Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

June 11, 2006

Hamster Power

Category: Companies,Conservation,Economics,Save Fuel,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 5:07 pm

Think small!

If only we could hook up all of the hamster wheels to our power grid, think of the power we could generate. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturer’s Association, 5.7 million American homes have small animals (gerbils, hamsters, etc.) as pets. Assuming each one has a wheel and uses the wheel for 20 minutes per day with 10 seconds per rotation (6/minute), that’s 180 rotations per day times 5.7M small animals. So we have slightly over 1 Billion rotations per day. Now assume each rotation could generate 1/1000th of a watt. Well, there you have it, we are losing 1 Million Watts per day. Now, think of treadmills … then again, while there may be 10’s of millions of them out there, no one uses them.

This kind of math, which I am guilty of in my post to Click and Clack and others, is where statistics truly lie. But more important, they tend to have us focus on the big problems first. Now of course at a world, country or company level, these multipliers can truly make a difference. How cool is it that Bank of America is offering employees in some locations a $3,000 credit for buying a hybrid? These are wonderful programs. But what if you don’t qualify?

This whole idea occurred to me as I was walking over to a nearby field to practice baseball with my son. On the way over, we jogged as a warm-up. It’s a silly notion to even think that we would drive … except there were several other neighbors over there using the fields who had driven the 1/2 mile to the school. I guess my point here is that we can sometimes tend to think of these great ideas (recapturing lost Hamster Power, for example) and put mental energy, effort and resources into going for the big win when what we all really need to do is just think a little more about how many tiny little opportunities there are to make small contributions that add up.

Think small!


  1. It’s pretty funny to think of capturing the energy of a pet (to me particularly because of a new puppy and the difficulty associated with getting it to do anything. Although the amount of energy it has makes one wonder if we could solve some of the world’s energy problems this way.) However I have tried to quantify the amount of energy human power can produce by rigging up an old exercise bike to a battery (see Energy perspective Pt. 2). From my experience it takes an awful lot of biking to achieve only minor sucess in generating power (granted this is an inefficient use of the power; storing it in a battery). This really put it into perspective for me; gave me an appreciation for all the fuel that’s burned up to keep the AC->DC converters, TVs, VCRs, Spare regfrigerators going (unnecessarily).

    So if it takes so much more work why not scale back? It’s way easier. Anyone who has PV panels will tell you how much easier and cheaper the solar scenario becomes by doing so. I feel it accurately reflects the american mindset of consumption and lack of sacrifice. There are so many little things that, in truth, are little to no sacrifice at all and on a large enough scale will save millions of dollars, gallons of oil, kwh, water, raw materials, you name it. We just need to challenge the status quo, and you’re doing a good job of it. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Reed Braman — June 20, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

  2. Reed —

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this. We need to change the status quo. I was looking at digg for something the other day and some guy was responding to a post about hybrids and said “How can I give up my SUV” and proceeded to list a bunch of things he “needed” that his SUV provides. Like him, we have kids, and sports, and pets and our not-so-little hybrid is working fine.

    People believe they “need” things. I am one of them. I have found that I have to challenge my beliefs and habits, sometimes repeatedly. But our neighbors, friends, and acquaintances still look at us as if we are crazy because we are such “environmentalists”. We’re not crazy, we just try to stay informed, and that’s hard to do because it takes time, but it also forces you to confront things you might prefer to ignore.

    So I have an idea for a post about ostriches :-)

    Comment by Tom Harrison — June 20, 2006 @ 6:13 pm

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