We’ve installed programmable thermostats to efficiently heat and cool our homes, switched to CFL and LED light bulbs, and have plugged everything into power strips so that phantom energy use is eliminated. We, rightfully, feel good about our responsible use of energy, our efforts to conserve natural resources, and our commitment to the planet. We also benefit from lower a utility bill, which means more money in our wallets each month.
But there’s another side to energy use which affects the cost of consumer goods and the environment.
Image courtesy of Teeratas / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Did you know that indirect energy use accounts for approximately half of your energy footprint?
Indirect energy costs are the “behind the scenes” expenses associated with all products. For example, your cold breakfast cereal doesn’t require any cooking and seems to be an energy efficient food. However, a lot of energy went into harvesting the grains, processing them into the product which you pour into your bowl, packaging that product, and transporting it to your grocery shelf. Throughout each stage of the grain’s journey, energy was spent. Add to that the energy required to create the packaging, create the vehicle(s) used for transportation, and manufacture the ink used to decorate the cereal box. Let’s not forget the energy spent by government departments who are tasked with inspecting the cereal for safety, monitoring the cleanliness of the facility and ensuring that the plant adheres to employee safety standards.
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It quickly becomes apparent that the hidden energy cost of one simple item is considerable. And the cost of that energy, in dollars and cents, is passed on to consumers through higher prices and, often, lower quality.
The same is true for the electronic gadgets we love, our clothing, body care products, furniture, kitchen utensils, cars, homes, etc.
So why should we care? Because conserving both direct and indirect energy helps protect our planet and helps to keep the price of consumer goods down.
Getting started is easy! Simply adopt the three, green-living guiding principles: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Since everything has associated energy costs, reducing our consumption will conserve energy. Limit purchases to only items which are truly needed. Opt for local, minimally-processed foods, and less meat. Walk or ride a bike whenever possible and when driving is necessary, plan trips so that all your errands are accomplished using the least amount of gas. Reduce paper use by refusing receipts, paying bills online, and restricting the number of paper towels you pull off the roll. Here’s another consideration: having a lot of stuff means we need a place to put it: a larger home, a storage facility, etc. Storage requires energy. So, reducing the amount of stuff we have means conserving energy.
By reusing as much as possible, we eliminate the need to create new stuff. Before tossing things out, think about how they might be reused. For example, food jars can be used to hold leftovers or to organize small items such as buttons, paper clips and safety pins. Consider second-hand stores for clothing and kitchen items. Browse antique stores for beautiful, well-made furniture rather than buying new. Share tools with neighbors, reuse old clothes or swap children’s clothing with friends, and pass unwanted household items to someone in need. When making purchases think beyond the immediate use of the item and consider whether or not it can be used in other ways once its intended use is complete.
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In many cases, recycling requires less energy than creating a virgin product. For example, the energy used to extract raw materials for such things as glass, aluminum products, and even plastic, combined with the cost of fabricating an item, is much higher than the cost of recycling, or upcycling, recycled materials. Also, recycling eliminates the energy costs associated with landfills.
Employing energy saving techniques in our homes is important. Reducing indirect energy use is also important. Doing so helps to keep the price of consumer goods down and protects natural resources.
Above all, any form of energy conservation protects our home, the planet!
Guest post written by Cyndi Hall
About the author: Cyndi Hall is the author of Reduce Footprints, a blog about the easy ways we can reduce our footprint on the earth.