I have mixed feelings about the article the Times is running today about how to put your home on an energy diet without lifting a finger. The angle is simple: the author intends to knock 1,000 lbs of CO2 off his annual home energy usage without sacrificing anything or even putting in any real effort.
On the one hand, the tone of the article couldn’t be more offputting. There’s only so much of the “environmentalists will pry my plasma TV from my cold, dead fingers ho-ho-ho” schtick I can stomach, particularly when it’s then coupled with a few thousand words of self congratulation.
Worse, because the author is a New York Times reporter, he can call up Laurie David and get her to pat his back for him. In fact, he manages to line up a whole slew of environmental experts to tell him how sensible and heroic his efforts are. I can’t help but suspect at least one of these experts was tempted to give him a good slap.
On the other hand, the experiment succeeds, and in some ways the author’s sheer lack of ambition is oddly inspirational. With about an hour of effort and minimal lifestyle changes, he overshoots his goal, dropping an estimated 1,700 lbs of CO2 from his annual emissions. If this guy can do it, you’re left thinking, surely I can too.
If you don’t feel like plodding through the entire article, here are the changes he makes:
- Lowered thermostat by one degree at night in the winter.
- No longer leaves the shower running at full temperature for two minutes before getting in.
- When washing white loads, uses warm/cold cycle rather than warm/warm.
- Cancelled ten glossy print catalogs.
- Cut down the number of dishwasher loads from six a week to four, and stopped rinsing dishes before putting them in the washer.
- Plugged appliances such as TV and computer into a power strip, turns off at night.
- Replaced two light bulbs with CFLs.
- Set computer to go to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity.
The article is also notable for the energy saving tactics it rejects, apparently as too extreme:
- Driving more slowly. Personally, I started driving more slowly years ago, for reasons that had nothing to do with the environment. I was sick of getting speeding tickets. Cruise control makes this behavioral change ridiculously easy, and afterwards it’s hard to understand why you were ever in such a rush.
- Replacing all bulbs with CFLs. Of all the changes the author makes, CFLs provide the biggest bang for the buck, and he only uses two of them. He later admits that this is largely because he bought some crappy CFLs that give off a cold light.
- Getting a thermal insulating blanket for your water heater. This proves to be too much effort, for some reason. Nor does the author consider simply turning the temperature on the heater down.
- Painting your roof white or silver. This one would require some actual effort, to be sure, but the potential energy savings are huge.
- Hang drying clothes. Perhaps a bit of a challenge in New York City, but one member of the TerraPass office has recently strung a clothesline in the backyard and couldn’t be more pleased with the results.