Brandon Shamim: Local Hero

Starting Over with Clean Energy

What does saving energy mean to you?

When we talk about energy, I think it’s really important to have a balanced view of what we need as consumers but also what we need to protect the integrity of the environment for future generations.

For me, leadership is about making choices. The choices we make each and every day inform and shape what we need to do in order to enjoy our lives, but also to harmonize with what we can do to protect and preserve the environment.

What inspired you to make a serious commitment to saving energy in your own life?

Californians have a very healthy recognition of two things: that we’re in earthquake country and drought country. So being very intentional about how we could make a contribution while making it interesting and inspirational for others led us to want to make the effort in our own neighborhood and family.

My brother-in-law had installed solar panels, and I was envious. We made an earnest attempt to do so ourselves, but a very large California sycamore in our backyard was in the way.

I was looking for an opportunity to do something that would make a statement. So when the opportunity came about for the California rebate, and being in the thick of a crushing drought, we said this is our time to strike—to balance what we’d already done on the inside with what we wanted to do on the outside.

What were the first steps you took toward becoming energy efficient?

This is our first home together. And we wanted to make an investment that reflected our identity and our values. I grew up on the East Coast where water was a non-issue. My mother always spent time tending to the garden. So I always appreciated the importance of protecting and preserving nature. My mom used to say you actually need to prune in order for things to grow. It was challenging, but we decided to rip out our lawn. It was an emotional divide that we had to cross. We are very used to having verdant lawns—that’s iconically American.

Southern California is a desert, so in a lot of ways, we’re returning it back to its natural order. By putting in succulents and natives that are drought tolerant, I was able to cross this divide. It’s called zero-scaping: reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making landscapes drought tolerant. And I love the fact that we were the first on our block.

We also installed a drip system that takes less water, so there’s a little science to yard work as well. It’s more intricate and costlier, but like I said, a very balanced way of preserving and protecting nature. My wife put in a wonderful lavender garden, and in the summertime it’s a haven for honeybees and birds. And we all know that bees are the great pollinators of our natural world. So I know that we are doing our part to keep the ecosystem going.

What energy-saving improvements did you make to the inside of your home?

We put in dual-pane energy-efficient doors and windows that let in natural light. We never have to turn on the lights until evening. We have skylights, and people ask, where’s the switch? There’s so much natural light. And even our California sycamore provides so much shade. It’s a very heavy tree, a full canopy. The temperature in that part of our house went up exponentially when we trimmed it.

We have installed all energy-efficient LED bulbs and recessed lighting. And like I said, because of the natural light coming in, I can literally count on one hand how many lamps we have in the entire house. The washer and dryer are new smart appliances. We spent a considerable amount on that.

What’s one easy thing people can do to save energy?

Your home electronic devices: there are so many of them in our world, they’re energy vampires. So just take the time to either put them on a power strip or turn them off. It’s such a quick and easy thing that everybody can do.

Make intentional choices every day. Design your life to have a balance between what you need and what you need to do to preserve and protect the environment.