July Challenge: Reduce your energy footprint

With the recent power outages, it’s an ideal time to think about power sources and our consumption of power. This month’s challenge:

Our electric service is part of an interconnected grid that includes 21 power plants that buy coal directly from mountaintop removal strip mines in Southern West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia. The above picture is of Glen Alum Mountain, one of the mountains that supplies our electricity.
Up close devastation of clean water and healthy living environments are obvious to the neighbors of mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal for coal, fracking for gas, and oil extraction all have serious side effects to the environment and all those living in it. Nuclear power’s dangers are even more evident after Japan’s tsunami. These non-renewables are vastly detrimental to our air, water, land, wildlife and ultimately, our health and well-being.

According to U.S. Department of energy, as of 2010, our energy in the United States came from the following sources:*
25% oil
22% coal
22% natural gas
8.4% nuclear
8% renewables
Renewable energy consists of hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar.

The average household uses approximately:*
32% heating the home
13% water heating
12% lighting
8% refrigeration
5% electronics
5% cleaning- mostly laundry

To cut back energy use, there are some simple solutions and some more complex ones. Some simple solutions:
• Hot water heaters. Cut back on energy use with a blanket and/or a timer (available at home improvement stores). Invest in a tank-less water heater.
• Turn out lights when leaving the room. https://www.facebook.com/events/249835971751305/
• Turn up air conditioning a few degrees (80 still feels cool in this weather). Use ceiling fans and floor fans to circulate air so that window air units work better. Insulate. Or open windows and acclimate if possible.
• When appliances break, buy energy star rated appliances. Also replace shower heads and faucets with low- flow alternatives.
• Look for hand tools instead of electric ones. Can openers, mortar and pestles, hand crank coffee grinders, hand saws, hammers, screwdrivers, scythe, blade lawnmowers, etc,… If these seem unreasonable now, you will be thankful for them when the power is out.
• Laundry: wash clothes in cold water. Wash full loads. Put up a laundry line and hang your laundry. If you can’t hang a laundry line, buy some dryer balls to cut your drying time. One local source is www.bellwethersdryerballs.com
• Power strips. Connect all your phantom power suckers to these and switch them off at night. Phantom power is when you’ve turned off an electric device and it continues to use power. Some power suckers are television, computers and their different pieces, chargers, etc,…
• Don’t leave the refrigerator or freezer open- make quick selections. Turn off when cleaning.
• Don’t leave water running while brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc,… Set up a water collection system. In addition to conserving water for gardening, you’ll be thankful when the power goes out and you can flush your toilet.
• Limit screen time (computers, television,..) for both adults and children. Spend more time outside.
• Buy local to cut back on the fuel that is used to transport items across the country or further.

More complex solutions:
• Get an energy audit to find out from a specialist where you could save energy in your home.
• Consider alternative building like green roofs (insulators and carbon off-setters), straw bale walls, Geo-thermal heating, etc,..
• Alternative energy. Join a solar co-op. Sustainable Shepherdstown working on this now. For more information, email sustainableshepherdstown@gmail.com Or invest in your own alternative energy source.

We left out (but have now added) an important contact- Home Efficiency Solutions. They do energy audits. Please let us know if we’ve left off anyone else that can help with this month’s challenge. Thanks.

Check out these area businesses specializes in saving energy and alternative energy:

Randy Swartz
Energy Audits

Mountain View Solar
Alternative Energy
Engineering/Environmental Consulting

Pinnacle Enterprises LLC
Green Building
Residential Home Improvements / Remodel

A H I Technologies Inc
Tankless hot water

Berkeley Home Technologies
Alternative Energy
Green Building
HVAC / Hydronic Heating / Geothermal/ Lighting

Green Path Consulting
Jeff Feldman

Al Thomas
Straw Bale, Timber frame, Earth plaster construction, cunsultant

Beyond personal changes, we need to talk to the politicians. Let them know this an an issue that would swing your vote. Check out www.ilovemountains.org for more information on coal and further action ideas.

Don’t forget The Last Mountain admission is free July 21 at the Opera House. A joint project of the Opera House, ACFF and Sustainable Shepherdstown

*The numbers do not add up to 100% but they were the numbers that were found when researching percentages.

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