Did I switch my lights off? Did I shut down my computer? Did I unplug my charger?

PlugsSimple, yet so easy to forget.  If we knew the impact of leaving equipment plugged in, and the amount of energy wasted by leaving things on standby would we still do it? How about if we knew the amount of money we could save by simply flicking a switch?

Gardner & Stern (2002) found that for most Western European and American households, the most energy used was due to heating rooms, heating water, refrigeration and freezing, lighting, cooking and air conditioning. Many of these things are also used in the workplace and can cause a huge impact on the environment over time.

When we use electrical equipment or turn on lights, we use energy. In the UK this electrical energy is mainly produced by burning fossil fuels, principally gas and coal, which are non-renewable, carbon-intensive and contribute to climate change. In order to reduce the harmful effects we cause to the environment, we should use less energy. This can be done by turning items off when they are not in use. Even when we leave electrical equipment on standby it is not actually turned off –it still uses energy.

ThermometerDo you ever walk into a lecture theatre or your office and have to take several layers off because it’s too hot? According to the Carbon Trust (http://www.carbontrust.com/), heating accounts for 20-40% of energy costs in a typical office. They recommend that office temperatures should not be over 21ºC, as we can feel comfortable at around 18ºC. By turning the heating down by even 1ºC, you can reduce energy consumption by 8%. This is also worth taking note of when heating your home.

So how can you help with reducing the amount of energy wasted? Here are 5 tips:

  1. Turn down your heating – if you’re walking around in a T-shirt, chances are your heating is too high. To save energy and money, turn the heating down by a couple of degrees and if you start to feel a bit chilly, put a jumper on.
  2. Switch off lights when you leave the room – even if you’re leaving the room for a minute, turning off the lights can help save energy. Why leave them on when there’s nobody in there?
  3. Turn off electrical equipment when it’s not in use – this includes turning items off standby. Did you know that according to the Carbon Trust, if you leave a computer on overnight for a year it creates enough carbon dioxide to fill a double decker bus? Leaving equipment on unnecessarily also reduces its lifetime!
  4. Only put the amount of water you need in a kettle – putting extra water in a kettle not only uses more energy, but takes longer to boil! Why wait longer for your cup of tea?
  5. Don’t leave the fridge door open unnecessarily – keep the inside of the fridge cold! Every time you open the fridge door, it gets warmer inside. Energy is then used by the fridge to cool the contents down again. According to the Carbon Trust, a fridge left open for half an hour a day wastes enough energy per year to power a lighthouse for almost 4 days!

Even changing some of your habits can have a more positive impact on the environment, so why not look around now, to see what you can do to save both energy and money?

More advice tomorrow from PEET.

Gardner, G. T., & Stern, P. C. (2002). Environmental Problems and Human Behavior. Boston: Pearson.

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