EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Going Green

November 7, 2007

Green light to a big adventure

Meet the O'Briens. They are about to launch a big adventure in energy savings.

Donna and Kevin O'Brien are parents of great kids | Ann Marie, Rosalie, Danny and Thomas | who range in age from first grade to high school. Kevin commutes to Wakefield and Boston for work. Donna spends much of her time driving the children to school and activities.

The O'Briens live in a 3,000-square-foot home built within the last 10 years. It is average size for Andover and is up to building code in terms of insulation, ventilation, and other important energy savers such as insulated windows. They have vaulted ceilings in some rooms, oil heat, and an electric water heater. Sound familiar? They are like a lot of families in Andover.

The O'Briens are my good friends and neighbors, and they have agreed to participate in an analysis of their energy use. In doing so, they are taking on another task in their already full schedules, so I am grateful for their enthusiasm.

It was a challenge to get together with all of them because, as with most families, the kids are off in different directions | a dance class here, a study group there, a ball game in an hour. At a carefully orchestrated meeting (because they had to eat dinner and be off again), we discussed the project. I asked why they wanted to do this. The most honest reason came forth when the kids said they hoped this would help them "save money so they could go to Disney World and have more money for college." They were not aware what impact they can have and had not seen any films or presentations on global warming, which we will do as part of the project. But I believe they, like other homeowners, can have a big impact on energy use. Some 50 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the built environment.

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