Global warming, greenhouse gases it all sounds so distant, foreign, and out of our control.
I mean, where do greenhouse gases even come from? How can we as individuals make a difference?
In the first blog post of this series, we delved into where greenhouse gases come from. We can't begin to tackle to problem if we don't know where to start.
The largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions comes from electricity and power.
Even though renewable energy is rapidly growing, it still only accounts for 10-15% of the overall energy supplied.
This means the remaining 85-90% is powered through fossil fuels.
First and foremost, I want to talk about what we can do as individuals.
1. Reduce Consumption:
This first step is to make sure you're turning the lights off when you leave the room. Adjust the thermostat when you're not in the room or at home. Wash your clothes in cold water. Line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.
Work on small changes that can help to reduce the amount of power you consume.
2. Tackle Phantom Electricity:
Did you know almost 20% of a home's energy is consumed from phantom electricity? Phantom electricity is consumed by power cords plugged into the socket, but not actively charging anything or being used.
When you're not charging your laptop or your phone make sure you unplug the charger from the wall.
3. Switch to LED Light Bulbs:
Instead of your typical halogen bulb, switch to and LED. LED light bulbs use way less energy for the same level of brightness. Switch out your lightbulbs, save power, and save some cash too!
4. Opt into a renewable power options:
Think you have to install solar to move away from fossil fuels? Think again! Opt for community solar or shared solar. Some electric companies even have programs you can opt into.
You stay on your cities power grid, but you can choose to get your electricity from renewable options like solar and wind. If it's ever not sunny or windy enough, you have can use the normal grid as back up.
Look for community or shared solar in your area.
5. Install Solar:
If you have the means and an ideal rooftop, go ahead and install solar panels on your home! Thank you for continuing the clean energy revolution.
1. Opt for light colored roofs and pavement:
Together as a group you can work together on lightening the pavement and roofs. Dark surfaces absorb heat while light colors reflect it.
White roofs and pavement can be up to 42 degrees cooler than darker colors. This helps to reduce on-site temperature and lowers the demand for air conditioning. This reduces the consumption of electricity and lowers the demand on the power grid.
2. Bring in more vegetation:
Work on bringing in more vegetation. If your city, town, or street is made up of mostly concrete and buildings, try to add more greenery.
Not only will it suck carbon dioxide from the air, it also helps to insulate the area keeping it warmer or cooler depending on the weather. This in turn will reduce heating and cooling bills saving lots of electricity.
3. Start an Electricity Competition:
With your like minded community, start an electricity competition. Pick a goal to reach, and check in with each electricity bill to see who's winning.
It's the same principle as having a steps contest to encourage more exercise! Friendly competition and routine accountability can create a lasting and effective impact.
Once you've really got the game down, try expanding it throughout the town. Start a Facebook group or use an app like Next Door for neighborhood to neighborhood challenges.
4. Have a Weekly Dark Hour:
Institute a weekly dark hour where the goal is to use no electricity for one hour each week.
Try and find activities that don't require any electricity at all. Meet up with your friends to go on a walk, read a book in the park, or take the excuse for a nice afternoon nap.
5. Throw a Community Potluck:
While this doesn't have to do with saving energy directly. It's a great forum to talk about saving energy and encourage your neighbors to start a friendly competition.
The point of group action is to get others involved in fun ways so don't forget to publicize all of your challenges. Hosting a community potluck of block party is a great way to spread the word.
1. Get Creative:
Businesses have a lot of power to get creative! This business decided to use dog poo to power street lamps. How cool is that!?
I see innovative ideas coming from the business sector all of the time.
2. Get an Audit:
The first thing you need to understand is what is consuming the most electricity? Get an energy audit done by a pro to understand the areas you could improve on.
3. Work with Nature:
Many office buildings are closed off and don't make good use of natural light. Try and find ways to work with nature. The book Cradle to Cradle does an excellent job explaining architecture that works with nature rather than against it.
4. Go for Energy Star:
If you need to buy new appliances or equipment look for the ones that are energy star rated. Pay attention to how much energy they consume.
5. Move off Grid:
Could your company benefit from moving off the grid and onto a renewable system? Many companies are making the shift simply because it's much cheaper.
Target, Costco, Khols, Walmart, even Toyota has it's own solar field. Many large companies are switching because it's so much cheaper.
I'm going to take a wild guess that most of you reading this article are not in public office?
Without being in office, it's difficult to enact policy change, but it's important to remember that we are the employers of those we do have that power.
It's really important to do your research and vote for people who are pro-environment!
Then, make a point of meeting with your elected officials, call them, send them emails, send them faxes be an active constituent. Let them know what you want and how you feel.
2. Start Small:
There's an overwhelming feeling that change isn't enough unless it comes from the top. This couldn't be more wrong. In fact, I'd be willing to argue local government is just as important.
Find local initiatives you can bring to your city council to have them vote on. What about motion activated lights to decrease the amount of time street lights are on? What about solar for city buildings and schools? What more community gardens and green spaces to help insulate the town? What about city wide electricity saving competitions like we talked about earlier. The city might be able to offer a cool incentive or at least be able to raise more awareness.
3. Create New Building Standards:
Look at creating new building codes to promote energy efficiency. It would be great to have construction standards that are cost effective for the consumer both in the building stage and will save money in the long run due to lower energy costs.
4. Appliance Standards:
Appliance consume a lot of house hold energy. Appliances should run efficiently, and planned obsolescence should be illegal. Appliances also consume a lot of energy and resources in their production.
Renewables still make up such a small percent of the global energy production. Renewables aren't perfect. There's a lot of things we can do to improve them to balance the grid.
I would work on policy incentivizing renewable energy while trying to find practical solutions to maintain consistent grid energy to be able to phase out fossil fuels.