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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sustainable Future: The Resource Miser

Tuesday, November 4, 2008The Resource MiserWelcome to the first issue of The Resource Miser, a new ongoing series which will take a look at resource efficiency, particularly in regards to energy consumption.Radical Resource EfficiencyI recently watched a short video featuring Amory Lovin of the Rocky Mountain Institute. In it Lovin uses the phrase "radical resource efficiency." He is specifically talking about changing the way we design (technologies, buildings, vehicles, communities, lifestyles) to squeeze the most use possible out of our energy and other resources.On my Next Strategies blog recently, I made a post on energy efficiency in which I quote a Spiegal Online piece saying that "With humanity wasting massive amounts of oil, gas and coal to heat buildings, power industry and fuel vehicles, the potential for conservation efforts is vast."Two-thirds of all energy used worldwide is wasted before it even reaches the end user, disappearing during transmission due to poor insulation, leaky pipes and the like. "Even supposedly fine-tuned products such as automobiles are horrendously inefficient. Around 70 to 80 percent of the power created by the motor does not end up being used for the car’s main purpose: moving forward. Instead the energy heats up the radiator fluid or is blown out the muffler as hot air."This kind of inefficiency means there is a massive opportunity to create radical resource efficiency.Home Energy EfficiencyA tremendous amount of energy savings could be achieved through simple home energy-efficiency, without requiring great changes in lifestyle or personal behavior. Nor does it take huge amounts of money. I have some practical experience in this regard.A couple of years ago, I went about making my family home of about 1,500 square feet more energy efficient. Some of the things done included: 1. Repairs to the shell of the home 2. Repairs to the insulation under the house 3. Replaced several old appliances with new, energy efficient models 4. Replaced old windows with new energy-efficient windows 5. Switched all indoor lights to CFLs 6. Filled in gaps where pipes and wires come into the house (kitchen, bathrooms, utility room) with a can of spray foam insulation 7. Replaced regular shower heads with low-flow shower headsAs a result of these repairs, I was able to reduce my home's energy use by about 60% on a monthly basis compared to the previous year. Please note that this was achieved without any major change in lifestyle or personal behavior, but rather through energy-efficiency only.The total cost of all this was about $6,800. The result was lowering the power bill by about 60% per month, equal to almost two thousand dollars a year in savings. The new energy-efficient windows also resulted in a sizable tax deduction for that year. The really great thing is that electricity prices could literally double and my home power bill will still be lower than it was before.I feel certain that most American homes, and businesses, could probably achieve similar energy savings by simply making their buildings more energy efficient.Of course, wasteful actions (usually due to simple thoughtlessness) should be stopped as part of achieving radical resource efficiency. Again, this can be done without major changes in lifestyle or personal behavior: 1. Turn off lights when not in a room 2. Turn off radios, TVs and/or DVD players when not being used 3. Unplug battery chargers when not being used 4. Unplug unnecessary clocks, kitchen gadgets and so forth 5. Set thermostats lower in the winter (wear sweaters, throw an extra blanket on the bed) 6. Set thermostats higher in summer (electric fans can make you feel five degrees cooler) 7. Take quick showers (less hot water used = less energy used)
Sustainable Future: The Resource Miser
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