Not to brag or anything, but my family rocks! We have reduced our electrical consumption by 40% over the course of the time we started seriously thinking about our impact on the environment. What’s the secret?
As you can see from numerous blog posts linked here, and from the pretty amazing chart (click here for the readable version) I made here, there is no secret.
Changing light bulbs to CFL certainly helped. We replaced our washer and dryer with energy efficient models. We turn out the lights when they are not in use. We set up TVs and computers to turn off completely and automatically. We were careful about heat in the basement playroom (which uses electric heat). And we reduced the need for air conditioning in the summer using insulation, shades, ceiling fans and others.
But most of all, we just became aware. Becoming aware was gradual, as you can see — several “low hanging fruit” got us the first big wins, but it’s amazing how we keep finding new ways to stop using electricity that provides little or no benefit to us.
Today, for example, we used up the last of the items we had sitting in a deep-freezer in our basement, and turned it off. And as I look around, there are a few more things I think about here and there. That might be another few percent reduction in electrical use (maybe Five Percent?).
So what have we given up? What sacrifices do we make to get this reduction? Hmm, well, unused rooms are not lit up. Our clothes dry faster. We rarely have the noise of the air conditioners (except for the neighbors’) when we sleep. The air in the house is fresher. We’re naked more in bed.
It’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it.
We’re saving about $80/month on our electricity bill at current rates compared to if we had not made these changes. I have signed up for the wind-power option our utility will be offering starting this summer (all of our electricity will be generated by wind power, instead of coal) — that will cost us $5/month extra.
We have made similar changes in our consumption of gasoline, heating fuel (gas, in our house), water, food, recycling, even composting, and many other things. Almost all of them are a result of small changes. Even the new cars might have paid for themselves … except we do drive less, so it takes longer. Were saving hundreds of dollars a month in some expenses, and that offsets increases in others.
We have made these changes over almost four years now. Little by little we have become aware of how we use things up, and this carries over into all aspects of our lives.
None of these changes require sacrifice or hardship. Our house is still comfortable (usually more comfortable). Our food tastes better since it’s often organic and local when possible. Our health is much better because we drive less and walk and ride more.
But perhaps the biggest opportunity we still have to make is in encouraging others to become aware and make changes. Our poor extended family, friends, co-workers and others have to listen to our endless nagging. But as we walk to school, or look out the window it’s pretty clear that there are many, many opportunities for others to take the same simple steps we have.