Is it Easy Being Green?

My daily adventures in attempting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle

No Impact Experiment, part 5: Energy March 16, 2010

Filed under: energy,sustainability — isgreeneasy @ 1:02 pm
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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.


3 Responses to “No Impact Experiment, part 5: Energy”

  1. Ken Jansen Says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    How do I convince my wife to turn the lights off when she leaves a room? Especially the master bath room bank of lights over the sink? Without ticking her off ? 🙂



  2. isgreeneasy Says:

    Hmm, that’s a tough one because you don’t want this to become a big argument. I would suggest getting your adorable child in the middle of this–try training her to plead with mommy not to kill the earth by leaving the lights on. See how that works.

    Seriously, what I would do (and I actually do) is mention it as nicely as possible and let her know how important it is to you, not to mention that it will save you money. Also, try presenting it as a group effort–it’s something for the whole family to work on together.

    The trick with something like this is making it a habit–once it’s a habit the behavior is automatic and it’s not a chore anymore. (This is what I went through with using reusable shopping bags.) If she says she can’t remember to do it, maybe try putting a little prompt like a reminder sticker by the light switch. If that doesn’t work, just use the kid guilt. 🙂

  3. Ken Jansen Says:

    Hi Jen,

    I have tried the sticky note before. It went over like a lead balloon. I was told that was NOT a good way to remind my dear wife. I will enlist Kate to fire up the kid guilt. 🙂



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