Going Green Goes Mainstream

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Father Charles Morris spends many afternoons on the roof of the rectory where he sounds more like an electrical engineer than a man of the cloth. He has taken his rectory in Wyandotte, Mich. off the power grid and installed high-efficiency light-bulbs and special sun-blocking screens over the windows of his church.

"What we have right here are eight 80 watt Kyocera solar panels. And a 400 watt Southwest air wind turbine," he told Sunday Morning correspondent Russ Mitchell. "We estimate that we are saving about $20,000 a year in terms of utility bills."

Whether it's because of high fuel prices, or worries about global warming, environmentalism seems to be going mainstream. Wyandotte is a Detroit suburb of 28,000 — not the most likely place for a green revolution. But Wyandotte, like a lot of places, is beginning to change.

For example, the town is trying to make its grimy, noisy power plant a little greener by mixing shredded used tires with coal.

"We burn close to three million tires a year," said Melanie McCoy, the General Manager of the town's Municipal Services. "It is a cheaper source of fuel, and it burns cleaner than coal."

McCoy has plans to for even cheaper, cleaner power. She's wants to put up wind turbines along the Detroit River, like these in nearby Bowling Green, Ohio.

"For the city, it'll give us two megawatts for each wind tower, and for every two megawatts we'll be supplying over 700 homes with electricity, cutting back on our emissions and being able to supply 'em with cheap power," she said.

Across town, Mary Lynne and Stan Rutkowski are using less gas. In the past couple of years they've traded in two SUVs for fuel-efficient hybrids — cars now so popular that many buyers have to get on waiting lists. They said that with their SUVs, they were getting 13 miles per gallon of gas. Now they get about 45 miles per gallon of gas with their Toyota Priuses. The Rutkowski's switch to cars made in Japan has raised eyebrows in Wyandotte, a town built partly on the American auto industry. In fact, Mary Lynne says she was in her car one day, when a driver in an SUV yelled she was costing American autoworkers their jobs. She held her tongue, even though she had a ready answer.

"I was gonna say, 'Well, you're the reason the ice caps are melting,'" she said.

A hybrid driver on the TV show "South Park" wasn't so shy. The character driving a Prius pulls up next to SUV and said: "You know, the emissions from a vehicle like yours causes irreparable damage to the ozone. I drive a hybrid, it's much better for the environment. Thanks."

Al Gore's film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," is the 3rd highest-grossing documentary in history. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll finds that two-thirds of Americans now believe global warming is having a serious impact. Three out of four believe it's necessary to take steps right away to counter its effects. Businesses like Ford and GE are responding and are trying to show they're environmentally friendly.

See The Results Of The CBS/New York Times Poll
"People are learning how to make their profit by helping nature rather than by destroying nature," said Kevin Danaher, one of the organizers of Green Festival, which is going on this weekend in Washington and is billed as the world's largest environmental expo. "We're seeing capital shift toward the green economy. Toward an economy where there's two greens, this green, and the environmental green. Where you can make better profits protecting nature and saving nature and saving resources, than you can destroying the environment. And that's a seminal shift, we're going into a different kind of economy. "