Energy Efficiency Day is held annually on October 6, and focuses on cutting consumer energy bills and reducing pollution. The holiday is the result of a united effort by a coalition of energy efficiency groups all across the country, including the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Advanced Energy Economy, and the Alliance to Save Energy, among others. Hundreds of associations and companies participate every year to support the promotion of energy efficiency and practice environmentally friendly habits! More information and ways to take action can be found on energyefficiencyday.org. For this year’s Energy Efficiency day, a few of CIEE’s team members are sharing our favorite energy efficiency strategies. What are yours?
Awareness: You can’t reduce what you don’t measure or know about. For less than $50 and an hour spent on the phone with PG&E, one can get real-time energy data from your home interval meter right to your smartphone! CIEE Associate Director Therese Peffer bought the Emporia Vue from Amazon, plugged it in, linked to WiFi and voila—now she can see how much energy her family uses (especially compared to solar generated) at any time of day. How much are they using at night that they could turn off or control with smart plugstrips? How can they reduce during those expensive peak periods from 4-9 pm? Professor David Culler often said, “Do nothing well”; when you are not using energy productively, let’s make sure that no energy is being used through standby loads or other wasted energy.
BART and Bicycles: Through close proximity to the light rail system BART, availability of Lyft, and Therese’s husband, Mr. Kauffman’s love of cycling, the Peffer-Kauffman family of four shares one car, a hybrid plugin with a very small battery (Ford Cmax Energi). This energy saver takes some careful planning!
Blue-jean insulation: When Therese and her family first moved into our 1953 ranch house, the floors were uninsulated. Mr. Kauffman installed insulation made from old blue jeans under the house—the floors are a bit less cold in the winter. But mostly Therese loves that jeans lovingly broken in and worn can find a new life keeping us warm!
Gardening: Therese calls her husband an urban farmer; he takes care of honey bees on our property as well as over a dozen fruit trees, grapevines, and 400 square feet of a vegetable garden. The Peffer-Kauffmans try to eat as much produce in season as possible, and preserve food by canning and drying. (And yes, Mr. Kauffman makes beer, cider, and wine). This reduces a lot of transportation energy, and the Kauffman boys learned to forage for apples, peas and boysenberries as their in-between meal snacks at an early age.
Manual appliances: Growing up, the Peffer-Kauffman kitchen counter made room for an electric can opener/knife sharpener and mixer. Today the family uses manual can openers, and while they love their Kitchen Aid, the family mixes by hand or use their rotary egg beater much more often. Exercise and save energy!
Cooking: EcoBlock postdoctoral scholar Miriam Aczel always loved to cook, and using an induction cooktop is a great way for her to save energy in the kitchen! Induction cooktops are ideal because they’re super efficient—90% of the heat generated goes directly into cooking food, as compared to half of that for other methods. They’re also safer than other cooking methods, as the cooking surface itself doesn’t heat up, and reduce indoor air pollution. Bonus that induction cooktops come in a range of sizes, like this portable one Miriam’s friend lent her!
Humility: As E. O. Wilson so eloquently describes in Genesis: on the Deep Origins of Societies, humans evolved in community; he quotes David Sloan Wilson who argued that selfish individuals will beat altruistic ones, but groups of altruistic individuals will beat groups of selfish ones. How much energy is wasted in buying unnecessary items, or in anger or arguing instead of listening and working out constructive solutions together? CIEE Director Carl Blumstein often reminds us that a rising tide lifts all boats: rather than arguing over who should get credit, we can celebrate all that we do—together.