5 Ways to Conserve Energy

5 Ways to Conserve Energy

How can we conserve energy every day? Well, I’m glad you asked. Saving energy is incredibly important for saving the environment. Conserving energy reduces air and water pollution and conserves natural resources, which in turn creates a healthier living environment for people everywhere. On top of this, being energy efficient also saves money on your electric bill. As summer and winter come along, we all know the heating and cooling aspect of our homes doubles. That’s why it’s important to learn ways to save energy for both you and our environment’s sake. Here are 10 ways to conserve energy on the daily.

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5 Ways to Conserve Energy

5 Ways to Conserve Energy

Why should we conserve energy?

First of all, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about conserving energy to begin with. Well, I don’t just blog about zero waste living – this blog addresses all kinds of sustainability topics. And saving energy is one I’ve yet to talk about.

The other day my mom was talking to me about the air conditioner and how soon our electric bill would be going up because of the warm weather. And that gave me an idea – why not write a post about ways to save the planet, and save money, by conserving energy?

Beyond that though, we should conserve energy for a multitude of environmental reasons. First and foremost, most of our energy still comes from fossil fuels (aka coal, natural gas, and petroleum). Other sources include nuclear energy and renewable energy sources (like solar, geothermal and wind power).

While renewable energy is certainly on the rise, it’s not the main source of power for most of our homes yet. Most electricity that powers our refridgerators, thermostats, TVs, and computers come from generating stations powered by fossil fuels.

One of the best things you can do is switch over to clean energy, but for those who cannot yet, it’s a good idea to conserve energy as much as possible.

According to the EPA, nearly all parts of the electricity system can affect the environment, and the size of these impacts will depend on how and where the electricity is generated and delivered.

In general, the environmental effects of electricity can include*:
  • Emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, especially when a fuel is burned.
  • Use of water resources to produce steam, provide cooling, and serve other functions.
  • Discharges of pollution into water bodies, including thermal pollution (water that is hotter than the original temperature of the water body).
  • Generation of solid waste, which may include hazardous waste.
  • Land use for fuel production, power generation, and transmission and distribution lines.
  • Effects on plants, animals, and ecosystems that result from the air, water, waste, and land impacts above.

* Taken from the EPA’s website.

It’s safe to say we need to conserve energy, and rely a lot less on fossil fuels to power our homes.

How where we live plays a role in our energy use

It’s worth mentioning that how much energy you use depends on your living conditions. Often times BIPOC and low-income communities get hit the worst with heatwaves in the summer, and this isn’t by accident.

What’s creating the additional heat in these areas? A lack of trees and green spaces.

Here’s an excerpt taken from Intersectional Environmentalist and American Forests:

“Neighborhoods with a majority of people in poverty have 25% less tree canopy on average than those with a minority of people in poverty, according to Tree Equity Score analysis of income, employment, age, ethnicity, health and surface temperature with tree canopy data in 486 metro areas.

In the most extreme cases, wealthy areas have 65% more tree canopy than communities where nine out of 10 people live below the poverty line.

These communities with too few trees are feeling the consequences. The average temperature can vary up to 10 degrees between places with trees and those without. Trees today prevent approximately 1,200 more heat-related deaths annually in American cities.”

Understandably so, this can lead to higher energy use in the summer to try and cool off (aka using the air conditioner + fans more) in BIPOC and low income communities.

If we are to create a system that relies less on fossil fuels and conserves energy, we need to also face environmental racism and how it impacts BIPOC communities in so many ways. And create more tree equity and access to green spaces!

For more information about how redlining and racist housing policies have left communities sweltering, be sure to check out this excellent NY Times article.

How can we conserve energy in our daily life?

So glad you asked! Now, here are some ways we can conserve energy in our daily lives (and save a buck doing it).

1. Plant more trees

If you have a yard or backyard, do yourself a favor and plant a tree in it. As it grows over the years, it can provide you with ample shade and cool down your home.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.*

And, to top this off, the USDA Forest Service says, “trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.”*

Imagine how incredible it would be if we planted more trees in BIPOC and low income communities as well? See if your local city or town offers any tree planting services, or if you can get permission to host a tree planting event. Make sure to see if you can request a tree on your street too – I know NYC lets you request a street tree be planted so make good use of that if you’re a New Yorker like me!

