Since I’m not up for setting up my own Little House on the Prairie in downtown Chicago, I was a little scared of this week’s challenge of cutting down my energy usage. I’m just not into going to sleep when it gets dark, washing my clothes grape-stomping style or unplugging the fridge, which are some of the things recommended by the No Impact Project. I was however interested in examining what I actually could do to alter my energy habits, and maybe make some subtle changes.
The manual directed me to visit every room in my home and write down everything that uses energy, and then to put a star next to the things I would use during the week. Then I was to determine which of those starred items I could “eliminate or mitigate”. One interesting thing I noticed right away was that out of everything I listed (except for our second bedroom/office that we don’t regularly use), I use pretty much everything that requires energy–from the lamps and TV in the living room to the stove and espresso machine in the kitchen to the clock radio and blow dryer in the bathroom. Now I don’t consider myself an energy hog–I turn off lights when I leave a room–but it was interesting to think about how much I rely on the electrics and electronics at my fingertips.
Ok, so what changes could I make? Here’s what I did:
I solely used the toaster oven and left the oven off all week. I’ve always sworn by my toaster oven, but when you think about how much less energy it uses and how often you really can use it, it’s a must for every kitchen. I turned off the laptop. Yep, I had gotten in the habit of just leaving it on for hours, and even leaving it on overnight, so I shut down and turned off the powerstrip. I took the stairs more. Now I live on the 11th floor so I didn’t do this at home (I know, so lazy!) but I did take the stairs other places as much as I could. I turned down the heat. I felt like we already kept the heat pretty low, but I turned it down a smidge anyway. (It helped that we’ve had a little burst of almost-springlike weather, even though it’s still mostly been in the 40s.) I tried out a recommendation in the manual to put your pasta into the water before it boils, and by letting them heat up together, the pasta cooks quicker. It worked just fine and saved a couple of minutes of stovetop time.
So did I really eliminate anything? No. But was I able to mitigate anything? Yes, several things, some of which felt very minor, but that’s what a lot of this is for me: taking small steps that hopefully add up to something meaningful, while not having to take such extreme steps as “going off the grid”. If I go camping, I’ll go off the grid. Otherwise, I’d still like to use my curling iron, thank you very much.