Monday, March 18, 2013

Change can be good

I've been working toward becoming a Climate Master -- an expert (of sorts) on all things related to the climate and our environment. It's a lot like the Master Gardener program, just with a different focus. I've learned some pretty incredible things, and I'm going to spend the coming weeks sharing them here.

My main focus will be on things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. And if you don't really care about the environment, or don't accept that humans are changing the climate, those things will still help you save money and eat healthier.

Change can be good--individually, locally, and globally.

Do you need to take out a second mortgage to install geothermal or solar? No. Do you need to trade in your car for a hybrid or electric? Nope. They're great if you can afford them, but they're not necessary.

See, change doesn't have to be difficult. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Change for the better can be as simple as a series of small steps that cumulate to become something greater. If everyone commits to making small changes, just think what our collective actions can do.

coremediagroup (source)

So to get you thinking, here's a breakdown of how a typical U.S. household uses energy (from Energy Savers):
45% - heating
18%  - water heating
9% - cooling (e.g., air conditioning)
6% - computers and electronics
6% - lighting
5% - other
4% - cooking
4% - refrigeration
3% - wet cleaning

How can you easily reduce your household energy use? 
  • Heating your house is by far the biggest chunk of that bill--Turn down the heat! For every degree you lower your heat, you save 3% off your heating bill. Set your daytime temperature at 68 and wear a sweater.
  • Get a programmable thermostat (one that's easy to program). Use it to turn the heat down 8 degrees at night, when you're bundled up under a pile of blankets (yes, if you're doing the math, that would be 60). Then have the heat kick in about 30 minutes before you get up, so the house isn't freezing.
  • Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket. Yes, touching your water heater can be scary if you haven't done it before, but the insulation will make a big difference.
  • Hang your clothes to dry. This one is a huge energy saver. If you live in a dry area with lots of sun, you clothes will be dry in about the same amount of time as using the dryer, but with zero emissions and zero addition to your electric bill. (As an added bonus, sunlight will erase vegetable- or fruit-based stains. For serious, try it out sometime. It doesn't work on grease or dirt, but other stuff, like tomato or blueberry? Sunlight, baby, all the way.)

Those are things that will put a big dent in your utility bill. Line-drying clothing in summer will also help reduce the energy needed during peak times, which will help prevent an overloaded electric grid. That reduces the need to build new power plants, which saves you money in the long run (since the power company will pass on those costs to their customers).

See? Small, painless, and puts money back in your wallet.

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