"The American public has always been slow about accepting challenges and making change, even if they're told negative things will happen otherwise," Bob Kochtitzky says. "So what I decided to do is to find small things they could do."
Kochtitzky, who was head of Mississippi 2020 until this year, is a veritable living legend among the green community in Jackson. This Sunday he will be among presenters at Jackson's 15th annual Earth Day celebration at Jamie Fowler Boyll Park (adjacent to Smith Wills Stadium on Lakeland Drive). The festival will feature music, including Sherman Lee Dillon and the Dillonaires, Red Hill City and The Houserockers. It will also feature a "junk to funk" art competition, a solar oven cook-off, nature arts and crafts for children, food by Domini Bradford and—you guessed it—Kochtitzky.
Among the "small things" Kochtitzky will discuss at the Earth Day celebration are two truly easy steps—replacing incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs and using recycled toilet paper.
Fluorescent bulbs have come a long way from those flickering, ghastly white lights we all love to hate, Kochtitzky says. The new bulbs, which occupy roughly the same space as a regular incandescent bulb, give off a warm glow barely distinguishable from incandescent bulbs. The difference is that compact fluorescent bulbs last much longer and use only a fraction of the electricity.
According to the Department of Energy, compact fluorescent bulbs use only one-third the electricity of an incandescent, and the bulbs last 10 times longer. In addition to direct savings, compact fluorescents generate 70 percent less heat. "These bulbs create less heat, so in the summertime the bulbs will not fight your AC to make it cooler. We're using electricity to heat the home through light bulbs and then more electricity to cool the home with an air conditioner," Kochtitzky says.
As a consequence of these savings, even though compact fluorescent bulbs cost more than incandescent bulbs, they wind up being cheaper in the long run. A compact fluorescent costs about $5, depending on the wattage, but over its lifetime, each bulb will save you $30, according to the Department of Energy. Savings like this—both in terms of energy and money—may be why Australia mandated that compact fluorescents replace all incandescent bulbs by 2010. Malcolm Turnbull, Australia's environment minister, says that the changeover will reduce home lighting costs by 66 percent and prevent the release of 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Considering that Australia only has a population of 20 million people, a similar change in the U.S., with its 300 million population would prevent 12 million tons being released.
Americans use approximately 5.8 million tons of tissue-grade paper every year, the bulk of it toilet paper. All those trips to the bathroom make a huge impact on the environment. There are more than 500 paper mills in the U.S., and 28 percent of all trees cut down are used to make paper. What's more, the American Forest and Paper Association projects that worldwide paper consumption will rise 46 percent by 2040. That's a lot of dead trees to keep your fanny clean.
Now, Bay West offers EcoSoft, which is 100 percent recycled paper. "It's super-soft," Kochtitzky says, "and it's only 55 cents a roll."
Using recycled paper in toilet paper could make a huge impact. Every ton of paper that's recycled saves 17 trees, nearly 7,000 gallons of water and 463 gallons of oil. If the whole country switched to recycled paper, we could save close to 100 million trees a year.
Kochtitzky says he has yet to find EcoSoft in area stores, but you can order it through the mail or just call Kochtitzky, who gets EcoSoft from the Jackson Paper Company.
"People have, over the years, become disconnected from reality," he says. "The reality is that we are not in charge of the universe. … The elements in our bodies are the same as in the soil outside. We are connected to the Earth, and if we screw up the Earth, we screw up ourselves."
Jackson's 15th Earth Day celebration is Sunday at Jamie Fowler Boyles Park from 1 to 6 p.m. Call 601-383-4160 for more info.