It might be time to re-think solar for your home.

WARM Training Center in Detroit has a program going on right now called MI Solar Works and it might just be the perfect way to get your house solar-powered.

You can learn more about the program and find info about how to apply here:

But to give you the main points, WARM will help you find out if you’re eligible for a loan — with no up-front payments! — that allows you to install either a 3kw system at $10,500 OR a 5 kw system for $15,000.

WARM’s FAQ page is incredibly helpful and it’s where I learned that most residential systems are between 2-10kw and, though it depends on a home’s energy use, an average system is about 5kw and provides 50-75% of a household’s energy. For a 5 kW system (what they typically install), the system would produce over 6,366 kwH of solar energy per year, or an average of 17.44 kwH per day.

I checked my DTE Energy bill and found my home’s average kwH per day estimate right in the middle of the front page under “Monthly Usage” — where it listed this year and last year for comparison. This will give you an idea of how much a 5kw system might lower your DTE bill. The idea behind this program is to re-direct what you pay to DTE for mostly coal-fired power to pay for a solar array. One thing to consider with these estimated figures is that the price of coal is probably going to increase over time.

Here’s some back-of-the-napkin math: The interest rates on the loans WARM would set you up with are capped at 7% so, if you were eligible, you could take out a $16,000 loan to install a 5kw system on your home and pay about $186 per month for 10 years while you save somewhere around $83 per month for a longer amount of time, specifically the life of the panels (which is about 25 years).  

This is part of a statewide initiative to make residential solar an affordable option in order to outfit 6,000 Michigan homes with solar panels. The program is funded through the Department of Energy’s “Race to the Rooftops” national challenge.

Our $3.50: Green Rating Systems for Electronics

Shopping season is upon us! And we’re starting a brand new segment for the eco-shopper, entitled Our $3.50.

Consequences of E-waste

Consequences of E-waste ( CHIEN-MIN CHUNG / REPORTAGE BY GETTY)

Windows 8 was released last Friday with a plethora of new tablets, laptops, and tabtops. Apple just announced the new iPad Mini and iPad 4. Of course, there’s no better time to get your teenager that new smartphone she’s been raving/whining about. We’re counting down the days till Black Friday sales. But our obsession with new gadgets is doing unprecedented harm to our environment, our society, and our health. So what can we do about it at the consumer level?

Continue reading Our $3.50: Green Rating Systems for Electronics

A Renter’s Guide to Energy Efficiency

Attention: Renters.  If you thought you couldn’t take energy saving actions because you rent rather than own your home, I’ve got good news for you!

There’s more you can do besides the basics — e.g. switching to CFLs or LEDs, putting your energy vampires on surge protectors with power switches. Confession: I haven’t done that last thing yet, but I do try to keep the vampires out of my sockets. Unsurprisingly, given this lack of information and options, many renters have given up and are assuming they don’t have much control over basic things like heating and cooling costs and efficiency in their rented apartments.

Fortunately, through my service on the City of Ann Arbor’s energy commission, I’ve learned that there will be funding to work on greening rental housing.  This is thanks to a $3 million Community Challenge Grant award for the Washtenaw County Sustainable Community project, the goal of which is to create a coordinated approach to promote affordable and energy-efficient housing locally.

A portion of the grant will go towards funding a staff person to coordinate green rental housing efforts across county agencies. One idea on the table is work with the major online rental housing listings in the county, especially those geared to students, to build monthly electric and gas costs into individual listings where renters pay utilities. This way you can compare one apartment to another by energy performance. If you can see that apartment A averages $100/month in energy costs and apartment B averages $300/month you will have a more realistic idea about expenses going into your lease. Plus, when you’re selecting where to live, you can choose apartments that are more planet-friendly.

Listings like these will create incentive opportunities — for renters and landlords alike — to start thinking about rental housing energy costs, an integral first step in inspiring action. We hope these listings will be accessible to the public in the next year or so. Once they’re launched, they will allow you, regardless of your income bracket, to be able to apartment shop by energy cost and performance.

In the meantime, remember this little known local fact: in Ann Arbor, landlords are required to provide a budget plan estimate for monthly energy costs to rental applicants upon request. If you can’t wait for the rental housing energy information listings, you can still shop for more cost-effective, planet-friendly apartments by asking for a budget plan estimate next time you find yourself apartment shopping in Ann Arbor.

