Going Green: Energy Consumption
On the average, Americans waste as much energy as two-thirds of the world's population consumes. For instance, we use energy to drive—and each gallon of gas used puts 25 pounds of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
We also use electricity (and other energy sources) to light and heat or cool our homes—and more than half the electricity in the United States comes from polluting coal-fired power plants. Additionally, activities that support our quality of life, like growing food, raising livestock, and disposing of garbage use up significant amounts of energy.
And the expenditure of energy is only part of the problem. All of these are closely tied to and cause greenhouse gas emissions, adding to global warming.
Did you know that you can make small changes within your own household to make significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions—and save energy and money? Here are a few suggestions:
- Switch to green, renewable energy. Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. There are two ways to use green power: you can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. In some states, you can switch to electric companies that provide 50 to 100 percent renewable energy.
- Use the most energy-efficient household appliances on the market. If each U. S. household used the most energy efficient appliances, we would save $15 billion in energy costs and eliminate 175 million tons of heat-trapping gases.
- Buy and use energy-saving light bulbs. If every U. S. household used energy-saving lightbulbs, we could reduce global warming pollution by more than 90 billion pounds--the same as taking 6.3 million cars off the road. In fact, one suggestion is to replace the five most frequently used light fixtures in your home with energy-efficient bulbs. If every U.S. household did this; then we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars!
- Heating and cooling: Clean your air filters regularly; this can save energy and increase comfort as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Choose high-efficiency heating/cooling appliance models; and seal up air leaks or add insulation to eliminate drafts, maintain comfort and save energy—as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Water use: Municipal water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households. Saving water, especially hot water, can lower greenhouse gas emissions. Water lawns/landscaping only when needed—during the coolest part of the day. Turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth. Check for a leaky toilet—as it can waste 200 gallons of water per day. Repair leaky toilets or sinks.
- Electronics: Computers, printers, wireless routers and other electronics use energy even when they are on stand-by or idle. Activate the power management features on your computer and monitor, unplug laptop power cords when not in use and turn off equipment and lights at the end of the day. All of these actions will conserve energy.
Human Health is Synonymous with Environmental Health
The quantity and quality of our resources and the associative impact on the environment directly influence our overall quality of life. The ways in which the environment influences our health is multi-faceted. This is perpetuated through exposure to physical, chemical and biological risk factors, and through related changes in our behavior in response to those factors.
Collectively, we must be conscious about our resources not only in our own backyard, but beyond. As the World Health Organization states, “Proper environmental management is the key to avoiding the quarter of all preventable illnesses which are directly caused by environmental factors. Thirteen million deaths annually are due to preventable environmental causes. Preventing environmental risk could save as many as four million lives a year, in children alone, mostly in developing countries.”
As long as humans continue unnecessary excess coupled with hazardous environmental practices, it will be impossible to provide for all of the world’s people with sufficient clean water and air, safe food sources, and adequate shelter. We can all make a difference, one day at a time, with simple practices to set both a foundation and knowledge base, positioning us to tackle larger world issues.
We must now position ourselves as stewards of our own health, and the health of our collective environment, to ensure quality of life for generations to come.