Burch Family - Buffalo Solar Solutions - Buffalo NY

Making Buffalo Green: Inside One Buffalo Family’s “Why”

Don and Erin Burch try to be considerate of the impact their household has on the environment, and going solar was the next logical step. Here’s more on one family’s crusade to make Buffalo green.

Based out of Orchard Park, the Burch family may very well be the model family for sustainability, and they know it. “We are that green, crunchy family,” Erin, a mother and registered dietician says. “Honestly, if we could get a windmill in our yard, we would.” It was this mindset that led Erin and her husband, Don, to Buffalo Solar Solutions. The Burches are raising their young children—a seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son—as part of the first generation which has so much exposure to how directly our actions as humans affect the planet. Concerns like whether or not climate change is part of the political agenda, and increasing rates of deforestation and pollution, are more prevalent than ever. A need may resonate with most parents, as they watch their young kids play in the background, to create a greener and cleaner world for children to grow up in. By making the decision to go solar, the Burchs effectively decided that the wait to start building a sustainable future is over—the time to start is now.

Buffalo Solar Solutions (BSS): What originally motivated you to look into having solar installed on your home?
Erin Burch (EB): I didn’t know a lot about it at first, but it was definitely the environmental implications solar had for our household. It’s a cleaner form of energy, and it was something [my husband] and I talked about. We actually forgot about looking into it for a while, and then were reminded when an out-of-state company was coming door-to-door in our neighborhood. Instead of just going with the first company that reached out to us, we decided to do some more research on other solar companies, and are so glad we did.

BSS: What were your initial concerns and worries about going solar?
EB: Definitely on the financial side of things. And even now, when it comes up that we’ve had the install, people’s reaction is always the same: you’re so rich. And I was in that position, I didn’t know that solar was something that was attainable for us. My husband needed convincing. Until we talked to the owners, Tyler and Alicia, I did think it was an expensive process, and that it was unfathomable. But with all the different incentives, it is affordable for a family like ours. It’s a worthy investment because it’s nothing, it does even out. My only regret now is not doing it sooner, and now I’m just hopeful.

BSS: Do you think people today are considering the impact they have on the environment more so than 20 years ago? Do you think we’re headed in the right direction?
EB: I hope that is the case, but I also think we need more education. I think California is doing it right, and setting standards with their plastic bag and solar initiatives. Same with how big corporations are putting environmental concerns on their agenda. But I still think there needs to be higher awareness overall, because I don’t think people understand the impact they have on the environment and animals.

BSS: Beyond solar, what are some ways you both live your everyday lives sustainably? Which would you encourage others to do?
EB: We support local business, support our own, support farmers. We buy organic and do a crop share system. I drive a Prius. We cloth diapered our kids, and I always think about it in terms of the number of diapers our family didn’t add to a landfill. Bringing reusable bags to Wegmans rather than using plastic. Everyone can do a little bit.

BSS: Is living sustainably about making big or little changes in your opinion?
EB: Oh, little. Because it’s all the little changes that account to the big ones. Looking at the big picture is overwhelming because it seems unachievable for any single person or household.

BSS: What would you hope for peers that are buying or building their first house?
EB: I have kids that are 7 and almost 5, and people are always saying, “Oh, looking ahead, looking to future generations . . .” I’m worried about myself right now. So to start making changes now, would be my hope. After hearing about my experience cloth diapering my kids, my sister did it with her kids too. I think people always need to hear from somebody in the thick of it, so I hope we can be that for others when it comes to going solar.

BSS: In your humble opinion, what is the most serious issue facing the planet right now?
EB: It has to be our food system, and within that, the treatment of animals and the effect it has both on the environment and human health. I think about pesticides and what’s being put into the ground, GMOs, and putting that into our bodies.

BSS: What would you want to tell people that might still have doubts about solar energy?
EB: That anybody can have solar energy in their home. You don’t need a lot of money or some special financing to do it. Above all, I would tell people that it doesn’t hurt to look into it. You might as well gather all of your information and get the facts, and see if it’ll work for you. You’re going to pay an electrical bill for the rest of your life. What’s the saying—“Why rent what you can own?” With utility companies, that’s essentially it, you’re renting electricity. With solar, at some point, you’ll be pocketing that money.

BSS: What are your thoughts on the solar code for the residents of Orchard Park?
EB: The code in our town prevents solar installations on the street-facing side of the roof. So that was a bit upsetting, because we did want our panels to be visible from the street. We wanted to show them off to raise awareness in our neighborhood. And it did inconvenience this project, because we had to make changes to the design plans before we could start installing.

BSS: What do you think you’ll do with the money you’ll have saved from going solar?
EB: Everyone is always looking for money. We have two young children. It’s nice to think about the idea of using it to spend time as a family, taking a vacation. We feel like it’s investing in our lives.

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