Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2:  Turn it Off.

If we are working from the framework of aparigraha as “trusting that we do not have to hold on to things for dear life, because life is already dear”, then we do not need to hoard the world’s most precious resources. 

These resources are buzzwords in environmental conservationist conversations. ‘Going green’ means using less resources like petroleum, water, and electricity.  And ‘going green’ is a natural extension of your yoga: realizing our innate connection to all living beings, including the Earth, compels us to live an ahimsa (non-harming) and aparigraha (non-hoarding) lifestyle.

Put simply: please stop hoarding the natural, or unnaturally and disastrously produced, precious resources.  We only have one Earth.

“What if our religion was each other,

If our practice was our life

If prayer, our words.

What if the temple was the Earth

If forests were our church

If holy water—the rivers, lakes, and ocean

What if meditation was our relationships

If the teacher was life

If wisdom was self-knowledge

If love was the center of our being.”

– Ganga White.

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Wisdom in this case means seeing the intimate connection between honoring Earth’s resources and our yoga lifestyle. Overconsumption of the Earth’s resources is not yoga.  Overconsumption can be extremely disastrous (think landslides on over-logged hillsides and severe storms spawned by changing weather patterns and global warming) and even extremely violent (think communities of the Mexican desert who are downstream of the Colorado River and are limited to a trickle of water thanks to the massive hydroelectric dams providing electricity to Las Vegas).

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the popular lists of ‘Do This! to Go Green.’  I checked out over fifteen books from the library about this.  My book bag included a book titled something like ‘1,001 ways to Be More Eco-Friendly.’  (Are you kidding me?! One thousand and one things I need to do?!  Every day?!  No wonder people throw up their hands and say: ‘To hell with this environmentalist crap.  I’m just going to live my life.’ I was overwhelmed by page six!)

So, never fear, dear readers.  I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, and distilled 3 resource saving techniques to recommend.  I’ve tried them all and they seem… manageable.  Took a little getting used to, but I gave it a good shot, and I think you should too.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

1.    Unplug everything.  David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich, thinks I could save $94.00 a year on my electric bills by unplugging everything in my house.  He also thinks I can reduce my home’s carbon-dioxide emissions by 1,430 pounds a year.  I wasn’t not sure about this.  But, because I rent a house (therefore I will not buy an Energy Star dishwashing machine, or replace my refrigerator with a highly efficient model) I had to start somewhere.  We’ve all heard of phantom energy by now: even when your appliances are turned off, they continue to suck energy out of the socket, accounting for 27 million tons of CO2 emissions a year in the United States.  Your phantom load is also known as your Stand By or Idle current, and can total up to 15% of your monthly electric bill.  That sounds alarming and outrageous.  I really thought I was good about unplugging things when I left the house: my two space heaters, my standing lamps, my straightening iron, etc.  These are all double-checks before walking out the door.  But what about when I’m sleeping?  I can’t believe I never thought of this: electronics do not need to be plugged in at night.  Unplug everything when not in use, you say?  Here’s what worked and didn’t work for me:

Worked:

  • Electric kettle.  Unplug unless you are, literally, boiling water for a hot drink.  Also, do not fill the kettle (stove top or electric).  Only boil as much as you need for the drinks you are about to enjoy.  This can be a huge energy saver.
  • Phone Charger.  Like most of you, even though I know that small electronics use up an exorbitant amount of electricity, I will not give up my iPhone.  But for God’s sake, do not leave your phone charger plugged in the wall when your phone is in your purse.  What are you charging?  (Just your wallet.)  This one is easy.  Every time you remove your phone from the charger, take the charge out of the wall socket.
  • Computer.  A few times, I’ve closed my laptop (idle, schmidle) and plugged it in to charge.  And then left it charging overnight.  This seems like overkill.  Now I check every night to make sure nothing at my desk is plugged in, including my small desk lamp.  Most Green Guides suggest a power strip that can be turned “off” with one switch, controlling your electronics.  You don’t need your internet wireless router on all night either!

Didn’t work:

  • Dishwasher.  This is a huge, energy-sucking, appliance.  And I turn it on once a week (usually less, mine is terrible so I end up hand-washing anyway).  Is it draining energy the other six days a week when it’s empty and idle?  Actually. Yes.  But I couldn’t manage to unplug it… It’s behind the cupboard with Russell’s dog food and dog treats. It was an ordeal just to look for the plug/socket combo.  I’m not going to do this every time I want to wash my dishes.  #fail
  • Clothes Dryer.  Same thing as the dishwasher.  My small storage/ laundry room is packed too nicely for me to move the dryer away from the wall to unplug it.  It’s just too heavy.  But there are loads of other energy-saving tips I learned about drying clothes: choose the Air Dry setting because it uses less energy to heat the dryer, hang-dry all delicates, and always use the ‘less dry’ setting.  #50%fail

Here are some phantom energy vampires to look for in your house:

Window A/C units, air humidifiers, air purifiers (which don’t need to be on when you aren’t home to breathe.  Better yet: buy a plant), your massive TV (no one should be watching it while you are sleeping.  Unplug it.), your DVD/Blue Ray player, your Xbox, your wireless router, your coffee pot, your microwave (that one is obvious: you can nuke something in your microwave in less than four minutes… why is it plugged in the other 23 hours and 56 minutes of the day?), your blowdryer, your curling iron, your bathroom fan, your electric toothbrush holder, your electric shaver.  It may seem like a lot.  That’s because it is.  Stop hoardingStart Unplugging.

 2Cook smart. I learned about a bajillion things from the book How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint, by Jane Yarrow, about how to conserve energy in my kitchen.  I usually bake 2 or 3 things at once when I’m using the oven to save energy, but here are other tips I tried (that worked!) to use less energy:

  • Size your pots and pans.  Use a pot that fits the stove-top heating unit.   Yarrow says that choosing the right size pan and keeping the lid on for most of the cooking process can reduce energy use by up to 90%.  I realized how often I let my veggies cook and my beans warm up without a lid on the pot.  Easy fix.
  • Don’t preheat your oven.  What a huge waste of energy to cook nothing.  Unless you are baking a soufflé or a pastry/goodie, you don’t need to pre-heat your oven.  You shouldn’t have to adjust the cooking time, either.  The food will heat up as the oven heats up.
  • Turn off the oven four minutes before the cook-time ends.  The food will continue to cook through residual heat. 

3. Chill out.  Fridges and freezers account for about a quarter of domestic electric consumption (Yarrow).  I’m not great at fractions (sorry, Dad, your tutoring helped me get good math grades, but I still don’t really get them), but that seems like a lot.   I’m not ready to forgo a fridge (this podcast about the No Fridge Movement is awesome, by the way) so I better look for ways to make it more efficient.

  • Check your Temperature.  Fridges don’t need to be colder than 37-41°F.  My fridge doesn’t have a thermometer… it just as a dial that says ‘colder’ and ‘warmer.’  I guessed and put the dial in the middle.  Guess what?  Nothing rotted.  Turn your fridge down.
  • Spring Clean.  Dust the coils at the back of your fridge and increase its efficiency by 30%.
  • Organize.  Lots of cold air escapes when the door is open.  Keeping your fridge organized makes it easy for you to grab what you need quickly and seal it back shut.

Ok, friends, that’s only 3 challenges, but each of them has a few parts.  I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.  (I bet you can find at least 6 things in your house to unplug.)  Happy Saving.

-lisa

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

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