Energy Conservation and it's Impact on Renewable Energy!
Renewable Energy is something we are all concerned about. However, for many of us the option to use known Renewable Energy sources are out of reach. For example, my husband and I would love to use solar panels, solar hot water, wind mills, make our own bio-diesel and go off grid. But unfortunately, the cost of this conversion is just beyond our financial reach. Therefore, since we can't use typical renewable energy we create it through conservation.
Yes I know that sounds crazy, but it the only way that I can describe our approach. Since, we are unable at this time to convert to off grid living we have decided that by not using as much energy in a way is like using renewable energy. If we are not buying energy high products and using something with less energy impact we are in a sense spinning the "Giant Eco-Meter" backwards. And after all isn't using renewable energy about getting away from our current means of powering our lives?
What are high energy products you are probably asking yourself. For us, they are any item that uses a lot of manufacturing, not energy star rated, and not made from green sources. So here are some of the things that we have done to make our "Giant Eco-Meter" run backwards:
One of the first things we did in effort to conserve energy was to look at our petroleum oil usage. Petroleum oil is one of the highest energy products we use. We as Americans use approximately 21 million barrels a day. Let's face it Americans have a huge oil addiction that puts us at the mercy of corporate greed and the whims of foreign Governments. While the majority of our oil consumption goes to gasoline. Petroleum oil is used to make fertilizers, plastics, solvents, diesel, jet fuel and pesticides. Keep in mind according to the Petroleum Institute of America one barrel of oil produces roughly 19.4 gallons of gas.
We were aware of the amount of gas we used but realized do to where we live there wasn't too much we could do about the amount we drove. But in order, to reduce our gas consumption we bought for my husband a little energy efficient commuter car and I took his old car to drive on a day to day basis. Thus reserving our Suburban to only long distance trips, and garbage days. This small change saved around 44 gallons of gas going into our truck's tank every two weeks. This simple change saves almost 3 barrels of oil. In addition, by us not using this amount gasoline on a regular basis that is 3 barrels of oil that are saved, 3 less barrels that have to be drilled for, transported to refineries, refined and transported again to the local gas station. What the exact savings is I honestly can't say but I know that it makes a huge difference in environment.
Another, area that we had huge problems with was the fact that our older home is run off a oil burning furnace. This furnace not only provides us with heat but our hot water as well. When we moved to our mountain home in VA we realized very quickly that we needed to tame the fuel oil bill for hot water and heat. This was our biggest issue. Not only was the oil for the 1000 gallon tank expensive we felt that there had to be a better way. Like I said at the beginning we had looked into solar panels, solar hot water heaters and making bio-diesel to reduce or replace this shameful amount of oil consumption. However, it is the age old story of yes it will be a good investment and will save us money but....you need the money upfront to play the game. I am sad to say we haven't won the lottery yet. So onto plan B. We realized that a lot of people around us used wood or pellet stoves to heat their homes in the winter. Intrigued my husband, ever environmentally aware, began to research wood and pellet stoves.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that most new wood stoves and pellet stoves come with built in catalytic converters. These converters are just like the ones on your car that help reduce emissions by burning off a lot of the polluting gases that come from using wood products for heat. They also make the stoves run more efficiently as well. We were sold so we purchased a wood stove for our upstairs fireplace. Immediately we noticed a huge difference in our home. We realized that the room our wood stove in, which was the hardest to keep warm in the winter, was warm without using our main heat. We were so pleased with set up we purchased a pellet stove for our downstairs fireplace. Because of these purchases we found after one year of using them for winter heat we reduce our oil consumption by 500 gallons. I realized that in the winter this was also a great way to supplement our hot water usage as well. Since burning wood can make your home dry I started putting pots of water on top of the stove to provide some moisture to the air. This water once heated I often pour into my sink to wash dishes, put in thermos to keep warm and use for cooking or hand washing. When I started doing this on a regular basis we saw an additional savings of 20 gallons of oil a year.
We also found out that there are many ways to use green energy to power our stoves. Our pellet stoves runs off pellets that are made from compressed sawdust from wood mills. So no additional trees were harmed in the making of these pellets. For our traditional wood burning stove we found a local saw mill that sells the ends and pieces of wood that they are not using for production very cheap. So the wood we use for our wood burning stove comes from there. This year we have found and started to use Eco-Bricks which are the same as wood pellets just bigger and burn twice as long as regular wood.
Thus inspired, we began to look at other areas that we used high energy products, and what could we change. We ditched the paper towels, and paper napkins in favor of cloth napkins and dishtowels. As Americans, we send around 3,000 tons of paper towels to the dump each year. In order to make these towels it takes one to two mature trees,average height of 60 feet, to make one roll of paper towels, and about 200 gallons of water per roll. The energy impact of paper towels is huge beyond the loss of trees and water. The impact on landfills, the amount of oil and gas that need to be used to harvest the trees, make the paper and the chemicals involved. This we decided was something we could live with out and started using dishtowels and cloth napkins in place. Not only have we saved a whole bunch of trees and manufacturing costs we have saved probably saved around $200.00 years by not purchasing these things.
These are just a few of the other things that we have done to change our energy usage: hang our clothes out to dry whenever I can, stopped using dryer sheets (which use a lot of chemicals and junk to make), can and freeze a lot of summer veggies and fruits that we pick from local farms, leave my oven door open after I am done cooking to help put heat out in the room and try to buy local to reduce the amount of gas being used to transport these items.
While, we haven't achieved our goal of being off grid and still don't use solar or other known forms of renewable energy we feel that we are making a difference. I have realized that in Free Capital Society we have the power to say what we want and what we don't want to use. If we all just found little ways to change our usage we would be sending a loud messages to the oil companies, and manufacturing that we want something different. After all if we aren't buying it they won't be selling it. And then, and only then maybe we can all go to a greener world.