can conservation be immoral?

220 Posts
Dec 6, 2008 05:03 pm
can conservation be immoral?

 this question came up while getting the electric bill today.

 i live in a three story building with the first floor as offices and the other two as separate apartments, 10 identical units per floor.

 i spoke with a neighbor at the mailbox who commented that the winter heating season has arrived while waving his $218 power bill around and complaining about getting ripped off. i asked him why is doing soo much business with someone who is ripping him off? this led to a discusion about power use and conservation. and the fact that every time you use an electrical appliance or flip a switch you are making a choice to buy from someone who you think is ripping you off.

 i showed him my bill of $46 and he wanted to know more. so i advised him to go home and shut off every breaker in his flat and see what happens. he asked why what will happen? i told him that nothing would happen..and that's the point. the world does not end and you don't die. we went on to discuss treating power as an optional convenience not as a necessity. then we came to my choice of thermostat settings 60*f winter and 90*f summer and things went sour! he stated that my choice of settings means that he and the rest of the building are paying to heat and cool my flat! i can see his point. can anyone here see this as theft?

this is my usage this year (projected to 12/31/08)
2200kwh electricity
5,500 gallons water
260 gallons gasoline

caution: conservation can become an obsession.

all the best, dave
351 Posts
Dec 6, 2008 07:43 pm
Re: can conservation be immoral?

I don't see a problem. If there was, your apt would probably be warmer than 60 and cooler than 90.

The neighbors above and below you and the ones on either side would be the ones bearing the injustice (if there is any).  It would not affect "everyone in the building".

If your door opens onto a common area where the bill is shared and you were proping the door open to get your heat or cooling, he would have reason to complain.

Is your heat actually electric ?
220 Posts
Dec 6, 2008 09:34 pm
Re: can conservation be immoral?

 yes ken 100% electric here.
 this place is 14x22 with 8ft ceilings. five sides against other heated/cooled spaces and 14ft south facing wall to the outside with a 4ft square window. with this location i only have exposure to the outside temperature on that one 14x8ft wall. and the temp will rarely go below 60* or over 90* by itself. that 4x4 window gives a big boost to the room in the winter. it's after 9pm the sun has been gone for four hours now and it's still 71* in here..current outside temp is 33*.

 i've been here since 04 and the first 2 1/2 years my monthly average was between 600 & 800kwh. that was before i realised i had a choice. these days i choose to purchase only 150kwh per month.

 i have to confess that i have taken some of my conservation methods to the extreme with a new goal of 3kwh a day. with the cold here i'm unplugging the fridge till march and rotating freezer packs in and out of my trunk till me crazy?

 stay warm, dave
351 Posts
Dec 7, 2008 02:15 am
Re: can conservation be immoral?

The only thing that sounds crazy or too extreme is "100% electric" and "33 degrees outside".  Unless the building isn't plumbed for gas, or some other reason, that is crazy.

I lived in Germany as a GI. I heated my apartment with coal. No Refrigerator. We cooled our bier with cold water from a well (hand pumped, the well was colder than the city tap water). In the winter, you would set it out on the windowsill or balcony. Had to bring it in before it froze.

Extreme is only a matter of perspective.

It is always “warm” in California. Felt a bit chilly today. Midday temp was only 52. But that is cold for us. I may have had to scrape ice off the windshield one or two mornings so far this fall, but I really don’t remember if I did or not. Usually, a squeegee will take care of the condensation.

Take care,
Dec 7, 2008 04:42 pm
Re: can conservation be immoral?

It sounds like an otherwise well insulated building.

" it's after 9pm the sun has been gone for four hours now and it's still 71* in here..current outside temp is 33*."

The climate in each apartment is supposed to be self contained. Here in America, building codes, in general, concerning fire walls and blockage have been in place for a long time. Especially in multi family dwellings. There is a good chance that every apartment is "fire blocked" from the other on all sides top to bottom. As well, there is sometimes sound insulation in adjoining walls. If fire cannot get through then I don't see how heat and ac could either. When your neighbor is cooking, can you smell it in your apartment or would you have to go into the common hallway to smell it? IF! there is anything criminal going on, I would say it lies with the building contractor and inspectors IF! those "fire codes" were not enforced. 

"If your door opens onto a common area where the bill is shared and you were proping the door open to get your heat or cooling, he would have reason to complain."

As for the ice packs. Been there done that. Lived in a retired 1956 Chevrolet school bus while house construction was going on. Saved our empty gallon milk jugs, set them outside with water in them during winter to freeze, changed them out from the indoor icebox when needed, always had a surplus. Had to buy ice in the summer though for essentials. Most of the stuff was kept cool in the creek though. Gas refrigerator/freezer now, with plans to capture waste heat in the future. Right now, back of fridge is sealed to an air chase with outside air flowing up and out. This keeps heat out of house in the summer and works a little to good in the winter, have to block chase off partially.

This brings to mind though how in conventional building practices how much harder an AC system has to work. Every bulb is a heat source, refrigerator/freezers, oven/stoves, water heaters, all interior heat sources that the AC unit has to pull out of the house and deposit outdoors. What made me think of this was when we were re-wiring the chandeliers on the cathedral ceiling in the sanctuary of a church and the treasurer ask me if this would effect his light bill. Six chandelier's, 1500 watts each. I explained to him that its not just the added light that would effect the light bill but the added heat as well that the AC unit would have to pull out in the summer time. I compared it to running six 1500 watt space heaters while running the air conditioning at the sametime. He ask if there was anything that could be done, dimmers maybe? While trying to do my best impersonation of Ponchus Pilot, I pointed to the lights with one hand while holding the other hand out, palm up and said, "its up to you. choose one and sacrifice the other. More light or more money, (while bringing the pointed finger to bare on him) which one do you choose? I think he got the metaphor because he just chuckled as he walked away. Thankfully though, somebody was using their noddle.
19 Posts
Dec 8, 2008 11:07 am
Re: can conservation be immoral?


