Small Fixes for Big Problems

Do you ever find yourself watching the news, listening to someone yammer on about some seemingly unsolvable problem and find yourself thinking, “Why don’t they just do XYZ?” I do. Like, a lot. This is especially true when it comes to some environmental issues. Short of going back to school for environmental engineering and working my way up to a big federal level job, I figure the only way to get my ideas out there is to simply blog about it. So here it goes.



In case you haven’t heard, much of America is in the middle of a drought. I understand that the actual conditions that cause the drought are varied. We have too many people living in places that never really had enough water to support them, and climate change is exacerbating that problem. It seems to me that there are a few fixes that could be put in place to help mitigate the effects of drought if not solve it altogether.

  • Gray Water Systems–I cannot, for the life of me, understand why states like California have not changed building codes to make gray water systems mandatory. For those of you who don’t spend a lot of time thinking about where your toilet water comes from, gray water systems basically recycle water from your sinks and tubs to do things like flush your toilets and water your garden. Every home or building should incorporate one of these–and if you’re rehabbing your house, there should be big tax credits for incorporating one.
  • Rain Catch–A few years ago I was in my town hall picking up a dog license and noticed a big promotion for a rain barrel giveaway courtesy of our water company. In an effort to conserve water and prevent run-off the water company was giving away rain barrels. I immediately signed up. To be honest, I don’t do a lot of water beyond my initial planting in the Spring. I live in New England, we do not currently have big water concerns, but if states and towns across the West aren’t handing out rain barrels–and thinking about how they collect more rainwater on a larger scale–they are out of their mind. One good rain is enough to fill up my barrel. Now think about the amount of water that could be captured by scattering big, artificial aquifers across California and other drought afflicted states?

Renewable Energy

We spend a lot of time talking about encouraging energy, but it seems that we are fixated on fixing this on a large scale. We want giant wind farms and enormous fields of solar panels. But why? Solar panels are popping up all over my neighborhood, and I’m still contemplating getting in on that action. These days you don’t even have to buy the panels. You can just let a company put panels on your roof and then pay them for the energy you use. I know that electric companies aren’t crazy about this–though it seems like they could just as easily provide the solar panels–for a number of reasons, but that’s not really our problem.

It seems to me that any new house (or commercial building) built that is over a certain size should be required to include solar panels of some sort. I know this is more difficult than the gray water systems because not every home is ideally situated for solar collection, but if developers had to keep solar in mind when designing neighborhood layouts, we could overcome this.

Again, I live in New England. There are many months out of the year that we can’t rely on solar collection for power, but I have friends who have been running their homes on solar for years. They produce enough during the sunny seasons to offset their use in the winter. if the entire country was on board, we could easily cut our fossil fuel use dramatically. Unfortunately, the big oil and gas companies won’t let this happen without a very big, loud fight.

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