In David MacKay's excellent book, Sustainable Energy - without the hot air, he lists his top energy saving recommendations at the end of chapter 29 titled, "What to do now". While his tips are from a British perspective, they are also applicable to Americans and others around the World. Below are the tips he recommends, which can be found here, and my comments on each of his tips (in blue):
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- Put on a woolly jumper and turn down your heating’s thermostat (to 15 or 17 °C, say). Put individual thermostats on all radiators. Make sure the heating’s off when no-one’s at home. Do the same at work. The same goes for air conditioning. Bottom line: Be conscious of your thermostats! This is one of the biggest energy savings opportunities hands down.
- Read all your meters (gas, electricity, water) every week, and identify easy changes to reduce consumption (e.g., switching things off). Compare competitively with a friend. Read the meters at your place of work too, creating a perpetual live energy audit. Reading meters is great, but tedious and unfortunately I don't believe many people will actively do this. Make it easy on yourself and install an active energy monitor (like your personal smart meter). I installed the TED 5000 but there are others out there. In any case, be aware of how much power you use and how you use it!
- Stop flying. While this will lower CO2 emissions, I don't like this recommendation, mainly because I love to travel. When people start recommending we stop doing things that we love, then energy savings isn't fun anymore. In the grand scheme of things how many people will really stop flying to lower CO2 emissions? Maybe 5% at max? The rest of us have places to go, people to see, and Tuscany to visit.
- Drive less, drive more slowly, drive more gently, carpool, use an electric car, join a car club, cycle, walk, use trains and buses. This should be a no-brainer, but just be aware of how often you drive and how hard you mash on the gas pedal. I covered some gas saving tips a little while back. Get a bike. You'll be amazed at how free you feel being able to get places relying on your own power. Want to figure out how much power you create on a bike?
- Keep using old gadgets (e.g. computers); don’t replace them early. Pretty straightforward. As an addition, when you do replace your gadgets, take them to an electronics recycle location. Best Buy is offering electronics recyclingat all their stores now!
- Change lights to fluorescent or LED. If you're wondering about the cost savings between keeping your incandescent bulbs or switching to CFLs, here you go. LEDs will be the future, but they still are a little pricey. Either way, you are better to swtich from incandescents!
- Don’t buy clutter. Avoid packaging. Get one of those re-usable grocery bags. Keep them in your trunk, and use them. They hold so much more than those crappy plastic bags. If you do have to use a plastic grocery bag, re-use it around the house as a bathroom trash bag. I hate seeing plastic grocery bags caught in trees.
- Eat vegetarian, six days out of seven. While I have tried to cut down on meat just for health reasons, I don't think the majority of Americans who eat meat would be open to this suggestion. While eating animals does require much more energy than vegetables, it's a tough habit to break for most people. I have found that a lot of things, like Curries, Salads, and Pizza actually taste better without the meat. Plus I feel lethargic after eating a lot of meat. That's not to say I don't enjoy a good burger, I just don't need to eat one with every meal.
So what do you think? What are some tips that are left off? How are you making an impact?