What can we do? For a start, power down

  • Dec. 5, 2008 8:00 a.m.

Submitted by Sara Eaton-When I moved to Haida Gwaii in December 2003, I was on the ferry deck at 5:00 am to watch as we came south from Lawn Hill. Such blackness! No lights on the shoreline, then a glimmer soon gone, then a cluster, ditto. More black. Finally lights of Skidegate, the Landing and Queen Charlotte strung out, each briefly. I was struck by how isolated we are here. If it weren’t for those lights..Such a contrast with the city where lights and their glow block out all sight of the stars.We know our dirty diesel electricity adds hugely to the stress to our planet. Our governments seem slow to do much, so we are left with the challenge. We all struggle with the hows of reducing energy consumption.Here are some things I’ve been trying to do, mostly involving electricity, including some I’ve not yet managed:Hot water: get a smaller water tank and set the heat low enough that you needn’t add cold to, say, wash your hands or shower; wrap the tank in a blanket or insulation material; rinse your dishes, hands and pots with cold water. All will get hot water later. This way you’re not constantly taking dribs of water from the tank. A five minute shower uses half the water of a bath and if you wet down, turn off the water to soap and put it on again to rinse, you use even less.Lights: go fluorescent or LED if you can. If you must use incandescent, put them on a dimmer and use it. California is banning all incandescent bulbs by 2012. Turn out all lights in an empty room; at any time use only the light you need; some operate outdoor lights 24/7 at this time of year; instead put these lights on a motion sensor. They’re under $50. Similarly, if you have electric, heat close rooms not in use and lower thermostat to at least 15 (or 10) if you’re out or sleeping. Appliances: microwave, toaster, pressure cookers, use less power than ovens and can save a lot on your bill. Wash clothes in cold water; they do get clean. Use drier minimally and keep the lint trap clean. Clotheslines cost about $40 and it’s fun to hang your clothes for much of the year – they smell good! This time of year, dry a load of clothes, for 10-15 minutes in the drier, then shift them to a drying rack. Or just use rack. Use the no heat drying cycle on the dishwasher. Turn your fridge temperature to 2-4 degrees.Have you heard of phantom power? Even when ‘off’ many household electronic items draw power. If there’s a little light burning somewhere – like the stove clock, power is being used; if you can get it off you can save up to $100 per year. It’s estimated that in the US about 6 percent of household energy is used to power switched-off devices. Part of this can be prevented by not leaving chargers plugged in and putting your entertainment and computer systems on a power bar. When not in use, turn the works off at the power bar. A computer uses about the same amount of electricity for every two seconds in use as it takes to power up, so off with the power bar when not using. If someone can show me – or my television – how not to get scrambled when I do this, please let me know. Also, how can one turn off the microwave clock oven without unplugging the microwave!Of course the hardest part of doing all this is training yourself. And kids need a contest to remember. The article in the Globe and Mail from which I got some of this information is dated February, 2007. I’m still struggling and forgetting. But the power bill is lower.

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