Source vs. site energy
I've been on a two-week "vacation."
Driving cross country in near-hundred-degree heat. Camping with the dog. Performing subsistence tasks alone.
I thought I might recreate the magical odyssey I took last summer. Newly liberated from my high-pressure job, I went camping alone for the first time.
But this year the energy was different. I needed more stamina than spunk.
I entered my 60th year on the planet.
I fought off a wicked case of vertigo.
And back home, I was dog tired and still a bit dizzy. It was hard to pick up where I left off.
But feeling guilty about lost time is a waste of energy. It also misses a really important point: Taking ourselves out into the world—and having to struggle a bit—actually gives us the energy we need.
Why is that?
Science folks define two types of energy:
Site Energy is the amount of energy consumed by a building or a home.
Source Energy is the amount of total energy needed. It includes what is consumed by utilities and other entities in order to supply that energy.
I guess Source Energy is the true calculus of what it takes to run a business or a life.
I earn my living now as a writer and storyteller. As I take stock of what I’ve spent and what I’ve earned — what I’ve invested and what I’ve enjoyed — I also look at the sources of my fuel.
And I consider: How can I keep mining that fuel, in a sustainable way, in year two and year three and beyond?
And how can I set an example for others who also aim to capture, store and expend energy responsibly?
I take my cues from nature.
There are 10 main sources of energy used in the world: solar, wind, geothermal, hydrogen, tidal, wave, hydroelectric, biomass, nuclear and fossil.
As beings of the human variety, we obsess daily over our activity. Our phones track our number of steps. Flights climbed. Minutes of exercise. Other devices monitor caloric intake and burn.
When people ask how we are, first we say "busy." Then we say "tired."
By ignoring our intake of power, we feel drained. Reduced. Depleted. Diminished.
We go about our lives completely unaware of our moment-to-moment absorption of nature's power.
What if we wore devices that measured our intake of power from the sun? And the wind. And the waves.
Then we would view our time in nature as necessary. We would return from vacation—or from a barefoot walk in the park—energized.
Driving across Utah's Salt Flats, I soaked up sun. Standing under Stewart Falls near Provo, water pounded power directly into my open heart. And sleeping on the ground on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, I stored geothermal warmth.
Soon, I'll be sailing in the San Juan Islands, where I'll add a gust of wind power to my grid.
Some days, life can be a heavy lift. But we live in a world of plenty.
In the months and years ahead, I'll use the energy I've stored to make sense of the world around me.
And I hope you will too.