The future is here — but we’re still living in the past. Clean energy from the sun and wind has the potential to meet our all of our energy needs several times over; without the global consequences of pollution. Yet, we’re still producing and consuming virtually all of our energy in ways that do lasting damage to our environment, our climate and our health. To make matters worse, of all that dirty energy we produce, the majority of it ends up being wasted.
We can do better. We can have healthier communities today and a livable future for generations to come — but to get there, we must change the way we produce and consume our energy. More specifically, we must take major steps to conserve energy and eliminate energy waste.
The good news is there’s a lot we can do. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, America can reduce its energy consumption by 40 to 60 percent by mid-century, simply by using better technologies and eliminating waste. Governments and other institutions can and should lead the effort, providing us with policy tools and continuing to advance technological solutions.
However, there is also plenty of steps we all can take to save energy, and save money and our planet in the process. Here are some helpful hints:
- Reassess to use less: The cleanest, most affordable energy is the energy we don’t use in the first place, so start by focusing on where you can use less. Could you walk or bike, instead of drive? Can you turn down the thermostat when it’s cold and turn it up when it’s hot? Daily needs like heating and cooling, transportation, washing clothes, and doing the dishes all consume energy, and we should always we looking for ways to avoid energy in the first place.
- Stop the leaks: Ten to twenty percent of the energy used for heating and cooling your home wasted as a result of drafts, air leaks and outdated technology. To find out whether you have an energy waste problem, start by getting an energy audit. Every home is different, but all homes need to keep conditioned air in, once we’ve gotten it to the temperature we want. Make sure you’re using insulation, proper sealing and efficient windows and doors to reduce your energy waste.
- Modernize and update: With an abundance of new technologies and increasingly efficient appliances in the marketplace, options are plentiful and prices are growing more affordable. From small changes, such as switching to LED light bulbs, to large changes, like moving away from a natural gas or oil heating system, there are many ways to reduce your energy waste. Be smart about lighting, update your faucets and showerheads to more efficient models, and when buying new appliances, choose energy efficiency-certified products.
- Be smart about your electronics: While new electronics and technologies can broaden our worlds with new forms of communication and entertainment, they also use lots of energy. Many devices, known as energy “vampires,” suck energy even when they aren’t being used. Make sure to unplug phone and computer chargers when you’re done using them. If TVs, cable boxes, video game consoles, and computers are left in standby mode they continue to draw energy, so make sure to completely power them down when you’re done using them.
It’s important to realize that there’s a lot each of us can do to reduce energy use. Encourage your neighbors, family and friends to make changes as well. And remember, there are also things we can do as a community to make stronger policies to save energy. Find out what your state and city or town are doing to help us reduce and avoid energy waste and ask your local, state and national officials to do more.