Tip Tuesday: Shut It Off

Water isn’t the only thing Americans are good at wasting. We are also wasteful of energy, which is especially disturbing considering that we are still using archaic forms of energy that are destructive to the earth. About 5% of the world’s population lives in the US and yet we use 18% of the world’s produced energy. And I use the word use lightly, since much of this is wasted.

Energy use is vital to daily life, and there aren’t easy workarounds like there are with water. But there are simple things we can all do to reduce our waste of energy.

The Numbers

In one month, the average American wastes 283 kilowatt hours of energy. What’s that mean? It’s about the amount of energy running an electric oven for 6 hours, nonstop, at 350° would use. And this isn’t per household. This is per person.

In 2011, primary energy consumption per person in the United States was about 310 million (Btu). The world per capita consumption of primary energy in 2011 was about 75 million Btu. That means that on average, each American uses four times as much energy as their British counterparts. (U.S. Energy Information Administration). 

Are we doing anything, as a country, to offset these numbers? Not really. About 10% of our energy came from renewable sources. In the same year, about 15% of electricity was generated from renewable energy sources.

There are ways, though, to cut down on your household and personal energy use and waste. And it’s easier than you might think. Bonus? If you pay the utility bill you will see a reduction.

5 Ways To Save Energy

Energy may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to ethical consumption or living a more eco-friendly, sustainable life. But there are lots of ways to trim your use throughout a typical day.

Stop Driving. Not completely. But cut down on driving when you can by opting to walk or bike to local spots. Need to go farther? Carpooling and mass transit are your best options. When I lived in New York I didn’t even have a car after about a year. It was easier to walk, bike and hop on the MTA. Here in Southern Vermont we’re a bit lacking on the mass transit front but I walk or ride my bike and drive fewer than three times a week most weeks. It’s liberating. In addition to knowing I’m being more ethical in my choices I get outside more.

The Numbers: Using a gallon of gas results in 22 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and responsible for climate change. If you haven’t accepted and gotten freaked out about climate change this is not the blog for you. You’ll likely prefer this site.

Clean and replace air filters when necessary. You know how it takes a lot more work to breathe when you have a cold or allergies? It takes more energy for your heating and cooling system to push air through dirty air filters.

The Numbers: Cleaning the filter on your a/c can reduce energy consumption by 5%, resulting in a 175 pound reduction of CO2 emissions each year.

Be an Energy Star. You don’t have to go out and replace everything right now. But as appliances age and you upgrade, always purchase Energy Star appliances. Also, buy the right size appliance for you. Sure, I love the look of a fancy washer and dryer but there are two of us.

The Numbers: An energy efficient fridge can save 1.4 tons (TONS!) of CO2 emissions a year.

Be patient. Do you really need to wear that particular shirt or pair of jeans? Why not try something you haven’t worn in a while? Running the washer without a full load is just silly. Also, I have no clue why most washers have the “extra rinse” option but stick that sucker on NO or OFF and never turn it back on. Use less or better soap if you find yourself needing an extra rinse.

The Numbers: This post goes into a lot about water waste when doing laundry and offers some great tips.

Chill out. Clothes do not need hot water. In fact, cold water is better for getting out stains. While we’re on the topic of hot water (which is necessary in your dishwasher!) turn down your water heater. The default is 140° but 120° is fine.

The Numbers: Dropping the temperature of your water heater saves 600 pounds of CO2 a year for every 10° reduced in an electric heater and 440 pounds for gas heaters. If every household did this, we’d reduce CO2 emissions by 45 million tons each year!

Learn 5 Ways To Save Energy

Energy Saving For Extremists

I’m not going to tell you to pee in your shower this week. I am going to offer a bonus way to help reduce energy use. Check out local, state and federal candidates where you live and engage in conversation about what they are doing locally to help save energy. Don’t vote for energy-unfriendly candidates. Learn more from The League of Conservation Voters.

Your Mission

This week, try to do three things every day that cut down on your use of energy. Be sure to come back next week when we look at all that paper you’re using.

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