This is a great topic to bring up. Thanks for sharing this story. I agree with other posters that there is no ethical problem in your situation provided you don't indeed prop open the hallway door to "steal" therms. You have a reasonable expectation that every unit was built to handle most of its own heating and cooling. There is an inherent advantage to having only 1 of 5 outside walls; presumably, everyone in your building has that same advantage, or nearly so. And you even have a heating advantage, being on the south/sunny side; your neighbors can't complain that you're taking much heat from them, since your thermostat is already positively affected by the thermal gain (to some extent).

I do hope you patch it up with your neighbor because 1) we're all in this together. So many millions of us live in adjoining dwellings that it's important we should all recognize our common cause and shared resources. I would love to see, for example, ad hoc conservation committees springing up in apartment buildings to address these issues. 2) You had him early on in the conversation! I would like to think he will still consider his consumption habits rather than to focus on a perceived wrong done to him, and will pursue his own conservation program. It is in his, and all our, best interest that he should.

Keep spreading the word. Ears that are ready will hear it.


1 Posts
Jan 10, 2009 09:07 pm
Re: can conservation be immoral?

This is a very interesting topic. It can be analagous to larger scale environmental questions that do not really have a black or white answer. Is it wrong to take a stand when it really may just be shifting the problem elsewhere. For example, by increasing environmental laws in a developed country it may discourage manufacturing and the end result is that it is outsourced to a country with lax laws and the polution is actually worse. The question is, should we abandon all attempts at green living because of this? In the end you can only be responsible for your own actions, and you can hope  that others will learn from your example. However, if you blatantly know that the end result is the same as if you would do it, you are not helping anything. Although this doesn't appear to be the case, if we say for example's sake that your apartment was 70 degrees in the winter from your neighbor's heat, then you are in fact consuming much more energy than you believe, and while the ethics of that are debatable, you certianly would not have the right to believe you are doing any more than they are to  conserve. The case is the same with outsourcing a manufacturing job to a factory you know pollutes while boasting about your own green standards. When trying to live green and out of site, out of mind attitude only shifts the problem to a different location.

Jan 11, 2009 08:31 am
Re: can conservation be immoral?

When trying to live green and out of site, out of mind attitude only shifts the problem to a different location.


What if the true "problem" is one that nobody wants to acknowledge? Lets say for example that the true "problem" is the existence of an additional 4.5 billion people that where not here a little more than 100 years ago. That, additional 4.5 billion people are not living off of just thin air, they are consumming natural resources.
(By the way, I would like to point out here for the sake of driving my point, that it took thousands of years from whatever humble beginning humans had on Earth up to the 1900's for human population to reach 2 billion people.)

We all speak of balances in nature. How too much or too little of one or more aspects within nature can upset the balance, having the potential of crashing to one side. For example: the recent talk about honey bees being on the decline. We all know what would happen without honey bees to pollinate plants.
Now think about the mass of 4.5 billion people. 4.5 times an average of 160 pounds each = 720 billion pounds of mass that, for the most part, only consumes natural resources while doing very little to give back to nature. I am not just referring to food and feces but all natural resource; metals, minerals, fossil fuels, air, and water, etc., etc..

 It would seem that when I bring this subject up there is the written equivalent of "selective hard of hearing" and "looking the otherway." The one thread the actually got some response also got a "repremand" from our illustrious coordinators here at Alt-E store when the subject eventually turned to religion and why wouldn't it? Has religion not been with us, here on Earth, for thousands of years as well? I can't be 100% certain but I don't think we have cruel and inhumane Inquisitions to worry about anymore. Enough about that.

Back to the additional 4.5 people on Earth that began to "arrived" a little more than 100 years ago and, that began consuming Earths natural resources.
Well, that says it all now doesn't it?
Imagine if your at home with your family of 4 and over the course of a year 8 more people come to live in that same house. Of course now we have 12 living that house but how long will it stay at 12 before there is 13, 14 and if this is happening at all of your neighbors homes as well?
I wonder if things had been different. I am going to inject a little little si-fi here. What if a little more than 100 years ago, a vast fleet of star ships carrying the remnants of a people whose sun had gone super nova or they had exhausted their planets natural resources to the point that life could no longer exist there. Imagine if they had left their Star system headed for Earth. Would we welcome that additional 4.5 billion immigrants, over 100 years, to Earth as readily as we have our own?
There are those that would argue that 4.5 billion more people over 100 years is insignificant. That this planet could easily support 12 billion or more. What if that additional 5.5 billion arrived over the next 50 or so years? Again, consuming Earths natural resources while doing little to replace them. Would this not, at least, unbalance the scales?
The one thing I haven't mention is the amount of unnatural pollution these people, we people, are leaving in or "wake". Of course we all know that one ansewer is for all of us humans to live off of the Earth more responsibly but does that responsibility stop at just sustainability and cleaner energy? Maybe its time we put away our "toys", before "Mother" nature does it for us but of corase, what would happen to that additional 4.5 billion people?

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