Click here for more rental housing energy resources.

A long term goal

A long term goal

Save the Date – June 11 – Ann Arbor Mission Zero Event

Growing Hope will also be the beneficiary of a very exciting event next month. On June 11, Matt and Kelly Grocoff of will be opening up their NET ZERO historic Ann Arbor home for a tour. It’s more than a tour, though, because there will be round-the-clock lectures and workshops from efficiency experts on everything from going solar to weatherproofing historic windows. Plus, our friends from the Clean Energy Coalition Energy Outlet will be on site with awesome water- and energy-saving gadgets and gizmos that you can take home and install right away! (Tickets will be available online and at local retail locations shortly.)

The amazing thing is that I haven’t even listed everything you’ll get out of the Mission Zero Event on June 11. So, save the date! It’s right after the Mayor’s Green Fair, where, by the way, we’ll have a booth. Stop by and say hi – and pick up one of our Commuter Challenge Tees!

Want another chance to see 723 Spring Street? Here it is…

When: Saturday, April 9 – 12pm (noon)
Where: 723 Spring Street

Doug Selby of Meadowlark Builders will give another tour of 723 Spring Street — Ann Arbor’s first LEED Platinum home. It’s free, but RSVP is required. Click here to send yours.

January 2011 Newsletter

January 2011: Gearing Up To Cut Carbon Emissions


Household Energy Challenge: Starts February 1st!

AnnArbor350, a project of the Ecology Center, is joining with Ann Arbor Energy Office and other local organizations to launch our first-ever “Household Energy Challenge.” The goal of the challenge is to reduce the carbon footprint of each household and individual by 5 percent for one month: February.

A 5 percent reduction in energy use would mean a reduction of about 170 pounds of carbon dioxide per month for the average Ann Arbor household. This is the first time the City of Ann Arbor has embarked on an energy challenge, but a similar program last year in communities across the state of Kansas was surprisingly effective.

Don’t forget to tell your friends — we’re itching for competition! Also, we’re collecting “household energy profiles” from folks to inspire others. Check out our survey here, and please consider filling one out!

Ann Arbor 350 Mission & Goals

Thanks to all who have provided feedback on our Mission & Goals Statement. This is what it looks like right now:

Mission Statement

Ann Arbor 350 mobilizes individuals to confront climate change at the local level with global actions that are easy, inclusive, and fun. Often, our activities mirror those of the international movement.

We will promote the following:

  • Building a network of people and organizations committed to individual, household and community-scale change
  • Creating a comprehensive Climate Action Plan for Washtenaw County
  • Establishing a clean energy program for buildings
  • Promoting renewable energy through community aggregated demand to increase our renewables purchasing power and obtain an overall savings on the cost
  • Encouraging residents to use green transportation (biking, walking, transit, etc.)
  • Fostering collaboration between the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan


We still welcome your feedback. This statement will be finalized on January 31st. To offer comments and edits, email us or join the Google Group.

350 FacebookFacebook: Stay connected about No Impact Week, the Household Energy Challenge, and more!

Ann Arbor 350 has a “Community Page” on Facebook. It’s a place to share articles and new ideas about decreasing individual and household carbon footprint.

Click here to check it out and join the conversation.

December 2010 Newsletter

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December 2010



This is the Ann Arbor 350 e-newsletter! We aim to keep you informed about local activities to reduce climate change pollution that are easy, fun, and inclusive.

Thank you for your support of our work!

Note: To manage your email subscriptions,
click here and our system will send you an email with a link to manage all of your subscriptions.


Michigan By Rail Public Forum

Thurs, Dec. 9th, 6-8pm

Washtenaw Community College – Morris Lawrence Building

The Michigan By Rail public forum will be in Ann Arbor this Thursday, December 9 from 6-8pm at Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Building. This is one of 16 forums being held around the state.

Confirmed participants for Ann Arbor’s forum include:
* Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje
* Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber
* Congressman John Dingell
* State Representative Alma Wheeler Smith
* State Representative Pam Byrnes
* State Senator-elect Representative Rebekah Warren
* State Representative-elect Jeff Irwin
* Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith

For more information, visit

Mark Your Calendar – February is Energy Challenge Month!

This February, the City of Ann Arbor is hosting an Energy Challenge. Ann Arbor 350 will form a team to “compete against” other households. It’s really a win-win (dollar- and kilowatt-saving) for everyone who participates.

