Sustainability Starts at Home
A large part of the world is examining natural resources, renewable energy, energy conservation, and energy efficiency. As a species, mankind plunders and rapes the land, taking and never giving back. We destroy forest, pollute the water, contaminate the air, and bring wildlife to the brink of extinction. In the past few years the Fukishima disaster has been one of the worst radiation disasters in the history of mankind. BP's oil leak destroyed large amounts of the fish and natural ecosystem in the Gulf.
As a planet, the Earth has the ability to heal from, and restore most damage over time. Trees, algae, bacteria and other sources of natural cleaners perform this duty, but with what we are polluting the earth with, and ravaging the natural resources, it becomes harder and harder to repair the damage.
It may seem at times that the problem is too big, that there is nothing a person can do. However nothing could be further from the truth. However, a 5% reduction in energy consumption could result in a savings of $11billion/yr, and significantly reduce the pollution being released by energy plants. Imagine if every American saved 5% on their home energy bill. Not only would that save Americans money, it would reduce the load on the grid, reduce the demand for generation, reduce pollution, and give the earth a helping hand.
Waiting for solar, wind, geothermal or other forms of renewable energy to become viable may take too long, and we may have irreversible damage done to the earth. Most require battery storage to work efficiently. Batteries are not eco friendly long term, and the waste from the plants that produce them can be quite toxic to the environment. We need to perform immediate changes in our lifestyles to reduce, repair, and re-start our environment.
First is ways to reduce energy consumption around the home. As your incandescent lights burn out, replace them with energy reducing CFL's or LED's. Or if you have the money, replace them all at once. LED's are new to the market, so they are a bit pricier then CFL's. LED's typically consume less energy, generate less heat, but are more directional then diffuse.
Another means of reducing energy is to install either motion sensors on outdoor lights, allowing for on demand use instead of constant use, or to use a timer/light sensor to only keep them on during the night time. Wasting energy when not needed is irresponsible, expensive, and can easily be prevented. If you have children that do not turn the lights out when they leave the room(or even adults) install low cost motion detectors in the room, so the lights go out after no motion is detected. Installing light dimmers have proven to save energy as well.
Vampire electronics are another means to save some energy. Most devices such as battery chargers, dvd players, computers, game systems all consume energy when turned "off". Leaving your computer powered up or in standby when not being used, especially overnight, is another waste of energy.
Install a smart thermostat in your house to control and regulate your temperature, and use the recommended settings from DOE to maximize your energy savings. When your appliances run out, research which ones are going to be more energy efficient when replacing them. Look for EnergyStar ratings on the new appliances to make sure you are getting the most energy efficient appliances you can purchase.
Getting a professional residential energy audit from a Certified Energy Manager or your local utility can help even more. They can analyze your HVAC unit, your insulation, window seals, heat/cold air transfer between indoors and outdoors, and other aspects of your house to improve efficiency. It is important to realize and understand that when it comes to saving energy at home, no little box is going to save you 15%. Beware of these scams, they do not work. You can improve your seals, windows, insulation, HVAC, appliances and so on, but you cannot install a box that saves energy like magic. If you have any questions about a device being marketed to you, contact your local utility(or ask me) to verify its savings.
Now that your house is energy efficient and you are saving energy at home, look at other means to reduce pollution, repair the environment and make an impact. Maintain your car to ensure it is as efficient as possible. Keep your oil changed, tires inflated, filters changed, and drive responsibly. Refrain from washing your car during drought or low rain conditions.
If you own your home, and have some land, consider planting some trees, plant some bee friendly flowers, plant some hummingbird friendly flowers. Create a little oasis of wildlife in your yard, providing a habitat for birds and bee's. The honeybee population is in drastic decline, planting flowers specific to them will help rebuild the population, if it is not irreversible at this point. If there is no county/state ordinance preventing it, consider collecting rain water to use for watering your gardens and yards.
Recycling is another means of helping the environment. Find your local recycle centers and make it a point to actively recycle all that you can. The more products that are recycled, are less products that end up in landfills. Above all else, don't litter!!
Last, locate a local green earth society or chapter, or create one yourself. There you can learn more about all aspects of living green, can become active in local activities(Arbor day tree planting), can help pick up litter, keep trails clean, and learn about endangered species in your area and how to not only protect them, but sustain them.
Changing our wasteful ways, making efforts to save energy will not be easy, but it is an important effort that every person needs to make. We don't want our grandchildren wearing breathing equipment, reading about tree's and animals that are extinct, and living a life indoors due to the toxicity of the environment.