Recently, National Geographic launched The Great Energy Challenge, a three-year initiative to understand our current energy situation and to explore ideas for sustainable energy solutions. In addition to developing and supporting energy innovation, National Geographic is making a concentrated effort to educate the public and provide suggestions for making a difference. One of the more compelling concepts they have introduced is an “Energy Diet.”
As you may have guessed, the “Energy Diet” is geared towards reducing your personal power consumption and waste. The first step is determining your score using their personal energy meter. Their meter asks you questions about your home, automobile, and travel usage. Once your score is calculated, it is compared to the average score based on statistics and the scores of those who have taken the survey. It also provides suggestion about how to improve your score (i.e. become more energy efficient).
While National Geographic has already prepared an energy diet that requires you to do one thing a month, a diet specifically tailored to you is probably more effective. After all, if you have already replaced your existing bulbs with LED replacement bulbs and installed LED fixtures and flexible LED strip lights, you are well on your way to reducing your energy consumption. Similarly, by now, most people use power strips and have taken measures to insulate their homes. All of us, however, are lax in some areas or have habits that impact the environment, but are difficult to break. Be truly honest with yourself about what those are and then develop a plan to change that behavior. Some of the most common ones are:
1. Paper towel usage. Even in this day and age of microfiber cloths and towels, when a spill occurs, we have a tendency to grab a roll of paper towels. For cleaning jobs, drying dishes, even wiping our hands, paper towels are handy and effective, but they are also incredibly wasteful. Instead, try investing in microfiber cloths, dishrags, and dish towels. Most importantly, each time you reach for a paper towel take a moment to think if that is really your best option.
2. Paper and plastic bags. Many people have purchased reusable bags to transport their groceries and errands and usually store them in handy spots like the trunk of their car. As well intentioned as we may be, it is not uncommon for us to forget to actually bring those environmentally friendly bags into the store with us. Make a concentrated effort to integrate it better into your shopping routine. If you write a shopping list, include a reminder in big letters at the top to bring your bags with you. If you are halfway across the parking lot before you remember, double back. In fact, even if you have finished your shopping before realizing your bags are still in your car, take the extra minute or two to stow your full cart out of the way and go get them. Of course, there will be times when you will not have them with you. You have two options: since most stores sell them, you can purchase another reusable bag, or you can accept the disposable bag, preferably paper over plastic, and reuse it in the future.
3. Running water. We tend to take clean, fresh water for granted. Logically, we may understand about water pollution and water scarcity, but we have been raised with the assumption that plenty of clean water will always be there for us. Reflect on your water usage habits. Do you take long showers or allow the tap to run while you brush your teeth or wash dishes? Have you been postponing repairing a leaky faucet or a running toilet? Assess your water usage and identify any wasteful habits you may have. Be mindful that when you turn on your faucet, you are incredibly fortunate to have clean water and the little you conserve could potentially be more than someone else will have access to in their lifetime.