The Energy Challenge website isn’t quite ready yet, but if you sign up at, you’ll be one of the first to know. Tell your friends too — you may be able to start your own team (we’re itching for competition!).

If you’d like to help with the Energy Challenge in January, let us know.

350 Gardens Survey

Emily and Alyse (two UM students who volunteered for the 350 Garden Challenge in October) wanted to do more. They asked how they could volunteer after the Challenge also. The answer: Figure out how we continue to support the existing gardens and assess our accomplishments.

In addition to all the weeding, raking, mulching, and building they did at Dicken Elementary, they’ve developed this short and sweet survey to help our community take food gardening to new heights in 2011. Please take a minute to tell us about your 350 garden and what you’d like to learn more about next year.

Ann Arbor 350 Mission & Values


To get the most for our community from this collaboration, we decided to do a mission and values exercise. Since the most valuable thing about Ann Arbor 350 is that it leverages the incredible, already-existing resources in our community, we would love to have your feedback.

To participate, please email us or join the Google Group by December 15th.

Facebook: It’s True!

Ann Arbor 350 has a “Community Page” on Facebook. It’s a place for you to share links with others interested in local climate issues — and to tell us what you’re interested it.

Click here to visit the page.

The Ecology Center works for a safe and healthy environment where people live, work, and play.

Make a donation to support projects of the Ecology Center.

To subscribe to our newsletter, click here.
Unsubscribe here.

Next Up? Energy Challenge!

Many of us live in old homes that waste energy and, by extension, money. There are plenty of things we can do to save both money and energy, but they’re not really that fun. Especially for homeowners or renters to do by themselves. That’s why our next project is the Energy Challenge — to save money, reduce Ann Arbor’s residential carbon footprint, and have fun!

Please contribute your energy saving ideas below in the Comments section. For inspiration, check out the Minnesota Energy Challenge.

Energy Efficiency

Return to the 350 Cookbook

Share ideas, tasks, and achievements on things you do to increase your home’s energy and resource efficiency.


There are a million and one things you can do to reduce carbon emissions in your own home, from turning down the heat, to replacing inefficient light bulbs, to taking a look at that insulation in your attic. But why do it on your own? There are great ways for sharing what we learn about and do in our homes to make them more efficient and friendly places in this shared world. Collaborate. Create a team. Start a neighborhood challenge. The most important aspect is sharing what you know with others! Each action then becomes more effective and more fun!

Taking steps that make your home more energy and resource efficient:

  • reduces carbon emissions
  • reduces waste
  • saves you money
  • can increase your home value

Making these changes together as a group or team:

  • builds a connection to the people who live around you
  • is more fun
  • has been shown to make the benefits not only last, but even increase over time!

Even if only 5-10% of the homes in a community are involved in a group, the whole community will benefit! For more information visit Global Action Plan International


Recipe for a Neighborhood Team Effort to Increase Home Energy and Resource Efficiency



  1. Gather people together and/or start a shared blogging site (for example, see Friday Mornings at SELMA) to stay in touch about what you are working on.
  2. Decide on some shared actions or a theme like: community recycling, reducing your use of gasoline via shared appliances or car pools, reducing community use of electricity by installing electronic thermostats, or reducing water consumption.
  3. Meet once a month to share your experiences, difficulties, ideas, resources, and achievements related to environmental behaviors in your home. Collaborate, compare, exchange, help out, or even challenge each other – what changes have you made?
  4. Choose other actions or other recipes to do together.

You can design the sharing process yourself, or use one of the great, detailed step-by-step group workbooks or programs already out there like:

  1. Low Carbon Diet Teams
  2. 30-Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds of Your Household’s Carbon Output
  3. Green Living Handbook (Household EcoTeam Program)
  4. 6 Step Program to Create An Environmentally Sustainable Lifestyle
  5. Home Free Energy: Offers Ann Arbor residents a “Weekend Parties” service of neighbors learning how to increase their homes’ efficiency together. As Jannette Lutz states “Herd your neighbors together for a Saturday or Sunday with us all going house-to-house, learning how we can get more energy efficient.” For more info contact:
  6. The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins
  7. Transition Towns – Totnes: See how other communities are creating resilient, vibrant, and self-sustaining communities and get tips to begin the transformation of your own community!