Non-financial barriers: a personal confession

Written by erin


This is a personal confession. I have a New Year’s Resolution and an Earth Day Pledge, both oriented toward greater sustainability, and I haven’t taken any concrete steps to implement either one.

I want to. I intend to. I will. Soon, really soon. What’s holding me up?

My New Year’s resolution is to install a solar hot water system on top of my house. I have a gas water heater and I live in temperate northern California where sunshine is abundant all year round. I don’t have a pool or a hot tub, but I do have kids and lots of thick hair.

My Earth Day pledge is to replace my lawn with drought-resistant plantings. In California, about a quarter of all energy is used to move water around. I don’t want to spray my carbon footprint on a lawn anymore. My kids are old enough that we don’t use the lawn for play, and we have a large city park a short block away.

Both efforts will pay back in less than five years, including all the professional help I need to get them done. I can afford these projects. I am motivated, even excited, to get going.

So why haven’t I lifted a finger? Am I lazy? Uncommitted? Irrational? Doesn’t Adam Smith’s invisible hand indicate that economically attractive pursuits will be pursued?

Maybe if I had that invisible hand, I would get these things done. But I don’t, I have only my two ordinary hands and they feel awfully full when I consider the phone calls, the design and technology choices, the bids, the fear of making the wrong choices and getting poor results or even getting good results but being ripped off in the process.

Here’s the weird part. I learned from my utility’s website that they’re launching a new solar hot water incentive program. I can get a rebate of up to $1,500. Plus, there’s a federal tax credit that will award me up to $2,000 for the same system, but only if I get it done this year. As soon as I read that, I started to rearrange my priorities. I put my utility’s solar thermal workshop on my calendar right that minute, even though it’s smack in the middle of the day on a busy weekend.

What’s up with that? I don’t really need the extra money to justify the projects. But I don’t want to miss out on it either. Is that tax credit the push I need? Why is it that money can make up for non-financial constraints? I don’t understand it but I’m not complaining. I’m googling to find a contractor.

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