By planting more trees, especially in the areas that need them most, we’ll be helping the surrounding residents and businesses save energy and cool down more efficiently.

* Taken from Arborday.org

2. Shut the lights + choose LEDs

As cliché as it sounds, turning off the lights when you leave a room is a great way to make sure you’re not eating up excess energy. Also, during the day try to let natural sunlight in, instead of turning on lights.

And, better yet, make sure you’re using LED lightbulbs, as these tend to be the most energy efficient ones. LEDs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and CFLs use 25-35% less energy than conventional lighting. FYI, the best LED bulbs last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Because they last longer, they also produce less waste.

Here are my top energy-efficient lightbulb picks:

3. Unplug items when not in use

Phantom energy is a big problem. Did you know anything you have plugged in, even when not in use, is using energy? That’s why unplugging your devices is so important.

Typically, phantom electricity makes up nearly 25% of all your home energy consumption and certainly has an environmental impact as well.

Here are some solutions:
  • Simply unplug when not in use: Get in the habit of unplugging your devices after you finish using them. Especially phone chargers. When you’re not charging your phone, the electricity is still flowing through your plugged-in charger even if it is disconnected from your phone. Same can be said for kitchen appliances – make sure to unplug those when not in use as well.
  • Don’t leave products on stand-by: A lot of people think stand-by mode conserves energy but the truth is your electronics are still eating up energy, because they’re half on. Get into the habit of actually turning off your devices, not putting them into stand-by.
  • Use smart power strips: It can be really hard to unplug all your large electronics, especially when most of them have so many cords and are hidden from sight. Instead, invest in smart power strips. Contrary to regular power strips, state of the art smart power strips actually prevent the flow of any electricity when the devices are not in use. Something like this is a good option.

4. Choose energy star products

The next time you’re on the market for a new laptop, fridge, TV, microwave, dishwasher or laundry machine, look for the Energy Star logo. You’ve likely seen the blue sticker with a star on it in the corner of some appliances already.

Essentially, Energy Star is a government-backed symbol for energy efficiency that can be found on thousands of products. This symbol ensures that particular device is an energy-efficient product.  

On average, an Energy Star certified appliance will use anywhere from 10 to 50 percent less energy each year than a non-energy efficient equivalent. Also keep in mind the average home appliance lasts 10 to 20 years – so Energy Star will help you save for years to come. 

I know Best Buy has a lot of Energy Star appliances to choose from. You can browse Best Buy’s Energy Star certified products here.

Here’s a list of all the Energy Star appliances Best Buy sells:

5. Get efficient shades

Believe it or not, windows are one of the biggest energy leaks in the home. About 30% (and sometimes up to 40% or even 50%) of a home’s heating and cooling energy loss comes from the windows.

This occurs for two reasons. First and foremost, glass is a horrible insulator (your wall is likely 20x better at keeping you warm than the window next to it). But secondly, air leaks can cause terrible drafts.

While you could upgrade your windows, this is often a very expensive, time consuming process. What’s much more accessible is getting proper shades for your windows – the right ones will help trap in heat during the winter and keep things cool in the summer.

The most energy efficient shades out there by far are cellular shades, or honeycomb shades. They use a series of honeycomb-like cell pockets to trap air around your windows, keeping your rooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Home Depot has a wide selection of cellular shades to choose from. There’s a wide array of colors and can be cordless or corded. You can also choose between light filtering, room darkening, or blackout shades depending on what you need.

I particularly love these white light filtering honeycomb shades that raise from the bottom or lower from the top. As someone who needs a lot of good lighting to film and take pictures, I like the fact they would light up the room nicely without sacrificing privacy.

5 Ways to Conserve Energy

How do you plan on conserving energy this summer and winter? Leave your tips in the comments below.

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By Ariana Palmieri

Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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