I took over running the Air Quality compliance program last summer, which has led to some interesting research that has reemphasized how all different types of environmentally related things are connected to each other and need to be balanced. Energy conservation is something that has caught my attention, and I thought it would be a good topic to write about here.
Energy sources where I live are extremely costly and limited in availability. Alaska, when you get away from the main metropolis areas, face many challenges for providing people with what could be termed a modern lifestyle. For instance, coal is a cheap source used by a majority of our power plants up here. Wood is used by most of us in the winter to keep our homes warm and to offset the costs of electricity. There have been projects in the area, such as a hydroelectric dam development and trying to figure out the logistics in bringing natural gas to the region, but one of the most common problems encountered is the cost of infrastructure. Other projects in the area have included wind and solar energy development, but they are at such a small scale that they don’t generate the power needs for a medium size community (Interior has about 100,000 people spread over about 7,444 square miles or 19,280 square kilometers, which is about 13 people a square mile).
Now that you have a bit of background, what is Energy Conservation?
Energy conservation in the simplest of definitions, from the point of view of the environment, is the prevention of the wasteful use of energy by adjusting your behaviors and habits. Energy conservation can sometimes be confused with energy efficiency, where the latter involves using a technology that performs the same function and requires less energy to do so. In my honest opinion, I feel they go hand in hand because if you are being energy efficient, you are being conservative in the energy that you’re using.
Another term that comes up that I thought was intriguing was eco-sufficiency which is a concept that requires the reduction in consumption of energy and natural resources in the generation of waste (therefore reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions for example). Therefore, if you are trying to be more energy efficient, then you are conserving energy from being wasteful, which causes you to be eco-sufficient. Being eco-sufficient can also lead to economic cost benefits, such as a reduced electric bill.
Why should I practice Energy Conservation?
From a purely personal point of view, do you want to save money? Practicing good preventative maintenance on items that have emissions is a sure way to save money from a costly repair down the road and extend the life of your item. Change your heating sources filters, get the maintenance done on your motorized vehicle of choice, chop and dry your wood before you burn it in that wood stove (and clean that stack!). Using those items that require power in the manner in which they were designed is also highly recommended because the less power you draw, the less power your power company has to create from whatever fuel source they happen to be using. We are primarily coal communities here in the Last Frontier, so anything that I can do to lessen my footprint means cleaner air I can breathe (even if it is a minuscular fraction of cleaner air).
So, how to I be more Energy Efficient?
Beyond maintenance, how else can you improve air quality? The running spill I often give people or put together in information packets includes things like carpooling, going for a walk or using the mass transit system. Change your lightbulbs out for energy efficient ones, upgrade your appliances if you’re using things from the 70s still, like that avocado colored refrigerator (not a joke, my grandmother had something like this for many, many years). Air-dry your clothes or air-dry your dishes. There is a wonderful list of ideas and recommendations out there (and included in the references) that can make you feel more eco-sufficient and feel good about shrinking your carbon footprint overall.
*Image credit from Morguefile.