This originally appeared in the Davidsonian in fall 2011.
Hayden’s Hopes: Ideas for Davidson’s Future
By: Hayden Higgins
Do It In The Dark Rebates
Too often we think of environmentalism as a refuge of the privileged elite, when climate change, for example, is really a proletarian issue that will disproportionately affect the poor of the world. Environmentalism in our world is delinked from economic issues: indeed, to be ‘environmentalist,’ or at least to fit that label, it sometimes seems like one needs deep pockets indeed, to keep up with each new fair-trade, organic, local, no-testing-on-animals certification.
The truth of the matter is that more often than one might think, what is good for the environment is good for our pocketbooks. This is especially true when it comes to consumption of resources like water, food, and energy. By improving efficiency, we use less—and therefore have to pay for less in the long run. Conservation can be thought of as an environmental attitude—or it can be conceptualized as thriftiness, the willingness to turn down the heat and put on a sweater. In that scenario you’re not lessening the amount of coal burned—you’re lowering your utility bill.
Utility bills, it should be noted, are one thing that Davidson students certainly won’t be bothered with. But in this one instance, talking about utilities with students could be a great way to teach a life lesson about how conservation can be good for everyone, both on an individual level and on a collective level.
I suggest that Davidson start offering rebates to the winning hall of the annual Do It In The Dark energy conservation contest, hosted by the Environmental Action Coalition. The College could reimburse each individual in the winning hall by the difference between that hall’s average per capita energy consumption value from October and November. A similar, very successful program which could serve as a model is already in place at the University of the South in Sewanee.
The cost to the College would be minimal and the impact lasting. Though the amount each student would receive would be small, the message would be clear. Students would carry with them the lifelong lesson that environmentalism and economy are not fundamentally opposed.