January is the month of New Year’s resolutions. Why not make a resolution that can improve yourself while also lowering your carbon footprint? For our second week of resolutions, I thought that I would talk about energy usage. Throughout our lives we consume energy in many different ways. At home, we heat and cool our house either by directly burning fossil fuels or by using electricity. Additionally, we use electricity for a vast number of purposes, including powering the lights, appliances, computers, phones, televisions, power tools, and more. Outside the home, we use energy for transportation and perhaps to power our businesses and hobbies.
There are two primary ways to reduce your energy consumption: use less energy or use it more efficiently. Where possible, you should try to do both. Let me illustrate with an example. We all wash clothes using a washing machine. In order to reduce your energy consumption when washing clothes, you can either use the machine less often to wash clothes or use the washing machine in a more efficient way by either using a more energy-efficient cycle of the machine (e.g., a shorter, cold water cycle) or by replacing an older, inefficient washing machine with a newer energy star washing machine.
Another consideration is to replace appliances and devices that directly burn fossil fuels (e.g., cars with internal combustion engines, oil or gas furnaces, gas stoves and clothes dryers, and gasoline powered tools and garden appliances) with electric versions of the same.
It’s worth noting that there is a tradeoff when deciding to replace an appliance or device because quite a bit of energy is consumed when manufacturing and transporting goods, so you should opt to replace appliances only when you plan to use the new appliance for a long period of time, otherwise, you end up wasting more energy in your drive to stay current. In general, it’s also best to replace an inefficient appliance or device when it is close to the end of its useful life, but there may be exceptions to that rule if the device has a very large footprint or is an environmental hazard. For example, it makes sense to replace an oil furnace or older diesel car as soon as possible.
The other consideration is, of course, cost. Not everyone can afford to replace their fossil fuel-powered car or furnace immediately. Hopefully, government programs will soon kick in to ease the financial burden.
Here are some possible resolutions around energy usage:
- Lighting: Use less: turn off the lights when you leave the room. Use it more efficiently: replace older light bulbs with LED bulbs.
- Heating/Cooling: Use less: Turn down/up the thermostat. Use it more efficiently: if you can afford it, replace your fossil-fueled furnace with an electric heat pump.
- Appliances: Use less: Use them less frequently. Use it more efficiently: Wash bigger loads in the dishwasher or clothes dryer. Replace any fossil-fueled appliances with electric appliances.
- Electronic devices: Use less: Put down that phone. Turn off the television. Have some no-device days or evenings. Use it more efficiently: Don’t replace your mobile phone or computer as often.
- Automobiles: Use less: Walk, take the bus, ride your bike, batch up trips. Use it more efficiently: Drive slower; carpool. If you can afford it, replace your gasoline-powered car with an electric or hybrid.
Working together, we can help take care of our common home.