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Making Changes for the Better
Present levels of consumption are quickly depleting the earth of natural resources, causing massive amounts of pollution, and creating the need for more and more landfill space. America alone, with only five percent of the world's population, uses twenty-five percent of the world's energy. Why? Because of habits that are based on consumption, not conservation.
An awareness of energy conservation facts is the first step to making a positive impact, rather than a negative one. Many of us are unaware of how we impact the environment on an everyday basis. With that, we are also unaware of the positive effect each of us can have by taking small steps towards saving energy in the home, and recycling.
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The Impact of Recycling
Recycling not only reuses materials that would otherwise increase the waste stream, but it also conserves energy. It takes more energy to create a product using raw materials, than recycled materials. Recycling is also a simple way to transform pollution into something useful. Rather than letting glass, plastics, and paper sit in garbage dumps, and introducing synthetics and chemicals into the soil and water, why not turn them into a new, more energy efficient product to be utilized multiple times. Here are some facts on recycling:
- The average American throws away 60 pounds of plastic packaging every year.
- If everyone in the United States recycled their Sunday paper, 500,000 trees would not have to be cut down, every week.
- For every 700 new paper bags, one 15-year old tree has to be cut down.
- It takes 30 percent less energy to make paper from recycled materials than raw materials.
- It takes 16 times more energy to create a new aluminum can, than one from recycled material.
- The energy saved from recycling one aluminum can is equal to the energy used to power a computer for three hours, or watch the television for one hour.
- It takes 30 percent less energy to manufacture glass from recycled materials.
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Turning Down the Power
Conserving energy at home starts with turning off the lights, using energy efficient power settings and appliances, and unplugging to prevent idle electricity use. By turning the energy flow off when it is not being used in the first place will result in massive amounts of energy saved over time.
- All the refrigerators in the United States use more than half of all the power generated by nuclear power plants. Energy Star refrigerators cut down on energy use, and cuts costs by one-third to two-thirds, depending on the age of the original machine.
- Light use is accountable for about 20 percent of all energy consumed in the US.
- Efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs last five times longer, and consume 70 percent less energy than conventional bulbs.
- By leaving computer monitors on overnight, or not having them on energy saving modes, nine million tons of carbon dioxide emissions are wasted every year.
- A dishwasher uses 80 percent of its energy for heating water; a washing machine, about 90 percent. Upgrading to Energy Star models will conserve both water and energy.
- If every American turned their water heater down by ten degrees, 45 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions would be saved every year.
- The bulk of a household utility bill is due to heating and cooling — about 43 percent.
- Heating and cooling systems emit 150 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
- Turning down the thermostat five to ten degrees every night will reduce heat energy use, and costs, by five to ten percent.
- Updating or fortifying home insulation, taking advantage of solar heat or shade, and weather stripping can cut down on heating and cooling energy use.
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Learning about energy conservation facts is a great way to figure out how to conserve energy. Once you know the benefits you can have on the environment, it is easy to find the best ways to start saving energy in the home, and turning a negative impact into a positive one. For every person in America, 2,500 gallons of oil are used every year. Every small step to reduce this over-consumption is a large step towards a greener earth.
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"Little Known Energy and Conservation Facts." (National Energy Foundation) http://www.apsenergyconservation.org/PDF/EnergyFactsforTeachers.pdf
Loux, Renee. "Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home." (Rodale, 2008).
US Department of Energy http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/index.html
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photo by: Aussiegal (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussiegall/759309122/>