Posts Tagged ‘energy’


Warm Showers: Better For Me, Better For The Environment

January 28, 2008

I’m the kind of person that fights off the cold morning chill with a scalding hot shower.  However, I’ve learned that taking showers that are too hot actually cause your skin to be dryer and less healthy.  In addition, although shower length is generally how carbon output is reduced, shower temperature also effects the amount of energy needed.  So by dropping my shower temperature a few degrees I can not only help reduce my carbon output, but improve the health of my skin.  Tricks like this, which improve quality of life while helping the environment, are my favorite kind of green living. 

So how much can we save?  My residence hall shower isn’t new in the least, so I can safely assume that a 10 minute shower uses about 25 gallons (200lbs) of water.  Heating it to scalding, about 120 F, from 60 F takes 12000 BTU.  But heating the same amount of water to just 110 F uses only 10000 BTU.

(200lb)(120-60)=12,000 BTU       (200lb)(110-60)=10,000 BTU     12,000-10,000=2,000 BTU

That difference of 2000 BTU is equivalent to .586 kWh a day.   As my university uses coal power, it means 1.227 lbs less carbon released each day.  Over a year, that’s 447.86 lbs of carbon.  Putting this in perspective, with the energy and carbon savings you could instead keep 5 10w CFLs (40w equivalent) on for 10 hours a day.  All for giving up just 10 extra degrees of heat in my shower, ones I likely won’t even notice.

Now this is just one specific way to reduce the carbon impact of your shower.  As I live in a residence hall it’s really the only aspect I can control, besides with the length of my showers.  If I were to reduce that time by even a minute, that’s an extra .36 lbs of carbon saved per day.  But if you want to do more, here are some easy tricks you might be able to use that are even easier:

-Install a low-flow shower head and use 50% less water (1.8lbs of carbon a day with a 10min shower).  Also look for one with a stop valve so you can soap up without wasting water.

-get an insulating blanket for your old water heater

-turn down the heat on your water heater

-get a tankless water heater

-and for the really ambitious, install a solar hot water heating system (no more carbon guilt!)

Good luck and happy showering!!

(data for calculations found here and here


Beware Of Vampires…

December 18, 2007

Via The Sietch and Materialicious.


Consumption happens even when you’re not looking.  Problem is that you invited it in.  Trent at The Simple Dollar clued me in to “smart power strips” which cut power to devices on the strip based on the on/off status of a master device.  For example, plug the tv, vcr, dvd player, and game console all into one of these strips, and judging by the above chart, the dvd player should get master status.  You’ll not only reduce your energy dependence but save hundreds of dollars a year in the process! 🙂


Managing Your “Online Footprint”

December 8, 2007

12-8.jpgYesterday I was poking around the net using Internet Explorer instead of my usual Mozilla Firefox. To my surprise an ancient photo of my friends and a few links showed up as the homepage. It was a site I had designed while in high school, used as a blog for awhile, and eventually forgotten about over the years. Today I systematically deleted the files from this site and closed my account with the free hosting service.

I consider moves like this to be important to managing my “Online Footprint”. In the same sense that we have a carbon footprint which shows our impact on the atmosphere, we each have an online footprint that represents the extent of our presence on the internet. Unlike a carbon footprint, a large online footprint isn’t necessarily a bad thing; often it is a sign of popularity, prestige, and influence in the online community.

However, our footprints should only be as large as our feet. Unused websites, forgotten flickr accounts, inactive blogs and the like are the refuse from our lives as internet nomads. My old sites contained photos, contact information, and personal writings that I was no longer monitoring but were still accessible by everyone. If I hadn’t come across them by accident they would have stayed put forever or until someone at the free hosting service realized they hadn’t been updated in years. Not only could such information come back to bite us, (Election 2036: Candidates’ old Facebook accounts revealed!) but it sits wasting storage space and possibly even electricity. I tried to find data on the percentage of internet sites that are inactive, and how much energy this wastes, but was unable to find anything. If you know, please enlighten us!

To get a harness on your online footprint, first make a list of all the sites you currently have an account with, including social networking websites, photo storage servers, shopping logins, and blogs. In my short life I’ve held accounts with dozens of sites, many of which I only used for a short time. Delete the ones you haven’t used in the past 3 months- you can always create a new account if you find you need it later. It’s probably a good idea to delete all the information yourself before closing as each site has a different policy on how they handle closed accounts. Then visit the rest of the sites on your list. Examine what personal information is made available and adjust the security controls or delete until you’re comfortable with what can be accessed.

This activity may not be directly “green”, but it cultivates a habit of picking up after oneself. Your mother would be proud of you. 🙂