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Reducing Energy Waste

Instead of waiting for politicians to take action on greenhouse gas emissions, it’s worth considering that any solution is going to involve reducing the amount of energy we use.  One of the things that bothers me in political debates around greenhouse gas emissions is the assumption that our energy use is going to continue to increase.  Why?  I think we need to focus on reducing waste, because we waste staggering amounts of energy.

Look around the typical house in the developed world.  As a starter, you’ll typically find a SUV, pick-up truck, or mini-van in the driveway and inefficient electrical appliances.  There are many other sources of waste (like lighting) but let’s start with those for now.

No matter how you look at it, a SUV, pick up truck, and mini-van is an un-necessary luxury.  Most people believe they need a larger vehicle to transport their kids, tools, or stuff.  But look around you the next time you’re on the street.  Guess what?  80-90% of those large vehicles on the road at any one time have one person in them and very little stuff.  Previous generations of vehicle owners used regular cars; this generation is not special.  In Canada, the tendency to buy large vehicles instead of cars is one of the largest reasons why greenhouse gas emissions per person has increased since 1990 (when the Kyoto protocol was signed).

Canadian greenhouse gas emissions per person, 1990-2004

Electrical appliances are another form of wasted energy.  Just about every DVD player, TV, computer, etc. in our house, even if it has the “Energy Star” certification, is designed to waste energy.  Televisions for example when powered off are still in a ready state so that they will power on faster.  Ditto DVD players.  And computers when left on by default stay in an active idle state so that we can sit down and start typing.  Yes, these devices were designed because we’re (presumably) impatient and expect instant response.  But are we?  Try plugging all your devices into powerbars and turn the powerbar off when you’re done.  Yes, the clock will reset but I guarantee you’ll save a noticeable amount of energy.  Of course, it’s also a good idea to write a letter to a politician to get them to introduce legislation for more efficient appliances.  But that will take time!


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