How You Can Reduce Energy Use and Start a Culture of Sustainability at School, Work and Home
Few things motivate people more than empowerment. For those who want to act as stewards of the earth, taking an active role in energy-saving efforts can encourage the formation of lasting, positive habits. As part of our series on Energy Awareness Month, we’ll take a deep dive into where you can find room to save energy and how this can grow into an organization-wide culture of sustainability.
Learn how to reduce energy consumption at home. This may be the most important area to learn energy-saving tips, as you either own a home or will have to manage your own one day. For kids, simple assignments and questions from parents are enough to make them prepared. Others set to graduate soon may need more in-depth knowledge.
- Regularly Change Air Filters
The air for heating and cooling in most homes runs through a series of ducts. Air filters in these ducts trap dirt and other deposits, ensuring clean air circulates throughout the house. If these filters get too clogged with grime, the heating and cooling systems of the house have to work extra hard to transport air. Changing out air filters regularly can prevent this, allowing these systems to work at optimal levels. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations!
- Use Cool Water
You may know that taking shorter showers conserves water, but did you know taking cooler showers can also conserve energy? Heating water can similarly account for up to 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines, so becoming less reliant on warm water helps conserve energy in the long run. Setting water heaters to 120°F allows water to heat at reasonable energy levels and is safer for home with young children or persons with special needs. Remember, water heaters can be turned off completely when going on vacation.
- Upgrade Lights
The next generation of lighting technology, LED lights provide today’s most efficient and effective lighting option. The average 7-Watt bulb lasts over 20 times longer than a traditional 60-Watt incandescent bulb, shines brighter and consumes electricity at only one-eighth the rate. Over the long run, LEDs outrank fluorescent lights in terms of energy efficiency and price. Be sure to check color temperature — LED lights are available in a wide range of colors, including warm yellow, bright pleasant white, and a cold bluish-white — and choose the one most pleasing to you. Many specialty bulbs are available in LED today as well. With such a long life, they’re an excellent choice for hard-to-reach fixtures.
- Wash Dishes by Hand
Dishwashers consume hefty amounts of energy and water, especially for smaller loads. Wash dishes by hand and let them air dry for an easy way to reduce energy consumption.
While thermostats may be a touchy subject, turning the temperature down a few degrees in the winter — and using less air conditioning in the summer — can save significant amounts of cost and energy during the peak usage times of the year. A smart thermostat can be programmed to do this automatically.
- Shut Off Electronics When Not in Use
Even when fully charged and not in use, electronics and chargers continue to drain energy from the outlets they are plugged into. Completely turn off all electronics that need to stay plugged in; don’t leave in standby mode. For everything else, unplug once charged. You can do this easily by plugging into a power strip that is turned off when not in use.
- Look for Appliances With the ENERGY STAR® Label
Appliances with ENERGY STAR ratings are designed to be energy-efficient. Anything from appliances to houses to schools can be rated or certified for efficiency by ENERGY STAR. Products and appliances that earn the ENERGY STAR label have proven that they require a fraction of the energy to do equal-quality jobs as their counterparts.
- Install Water-Saving Appliances
With many cities around the world having to take drastic measures to save water, people everywhere need to know they may one day be confronted with this reality. Encouraging the use of water-saving appliances — whether for sinks, toilets or showerheads — promotes vital consumption awareness.
Children are years from their first jobs, while others may have their eyes on retirement. Despite this, learning energy-saving best practices for the office now can snowball into a significant impact over time.
- Install Motion Detectors in Lighting
Leaving the lights on when not in use is a major source of energy waste. Outfitting workplaces with motion-sensing devices can automatically turn lights off if nobody is detected in a room after a predetermined period.
- Turn Off Lights in Office During the Day
By the same token, wasting energy to power lights for a personal office seems useless if there is ample sunlight outside that can brighten the room. Besides, there are many noted benefits to having natural sunlight in the workplace.
- Regular Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Checks
Faulty or broken HVAC systems require more energy to match the performance of a well-maintained HVAC system. Regularly check for leaks in pipes, air ducts and fittings. Additionally, replace defective pieces and motors as problems arise to avoid unnecessary wear and tear.
- Turn Off Corporate Electronics and Non-Essential Equipment During Non-Business Hours
Some facilities may need equipment to run overnight, but many managers do not need to run their systems 24 hours a day. Finding the optimal times to shut systems down can be a way to save profits and the planet. Like the motion-sensing lights mentioned above, plug load controllers automatically shut down inactive equipment when nobody is present.
- ENERGY STAR Vending Machines
Yes, you read that correctly. ENERGY STAR certifies even vending machines. Offices have a large variety of equipment and appliances they can use that further the mission to create a culture of sustainability and still get the job done.
Your district may already have a school energy management plan in place, but that doesn’t mean kids can’t contribute. Planning different initiatives for students can empower the next generation of climate advocates.
- Turn Computers and Monitors Off at End of Day
As has been mentioned before, keeping electronics powered on overnight is a massive waste of resources. Simply remembering to turn off computers and their monitors at the end of the day can be a simple but effective strategy in the fight to instill a culture of sustainability among students.
- Have Class Outside
What’s the best way to get students more engaged with their learning while saving energy? You won’t find many better answers than an occasional class discussion on the school lawn. Students will enjoy the fresh air, the change to their routine and, more importantly, it keeps the lights off.
- Form an Awareness Club
Getting students involved in extracurricular activities promotes social and leadership skills they may not have access to in the classroom. Forming a schoolwide environmental awareness club can promote these skills in students while teaching the importance of energy consciousness.
- Limit Smartphone Use
Charging cell phones and other electronics during class time results in extra energy being consumed. Kids may dislike the idea, but limiting smartphone and tablet use in class may lead to attention rates increasing and energy use decreasing.
- Keep the Door Closed
Part of energy consumption best practices is creating the best possible airflow circulation. Like the doors to homes, keeping classroom doors shut can ensure warm or cold air stays in the room — creating the optimal learning environment for students. When left open, doors let air out, forcing HVAC systems to work harder to keep the room at the preferred temperature.
By making an effort to stay informed of practical ways to cut back on energy use, you can foster a culture of sustainability in your community. In the process, you may develop conservation (and money-saving) skills that stick around for life.