Saving Energy: Finding the Path to Using Less

From The GOOD Guide to Saving Energy

Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about energy, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month. You can subscribe to GOOD here

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Guess what? The government isn’t going to legislate our nation’s way to energy security and independence. And you know what else? Those technological “breakthroughs” that so many are hanging their hopes on—the hydrogen fuel cells and cheap, thin-film solar rooftops and safer nuclear reactors and “clean” coal—well, we might be waiting on those for a good long while. And while we wait, more mountaintops will be blasted off to extract the “cheap” coal beneath, more shale reserves will be “hydrofracked” with secret brews of toxic chemicals to slurp out more natural gas, and more “wells from Hell” will be drained by floating rigs like the Deepwater Horizon.

The fact of the matter is, today there’s only one way that you can have an immediate and measurable impact on our perilously high demand for energy from polluting, planet-warming, nonrenewable resources. And that’s by using less energy in your own life.

Though the United States represents 4 percent of the world’s population, we account for 24 percent of the world’s total energy demand. So, small as they may seem, your personal actions do matter. Spread across a nation—or over the entire industrialized world—a modest 10-percent reduction in per capita energy use would have a staggering impact. What’s more, cutting your personal energy use helps prove the concept of positive progress—that a more energy-efficient world is possible—to our elected officials.

Let’s be clear: Changing your lightbulbs isn’t going to make that big a difference. (Besides, you already did that back in 2007, right?) But there’s a heck of a lot more you can do at home, on the road, or in the store that will have a much bigger impact. The lowest-hanging fruits of energy savings are delicious. We hope to show you in this guide that without too much effort or too big an investment, you can cut your personal energy use by 10 percent. Immediately.

You can do this whether you live in a house that you own or an apartment that you rent. You can do this whether you live in a city with great mass-transit options or in the country where the nearest general store is a 10-mile drive away. And you can do this without any prolonged suffering. (We’re not prescribing a life of shivering in the cold, reading by candlelight.) Whether you go big and go solar or start small by simply unplugging your assortment of home-energy vampires, you’ll also find that you save a fair bit of money doing it. So why not get started right away?

In fact, let’s all agree that by the time the next issue of GOOD hits your mailbox, your energy consumption will be 10 percent less than it was when this issue arrived. Deal?

Note For our handful of readers already telecommuting from a solar-charged laptop in a passive house or off-grid yurt and cycling to the store for the occasional bottle of biodynamic wine to complement your backyard garden salads, kudos! Your assignment is to call your elected representative weekly and demand strong clean-energy and energy-efficiency policy.

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