I never let water run unnecessarily — at work as well as at home.
When I mentioned these simple actions to a co-worker, she responded, “But you don’t pay the water or electric bills here. Why do you care?”
I care because, although saving money would be a great motivator, it is not my only reason to conserve. I am committed to saving water and reducing my carbon footprint every way that I can. And I think that the eight hours that we spend at work present us with an amazing opportunity to do that.
Another benefit is that my actions may serve as gentle reminders to my coworkers or help raise awareness about wasteful habits. Someone might “shut the lights” in an unused room because of me.
In fact, my coworkers call me “Ms. Green” and poke fun at me. That’s good! I’m helping people realize that they have a choice, so if they intentionally leave unused lights on, it’s no longer a mindless action. And maybe one day they’ll decide to turn them off!
My parents and grandparents may have exercised frugality only to save money, but it was a good idea. These days, it has become urgent that we conserve in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint. And it’s good to know that even these simple acts can add up and really make a difference.
This article was originally published on February 27, 2019.