Changing the Household Energy Footprint

A Kilowatt saved from our routine is about 10¢ saved each month for the rest of your life. Plus if you ever plan on putting together a sustainable energy system, that means a much less expensive and complicated setup will be needed to run the gadgets you are accustomed to. What really do you need? Do you need to blend an apple with a blender when a hand food mill, or chopping them up, cooking them, mashing it manually, or eating it fresh with all it’s nutrients still intact would work just fine? The goal here is to simplify down to basic needs.

If you have watched Chasing Ice, you can clearly understand why Obama is putting through policy to move past coal. When coal is burnt it releases soot and some of that ends up as black pools of Cryoconites that melt glaciers faster in 10 years than in 100 years without extra soot ever could. Sometimes vast swaths of glacier turn black.

Unfortunately, the show must go on, and the next lead role in the industry is natural gas (https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=23252), in which some of it is obtained as a by product of unconventional shale oil production. There is a big push for investment in these areas to cover aging infrastructure, leaky pipes that may cost many Billions of dollars to replace to economic struggle to pay the bills due to the expensive nature of these technologies (millions of dollars to get started).  With OPEC needing Trillions of dollars to keep oil prices down and with the lifting of the export ban on oil and gas we should not underestimate their ability to dig big holes and release methane and chemicals into our atmosphere and hydrologic cycle due to accidents and as they age. And we must never forget, that once these wells are abandoned it will cost millions of dollar to remediate that area, that is to clean up that site(You Tube: When the Oil Stops 5:57  https://youtu.be/h3O6SvHyW4g ).img_20160115_192510814.jpg

With all that said, I if you have not been studying economics, energy and the environment I highly recommend watching Chris Martinson’s Crash Course, you can watch it all together one after the other at https://youtu.be/T7up38Jyv0w?list=PLRgTUN1zz_ofJoMx1rB6Z0EA1OwAGDRdR, or you can watch the accelerated version or one at a time at http://www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse.

No matter which side of the fence you are on when it comes to energy policy, it pays to look at your electric bill and take note of how many kilowatts are used each month and think about how much energy is used each week. Meditate and look around your house. Is there a way to do the same job while using less energy. Although, some things are absolutely mandatory, we have found out with Flints compromised water supply. (http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/blogs/has-energy-saving-advice-contributed-legionnaires-disease-flint) Iron heavy water sitting around in a water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit is hospitable to deadly bacteria. Our impasse is the health of our planet and the health of people.

The biggest opportunity I see is finding a more efficient way to dry clothes. The average dryer uses about 3000 watts (http://energyusecalculator.com/electricity_clothesdryer.htm) I was inspired when I saw Maynard Kaufman dry his clothes on a balcony and I myself have decided that in the wintertime I will hang some of my clothes up with clothes hangers from a shower curtain rod. I dry blankets over doors. Or if you’d like something that is small, and compact there are different clothes there are a nice clothes drying rack to choose from on Amazon. Put it by a heating vent or  fan and you get two types of work done with one energy source.

A must-have daily energy expenditure is a way to boil water. This is a necessity for cooking. I really like this article from Stanford Magazine which rates the best ways to boil water and it talks about why reboiling water may waste energy or concentrate contaminates: https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=29243. In a survival situation an efficient outdoor choice would be to make a Rocket Stove using cement, bricks, clay, or metal containers. There are many great You Tube videos that show how to do this. Tom Lepshu has a great video on DIY offgrid wood stove: https://youtu.be/ZmKZz68k3Fs. The plus side to burning wood is that there are many uses for ashes (https://humblelore.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/30-uses-for-wood-ashes-you-never-thought-of/)

The next area of major power use is Vacuuming. A Powerforce Bagless Bissell uses 1200 watts. If I had my choice I would forego carpeting. Popcorn parties, dropping drinks, pooping puppies and puking pussycats can do their worst. All I need is some clothe and water. But if you are a renter who must have carpet, and have no choice, one way would be to invest in one of those brush sweepers which work well enough.

