21 Actions For 2021

Sustainable living is important because it ensures future generations a habitable world they can enjoy. But what does it mean to live sustainably and what exactly are we trying to accomplish? 

A sustainable lifestyle attempts to reduce our impact on the environment by altering our methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet to reduce our emissions; reducing the amount of waste we produce and throw away to conserve resources; and taking other actions to enhance and protect our remaining natural areas to preserve wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

Every little change we make as individuals adds up to big changes for the world. And these big changes are going to impact how future generations live here.

That’s why we have created a list of 21 Actions for 2021. These include steps we can all take in our individual lives as well as throughout our community that put us on a path to sustainable living.

Week 20 Recap: Reduce Your Home Energy Use

Sobering statistics on the contribution of U.S. home energy use to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average home in America consumes about 11,000 kWh (kilowatthours) per year, which accounts for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. If considered a country, these emissions would be considered the world’s sixth largest GHG emitter, comparable to Brazil and larger than Germany” (See EIA and PNAS). How does your home compare to the national average?

Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is one of the biggest contributors to our home energy use. According to the Department of Energy, “Running your air conditioning at 78°F instead of 72°F can save between 6 and 18 percent on your cooling bill. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be, so set your thermostat as high as possible during the summer months.” At what temperature do you set your thermostat?

Top 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Saving Energy at Home: Summer Edition

11. Placing lamps or TV sets near your room air-conditioning thermostat can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary because the thermostat senses heat from the appliances. Set them apart and save energy.

10. Lighting makes up about 10 percent of home energy costs. Save up to 75 percent of that energy by replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). They also last longer, saving money on replacements.  

9. If #10 weren’t enough reason to make the switch to CFLs, only about 10 to 15 percent of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light — the rest is turned into heat. Don’t believe me? Watch this.

8. Running your air conditioning at 78°F instead of 72°F can save between 6 and 18 percent on your cooling bill. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be, so set your thermostat as high as possible during the summer months.

7. Well-planned landscaping isn’t just for aesthetics — properly placed trees around the house can save between $100 and $250 annually.

6. On average, households lose about 20 percent of their heated and cooled air through the duct system to the outside. To avoid wasting energy, have your ducts inspected to ensure they’re sealed properly and insulated if necessary.

5. If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort. Just make sure to turn it off when you leave the room (fans cool people, not rooms).

4. Heating water can account for 14 to 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F) and save energy (and avoid a surprise faucet-scalding).

3. By using the microwave, toaster or a counter-top grill rather than an oven, you’ll use less energy and avoid excess heat that increases room temperature.

2. Leaving a computer on all day can cost about 21 cents per day, or about $75 per year. Unplug electronics and appliances when not in use – a task made easier by using multiple-outlet strips, which can turn everything off with the flip of a switch.

1. Programmable thermostats can save up to $150 a year on energy costs when used properly. Use one that can automatically turn off your cooling system when you are not home, and turn your system on in time for you to arrive home to a cooled house.

April Saylor, Energy.gov


Energy Check

One of the best things you can do to get a handle on where your home is using energy, and where you can make changes, is by having a professional home energy audit done. Energy Check is located right here in Blacksburg and has conducted audits for many local residents. Ann Raridon, president of Sustainable Blacksburg’s Board of Directors, had an audit done on her home that was built in 2000. The audit revealed that the best way to increase the efficiency of their home was to add insulation in the attic.


Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat can save energy (and money) on heating and cooling without sacrificing comfort because you can set the temperature higher (or lower in winter) when you’re away or asleep. You can program the thermostat to return to your preferred temperature by the time you return home. Smart thermostats are even more advanced, allowing you to control the thermostat using your phone or computer even when you’re not home. If you’re consistently out of your home for hours a day for work or school, a programmable thermostat can fairly quickly return your investment. Most importantly for many of us, it can immediately start saving energy and reducing your generation of greenhouse gases.


Lighting

Lighting is another area that contributes fairly significantly to our home energy use, but where it is easy and relatively inexpensive to make improvements. With traditional incandescent bulbs, 90% of the energy is given off as heat but new lighting technology is much more efficient and will save you money over the long-term. Look for products that have earned the ENERGY STAR. This article provides a good explanation of the different types of bulbs available, as well as other ways to save energy on lighting, such as installing timers.


Kitchen Appliances

Refrigerators are another big user of home energy, so when you need to replace yours be sure to look for one that is ENERGY-STAR qualified. These models use at least 15% less energy than non-qualified models. The EnergyGuide label will help you compare the energy usage of different models. Even if you’re not ready to replace any of your appliances, this article offers tips for using less energy with major appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers. Don’t be fooled by commercials that tell you to run your dishwasher every day even if it’s not full. It’s best to only run dishwashers and clothes washers when they’re full (but not overloaded).

Dishwasher Water-Saving Tips

Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer’s recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater in your home to a lower temperature (120° F).

Scrape, don’t rinse, off large food pieces and bones. Soaking or pre-washing is generally only recommended in cases of burned- or dried-on food.

Be sure your dishwasher is full (not overloaded) when you run it.

Avoid using the “rinse hold” on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3-7 gallons of hot water each use.

Let your dishes air dry; if you don’t have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open slightly so the dishes will dry faster.

Kitchen Appliances, energy.gov

Refrigerator-Freezer Energy Tips

Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 35°-38°F for the fresh food compartment and 0° F for separate freezers for long-term storage. 

Check the refrigerator temperature by placing an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. Check the freezer temperature by placing a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.

Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment, the seal may need replacing, or you may consider buying a new unit.

Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.

Regularly defrost manual-defrost freezers and refrigerators; frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit. Don’t allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.

Kitchen Appliances, energy.gov


Coming Up…

Week 21 starts tomorrow! Join us as we talk about reducing the amount of waste we send to the landfill. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to see daily updates.


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Done reading the most recent post on 21 Actions for 2021? Check out our archive of actions to continue learning and taking action!

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