This is our seventh installment of our series “Where I am in my environmentalism journey.” Today’s feature comes from Betsy Rivard.


I am an environmentalist. I think I was taught to be an environmentalist by my mother. She was an architect, and she was very interested in sustainable architecture. Our house in Chattanooga, built in 1954, had a heat pump as our source of heat and air conditioning. It must have been one of the first heat pumps in Chattanooga because we knew the repairman on a first name basis. Our house had a white marble chip roof, decreasing the heat gain in the summer time, and deep overhangs, allowing the winter sun to come in and warm up the dark slate floor. I didn’t think of our house as unusual at the time. My mother’s subtle influence, however, did affect my attitude towards conserving energy.

As an adult and mother, after moving to Atlanta and losing my husband to cancer when my kids were young, I purchased an energy efficient heat pump system (actually dual fuel) for our home as well as an efficient washer and dryer.

I met my partner Ed Arnold, a devoted environmentalist and UUCA member, in the early nineties, and we tried to live energy conscious lives together. In 2005 Ed was invited to participate in the Montreal UN Climate Change conference, and I attended with him. As a souvenir, we received wooden clothes pins decorated with stamps saying “MTL 05” and “The planet is holding its breath” in English and French, to be worn as conference pins. The idea was to convince everyone to hang up their clothes to dry instead of using a dryer, which uses a huge amount of energy. Around the same time, my son traveled to Germany to learn a lab technique for his PhD and stayed in a university dorm. He asked the German students where the clothes dryers were. They were not in the laundry room he used. The response he got was something like: “You Americans waste energy to dry clothes immediately when your clothes will dry naturally overnight!” He rarely uses a dryer now.

When Ed and I returned to Atlanta, we stopped using my dryer and hung up our clothes to dry. I must confess that I actually still used the dryer to dry my towels because I didn’t like how stiff the air-dried towels felt. However, Ed never used the dryer again. Ed was later diagnosed with leukemia and died within about three months. Shortly after he died, I was putting the towels in the dryer when it blew a fuse. The fuse holder even melted! I don’t believe in the ability of those who have died communicating with the living, but I am sure Ed would have enjoyed the timing of my dryer’s breakdown.

I never got my dryer fixed and have not used a dryer since then… June of 2008!

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