Let the yard become a garden. By learning about lasagna gardening and permaculture you can save energy by reducing work needed in conventional gardening and carbon lost due to tilling soil, not needing to mow, not having buy as much food from far away places wrapped in plastic and by having fun and being entertained at what plant has decided to join your garden. It may take time before you won’t need a mower, or city codes change but starting around the perimeter of your land and hard to reach areas for your mower can add interest to your yard. Collect seeds, and learn how to provide an agreeable environment for them. Some factors to consider is do you need a raised bed, building soil with compost, and plant protection such as hoop houses or straw bales.

Avoid buying materials that cannot be reused, have hazardous materials, or cannot be recycled. Recycling saves energy especially when it comes to metals, so don’t let your gadgets go to the landfill. Instead of buying trash bags I use plastic shopping bags, I sincerely wish they would use a biodegradable oil like hemp to make the bags. There are other things that can be done with these bags too, like crocheting sleeping mats and tougher carrying bags. Or you can ask for paper bags and use them the carbon in making compost or store herbs in them and they dry nicely. I reuse glass jars to store dried foraged goodies like herbs, greens, and mushrooms.

What can you do if you run out of toilet paper? Save your old defunct clothing, cut them up into nice rectangles and turn them into soft cleanup rags, and keep a big container to keep them in until the end of the day, to be washed. Great candidates are holey socks ( more uses for socks: http://www.wikihow.com/Recycle-Your-Socks)  and ripped and stained t-shirts. Another way to feel refreshed is to find a container that works for you as a bidet, this makes clean-up more sanitary.

Efficiency United was selling Smart Strips. This gadget is well worth the extra cost of a normal electrical strip. It stops phantom voltage use from electronics that are plugged in on standby mode ready to operate at a moments notice.  It has a special plug that when you plug your monitor into it and you turn it off, it cuts all power from the devices on the other receptacles except for the one marked always on. I recommend one for your entertainment area and one for your work office ( http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/sustainable/smart-power-strip.htm).

Another way to save on your utility bill in general is to slow down on the water. You pay for it whether a well is running electricity to pump it to you, the city charges you for treating and disposing of it for you, or the water heater is heating it for you. Using ideas from Permiculture you can find ways to slow it down in your landscape. Find ways to reuse it, for example putting large containers in the sink to use for dish-washing, you can use water that does not have meat particles in it as a way to dilute your own home brew fertilizer, though you may want to complete that process outside ( http://www.nwedible.com/how-to-use-pee-in-your-garden/   http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/8-reasons-why-you-should-pee-your-garden.html). The sink water not fit for the garden can be used to flush toilets, or you can take tips from kitty and design a composting toilet. This is especially useful for travelers and campers, just be sure to bury the waste 150 ft away from your living area and let it break down for a couple years before using that soil.

The most significant way you can make your carbon footprint smaller is by eating less meat (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/beef-production-is-killing-the-amazon-rainforest/). A vast majority of land is needed to pasture animals and being so concentrated in a certain area their poop and pee becomes pollution. We need our trees to moderate our climate, to slow water down, hold soil in place, and to add carbon to the soil. If you are interested in learning more here is a wiki article that organizes the environmental impacts of different kinds of farming: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_meat_production. I suppose there is a right way to do it with cell grazing that Geoff Lawton illustrates nicely in his videos (www.geofflawton.com), but we must be cautious to not take more from the forest than we give back, thus depleting our forests and they loose their viability to incubate new trees.

We live in a time where so much is possible. I just hope that living in harmony with our environment is possible. How are the generations after us going to live? What are the impacts of all the choices that we as a species have made? When we teach our next generation our technology, will it only be industrial? There is merit in primitive, pre-industrial and permaculture technologies too. We should take the best of what each different mode can offer, while treading as softly on this planet as we can.

Thank you for reading my article. I invite you to find out how many watts of electricity each of you electronics use, and write it down. Learn about how you can simplyfy your life. Have a yard sale, make some money. Find out where you can take recycled electronics. You can save energy, save storage space, save time cleaning and organizing stuff, and save money.