By Dina Nash, Climate Committee
Saving energy involves cutting back on big-ticket items. For most people, we’re talking about house and office, yard, car, food, appliances, errands and investment choices.
Start by making the decision to change your lifestyle. Then sign up for a free energy audit from your gas and electric utilities. The audits will tell you what needs to be fixed, tightened, insulated better or lighted (i.e., with LED bulbs). Then decide which of the following energy-saving tips to implement. You’ll save money, reduce emissions and set an example for your children and grandchildren.
Yards – Reduce the square footage that is in grass or needs constant tending. Landscape cloth with mulch or gravel or sand on top can be attractive and functional for reducing water, tillage, pesticides, mowing and other labor. Or turn your lawn into a pollinator garden. Mow with an electric mower to reduce emissions.
Houses – Live in the smallest house you can stand to live in or seal off unused spaces after consulting with your HVAC experts. Many people, especially retired ones, have half a house they don’t use except when a guest comes about six days a year. Heating and cooling it wastes utilities that emit CO2! Get light-blocking blinds or shades to reduce unwanted sunlight in rooms to keep cool. Weatherize any drafty windows or doors. Insulate your attic to the max!
Cars – Buy the smallest cars you can stand and the ones with the best gas mileage. Keep up with tire pressure, so you don’t wear out your tires or create unnecessary mileage. If you can afford to, buy hybrid or electric vehicles. We rented a car recently, a Hyundai that got 40+ miles to the gallon, and it looked like a tiny clown car, but we actually carried two granddaughters in the back seat comfortably all over Glacier National Park. Then we paid dearly to sequester carbon from having flown 6,000 miles and driven 300.
Food – Buy locally produced food or food grown in the U.S. Buy food that is in season in this country, not food shipped from below the equator so we can have watermelon in January. Buy mostly fresh food. Make a list and buy what’s on it, so you don’t have lots of unused food sitting around. Make only one trip a week by car to the grocery store. Use your microwave or steamer to cook things; the oven is a huge energy waster.
Appliances – Women, adopt hairdos that don’t need a lot of electric gadgets to fix, and use a dryer the least possible minutes. Keep only one fridge, an ENERGY STAR- rated one that’s more efficient than other models. Fridges and freezers use huge amounts of energy. Use low-water washers, and dry as many of your lightweight clothes on a wooden rack or clothesline as possible. Save up enough clothes to make a full load, rather than washing several small ones. Cold water does as well as hot at getting things clean. The heat of the dryer kills most bacteria. Remember that when you save water, you save energy, because city water has to be chemically treated, pumped and stored. Also, dispose of wasted food by composting or throwing it away, not putting it down the disposer, where it has to be pumped and treated before putting into local streams.
Set the thermostat at 68 for winter and 78 for summer, per the U.S. Department of Energy. In winter, drop the thermostat even lower when sleeping for more energy savings. Wear sweaters in the winter and use fans and light clothing indoors during summer. It often pays to install a mini-split air conditioner for one or two rooms that need conditioning, versus heating or cooling the whole house if you don’t use your whole house most of the time. Solar on the roof or from a solar farm can help our carbon footprint and save money on utilities, too. Companies like Lumio (used to be Anchor Key Solar) offer a 25-year payment plan/loan, so you don’t have to pay the full installation amount upfront.
Errands – Consolidate your errands. Carpool with a friend or family when you can. Try to reduce your mileage by 10% a week by planning ahead and combining errands with your work commute.
Investments – Divest of oil, gas and coal stocks and companies that make equipment or ship goods for the fossil fuel industry. Make sure your portfolio is devoid of such stocks. There are conservation friendly funds if you research this enough; make sure they are sound investments. Sometimes a stock is a great stock, and sometimes, like biofuels right now, they are in the tank. Ask your church and corporation to realign their portfolios for substitutes for fossil fuel investments.
Advocate – Write letters frequently to your conservative national legislators (that covers all of them in Arkansas) and state legislators about wanting more legislation to lower carbon emissions and to protect us from the heat waves that will make all of life stressed to the max! If you need facts or ammunition for those letters, go to the Climate Reality website, 350.org, or other such websites.
Small, individual changes like these, when practiced by many, add up to big collective changes!