Energy Diet

As we near the end of the 360-degree Energy Diet I find I am stumped to come up with something that really makes a difference.

For this portion of the Diet we are focusing on waste and recycling. I think I have a good scorecard, but I am wondering how to do even better.

Here is the list of suggested ways to lose energy through better management of waste and recycling, and how we have embraced them:

* Recycle all glass, aluminum, plastic, batteries and paper: Yes, we do that through our trash and recycling service, placing all these items in a separate collection bin for sorting and recycling.
* Eliminate advertising mail: Not perfect, but we’re doing our bit to stamp it out!
* Change to paperless billing: In the process of doing this.
* Eliminate the use of plastic and paper bags: Yes, we’ve bought reusable bags and backpacks so that we can not only not use disposable bags but we can carry our purchases comfortably while WALKING to and from the grocery store.
* Begin composting at home: A mound of decaying vegetation, old container soil, grass clippings, and kitchen vegetable waste (including coffee grounds) is looming at the back of our yard. Next spring I hope to be spreading the compost around our flower beds.
* Use biodegradable bags for trash or walking the dog: Done
* Recycle or donated old athletic shoes and clothes: We’ve been doing this for years.
* Recycle or donated old electronics: National Geographic has a program to collect our old electronics for responsible recycling, and we use it.

Here are some other ideas we’re trying:

* We’re trying to not waste food. Buy only what we eat, eat any leftovers, recycle waste by feeding the animals or adding to the compost heap.

* How can we reduce the laundry load, especially use of the professional cleaners? We’re thinking again of what we wear. National Geographic allows casual wear at the office and I am trying to wear only clothing I can launder at home with green detergents and cold water. We’ve already cut our professional laundry bills by more than half, saving on transport and whatever detergents and energy the company uses. This is actually also quite a nice savings on our own budget.

* We’ve cut down greatly on buying flowering annuals for the yard. Instead, I focused this season on dividing perennial plants I already had, ferns and hostas included — planting them in containers and window boxes. My thinking is that I will try to plant only hardy native perennials from now on, to allow plants to return after winter. As they multiply, I will share the excess with friends and neighbors.

I’m certain there is a lot more we can do. When I read about the people of Europe after World War II and the years of rationing they endured, I am greatly inspired by how much they did with so much less. They got by with severely rationed food and gasoline and they extended the life of clothing by reversing collars and cuffs. They survived winters by huddling under blankets instead of baking themselves at the fireside. Entertainment involved simple pleasures like walking, picnics, or simply gathering with friends.

I’m not sure we need to go that far to cut our excessive lifestyles, but we sure could do with more of that generation’s spirit and determination.


  1. Christina Nunez
    July 7, 2011, 12:09 pm

    I’m with you on the laundry issue — I won’t buy everyday clothing that needs to be dry cleaned anymore, no matter how tempting it is in the store. Just not worth it.

  2. Chad Lipton
    July 7, 2011, 2:45 pm

    David–you might be able to find ways to reduce your home electricity and natural gas consumption. From an earlier post, I see you have mapped out last year’s natural gas and water usage records. With that information (and kWh as well), you can see what impact your current reduction efforts will have. Hiring an expert to do a home energy audit is a good way to help figure out which steps will pay off the quickest.