Happy Earth Day everyone! This day was inaugurated 45 years ago today, just at the height of what would come to be the environmental revolution. So how far have we come since the 1960s and 70s? The answer. Far! Reductions in outdoor air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, ozone, and lead represent some of the greatest advances. Those who lived in populated cities such as Los Angeles 30 years ago can attest to the improvements in visibility alone. Water quality, hazardous waste management, and wildlife protection similarly made tremendous gains in the ensuing decades.
Concerns for public health and the environment, however, are far from resolved. In fact, today we are facing what is quite realistically our greatest obstacle to date. That is, climate change. The ramifications of inaction on this single issue are so overwhelmingly as to shadow many of the other issues myself and other health advocates are passionate about. It appears, at least, that governments are finally overcoming the private lobbies that have previously casted doubt on this issue, and have begun pledging and passing legislation to minimize carbon emissions. The recent U.S./China bilateral announcement of carbon dioxide reduction goals is the most prime example of this. However, Hurricane Catrina, Hurricane Sandy, the California drought, and Boston’s 2014-15 snowiest winter on record all indicate that current actions are too little too late to completely avoid harm. And these are just examples in the United States. This does not mean that all is lost. Continued greenhouse gas emissions are projected to only make such events more extreme and more frequent, which is why it’s more important than ever to mobilize international efforts towards continued emissions reductions. This where YOU and I come in!
If left to government action, change will simply not come soon enough. Fortunately, we can act independently to curb emissions. Carbon dioxide emission mostly come from three different sectors. Namely, transportation, industry, and residential/commercial building energy use. In the United States and European Union, the buildings sector accounts for approximately 40% of energy consumption! In the U.S., residential buildings account for the majority (54%) of this, producing 21% of the nation’s emissions. In other words, by making our homes more energy efficient, we as individuals can have an enormous impact on carbon emissions and help stabilize the climate. Below are a number of tips I put together as part of a climate action project for the Harvard Law School earlier this year. An official version will be published soon that you can print out as a brochure and pass around. In the meantime, making some of these simple changes in your home or apartment will not only reduce carbon emissions and other air pollutants, but will also save you money by reducing your monthly energy bill.
Easy Tips for Lower Energy Bills
Washer & Dryer
· Wait for full load before running washer or dryer
· Use cold or warm (not hot) water when doing laundry
· Put heavy loads through spin cycle twice before drying. This removes more water and shortens drying time. Or, put only clothes in the dryer while letting blankets/towels air dry.
· Instead of using dryer, allow laundry to air dry by hanging
· Clean lint filter from dryer after each load so machine doesn’t work as hard to circulate air
· Use CFL or LED lightbulbs
· Turn off lights in empty rooms
· Unplug electronics not being used. Or, plug devices into power strip, which can be switched off. For instance, even when turned off, devices that are plugged are estimated to account for up to 15% of your monthly electricity bill!
· When phone is done charging, unplug charger. It’s better for the charger & saves energy!
· Adjust computer settings to energy-saving mode
· Lower computer screen brightness
· Purchase electronics with an Energy Star® label, this means they are energy efficient.
· Take showers, not baths. 3-min showers use half the water of baths & reduce hot water waste
· Keep showers short
· Take lower temp showers on warm days
· Turn off tap while shaving/brushing teeth
· Use low-flow showerheads
· Ensure full load (but not overloaded) before running washer
· Use shortest water cycle that still cleans dishes properly
· Turn off drying cycle on washer & open washer door to air dry dishes
· If hand washing, fill sink with water & use stopper rather than washing under running water
· Put lid on pot to boil water. It will boil faster and use less energy
· Prepare meals in slow cooker or microwave when possible
· Let frozen meats thaw before cooking
Heating & Cooling
· Turn down thermostat when leaving for work/school, & turn it lower when leaving for vacation
· Buy another blanket instead of running your heater higher at night, this will quickly pay you back in saved heating expenses.
· Use a fan instead of an AC unit
· Water heaters are factory set to ~140°F, which is costly and higher than needed. Reset to 120°F, and turn lower before vacation.
· Seal cracks around walls & windows where outdoor air seeps in. Can be easily done with store-bought calking/insulation tape.
· Ideal temp for your refrigerator is 38-40 °F, don’t overcool it.
· If home is poorly insulated, consider splitting cost of weatherization with landlord. You will save on energy bills & be more comfortable overall.
· Propose green lease with your landlord
· If you use a Brita filter, store it outside of refrigerator. Cooling water takes a lot of energy!
· Close heating/cooling vents in rooms that are infrequently used
For More Info
· Energy Rebate Opportunities: www.masssave.com (for MA residents)
· Discounted Energy Efficient Appliances: www.energystar.gov
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-Shahir Masri, M.S.