Americans represent merely 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they consume 40 percent of Earth’s nonrenewable resources and produce nearly 30 percent of its total waste. Although you may not consider yourself an “environmentalist,” preservation of resources can help conserve money and time and help us all maintain a sustainable living environment.
Cutting out wasted energy is probably the simplest lifestyle change you can make, saving you the most money and natural resources. When Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, spoke at UCSB during Campus Sustainability Week, he reported that 95 percent of energy used in a household goes to waste, light energy excluded. Your plugged-in cell phone charger is still sucking up energy, whether or not your cell phone is being charged – earning it the nickname “vampire plug.” Turn off all the lights when you leave the room. Plug electronics into a power strip and turn off this power strip at night or when you leave the room. Speaking of electronics, use your computer’s standby and hibernate modes instead of screen savers – that’ll save a good 60 kW. Did you really want to see the Windows logo bouncing around your screen or pictures of you from the last party you went to every time you walk by your computer? Replace your incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps. Even though CFLs cost more than incandescent lamps, they can last up to 13 times longer and use 75 percent less electricity to produce the same light.
If you’re going to read for class while lying in bed, use your lamp on your nightstand or desk instead of your overhead light. If and when reading for class bores you to sleep, you can easily access your light source and spare the energy of illuminating the entire room.
When you and your roommates leave the apartment for the day or night, go through the house and make sure the lights and electronics are turned off. Remind your roommates the TV is blaring and the overhead lights are on before they get to the door. If they continuously leave without turning off the energy sources, leave them a delicate post-it note next to the light switch. Take advantage of natural daytime lighting by using light-colored, light-weave curtains over windows.
Save energy and lower your electricity bill by washing your laundry at the lowest possible recommended temperature and only running full loads of laundry. Ninety percent of the energy used for laundry goes to heating the water. Pretend you’re European and air-dry your clothes on a clothesline as often as possible. The average bath amounts to 30 to 50 gallons of water, whereas a shower uses up 10 gallons of water on a low-flow showerhead. Instead of taking a hot bath to relax, save on water heating expenses and do some yoga or take a nap to unwind. While washing dishes, make sure to turn the water off when scrubbing or drying. For the lucky people with a dishwasher, make sure the dishwasher is full when you run it.
Have a housemate party and check the insulation in your apartment – call your landlord to fix any cracks or leaks near windows or doors where hot air can escape. Layer up with blankets and sweatshirts during wintertime instead of turning up your heater every time you get chilly.
Be aware of energy use outside the home as well. Aggressive driving is not only dangerous, but speeding, hard breaking and rapid acceleration also waste gasoline and your money. With the gas price hovering around $3.40 a gallon, every precious cent spent on gas counts right now.
Shop for Energy Star models of electronic appliances, certified by the government to use less energy than other appliances. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Energy Star saved about $12 billion in energy costs in 2005 alone.
Integrating sustainable living practices is not about radical lifestyle change. It is about recognizing your individual impact on the environment and making changes to reduce your footprint.
For more information, see www.sustainability.ucsb.edu.