Mr. Big, Solar Questions, and Saving the World Under the Big Blue Whale
We looked down from the balcony of the American Museum of Natural History’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, gazing at the famous 94-foot-long blue whale. “What a perfect place to hold an event devoted to sustainability,” I thought.
I’d been here before — countless times as a child, gazing at the natural wonders of the earth. More recently, just a few weeks prior I sat at a table just like the ones I’m looking at now for a black-tie construction industry dinner. But the setting seemed so much more apropos for this event, the 2012 Rainforest Alliance Gala Awards Ceremony.
The Rainforest Alliance is an international not-for-profit organization devoted to sustainability. On May 16, the organization recognized 10 corporations as Sustainable Standard-Setters, companies devoted to leading the way when it comes to conservation, sustainability and renewable energy.
Among the award winners was office supply giant Staples. The company installed a 1.5-megawatt (MW) solar PV system at its distribution center in Hagerstown, MD in 2010 and, working with SunEdison, has placed solar panels on 30 of its stores across the U.S.
Sexy Solar in the City?
The event was hosted by Chris Noth, best known for his role as Mr. Big on “Sex in the City.” Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, also attended the cocktail hour and dinner as a special guest, sharing the stage with Noth for a time, posing for pictures for her blog, and supporting the cause of sustainability.
Chris Noth took a few minutes during the cocktail hour to share his thoughts on the environment and the Rainforest Alliance with EcoOutfitters. “I support any group that realizes the number one crisis facing humanity is the environment. It’s a crisis, and for some reason our media doesn’t acknowledge it. It should be on the front page every day.”
Events like the Rainforest Alliance Gala help recognize the efforts of companies who do understand this. Yet Noth’s words proved true. One would have expected hordes of reporters surrounding Noth and Stewart, but we were afforded exclusive one-on-one time, giving us an opportunity to discuss with Noth some of the steps people can take to help preserve the environment. He agreed. “We need everybody — every group, every individual — chipping in and finding ways to support and sustain and make aware,” he said.
He mentioned his Toyota Prius, water efficient toilets and faucets in his Sherman Oaks, CA home, and the fact that, while conservation is good, it’s even more important to make sure we use our resources wisely.
We also asked Noth about his experience with solar energy, and he had a few questions of his own. He asked us about solar incentives, as well as what kind of homes were suitable for solar energy. “Doesn’t the roof have to have a certain amount of south-facing square footage?” – a question we get quite often from solar-curious consumers. (See the answer below.) “Solar is something I’m looking in to,” he said. “It could be the next step for me.”
“I Learned Something Tonight…”
Our interview with Noth opened my eyes to something that is much bigger than 10 corporations with a vision of sustainability, one not-for-profit, or an evening at one of the world’s most famous museums. If Chris Noth, an intelligent, highly educated conservationist, still has questions and admits to things he doesn’t know about solar energy, solar advocates have a big job in front of us.
Incentives, while they may vanish in the future, are available now. Solar panels are affordable, effective, and easy to maintain. Most roofs, as long as there is some south-, southeast- or southwest-facing real estate not obscured by trees or buildings, can accommodate a solar installation. The only to know for sure is by calling a local solar PV installer for a free evaluation.
If there’s a message the solar industry has to spread, it’s this: Solar will reduce your electric bills. Solar is good for the environment. Most people can benefit directly from solar energy, but you’ll never know until you ask.