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April 23, 2014  |  Login
Powering Down: Conserving Energy in Your Home
By Dr. Alan Greene

Reducing our personal energy consumption is a very positive way to teach our children how to respect the earth right in our own homes.

The United States is the world’s largest energy consumer. And despite common belief, the excessive consumption is not only a problem of industry. Co-op America says that in 2005, households accounted for 31 percent of electricity consumed in the United States.1 It’s also known that on average, each U.S. citizen consumes more than twice the energy of a person in Western Europe and almost ten times that of a person in China.2

The good news is that today, over 50 percent of consumers already have the option of purchasing renewable energy for their homes (such as wind or solar power, geo­thermal, hydropower, or power from various forms of biomass)—often for very little extra money. To find out what is available in your state, it’s easy to check with the Green Power Network of the U.S. Department of Energy (

Fortunately, moreover, we don’t have to make drastic changes to achieve the goals of both growth and sustainability. You and I can have a positive impact on the environment by breaking a few daily habits and thus personally decreasing the levels of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, that accumulate in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

Home Lighting

How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb? We don’t know yet—their long-lasting eco-bulbs still don’t need to be changed!

Just kidding.

How about, how many light bulbs does it take to change the world? Saving the planet, one step at a time, really can be as simple as changing a light bulb. You can now find energy-saving bulbs that are dimmable, three-way, recessed can, or designed for outdoors—just to name a few of the newer options.

The difference between new energy-efficient bulbs and our standard bulbs is really quite impressive: a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) uses 60 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb; saves anywhere from one hundred fifty to three hundred pounds of carbon dioxide a year,3 depending on usage; cuts lighting costs by 75 percent; and lasts at least eight times longer.4 That’s the power of changing just one light bulb.

Incandescent bulbs are indisputably wasteful—95 percent of the power used to light them is wasted as heat.5 If every family in the United States made the switch, we’d reduce carbon dioxide by more than ninety billion pounds!6 You can purchase CFLs in most hardware stores or online from the Energy Federation at

In addition to using CFLs to conserve light energy, look around your home for opportunities to “harvest” daylight. The easiest yet most energy-efficient green change you can make is to turn off the lights. How often do you have both the ceiling light and the desk or end-table light turned on? Flick the switch on one of them. How often do you switch on the room light even when there’s enough daylight to guide the way? How often do you turn on the light and then walk out of the room, forgetting to turn the light off?

When you start paying attention to your use of electricity for lighting, you’ll probably find that, like most of us, you have a few bad habits to break.

We can also look for ways to increase our use of natural light. more

1. Borkowski, L., and Tarver-Wahlquist, S. “Tackling the Climate Crisis.” Co-op America Quarterly, Fall 2006, iss. 70. .

2.“Cooling Our Heels.” Scientific American, Sept. 8, 2006.

3.“Reduce Your Impact at Home,” 2006. [Page on the Web site of the film An Inconvenient Truth.] .

4.Smith, R. “Less Power to the People.” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 16, 2006.

5.Sachs, H. “Cheap and Easy Ways to Cut Energy Bills This Winter.” Write on the Money, Fall 2006. [Newsletter of Hudson City Savings Bank.]

6.‑“Reduce Your Impact at Home,” 2006.

7.Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. “Standby Power FAQ.” 2002. .

8.“Reduce Your Impact at Home,” 2006.

9.Copeland, M. “Go Green, a Smart Home Improvement.” Business 2.0, Oct. 31, 2006. .

10.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Keep Some Money in Your Wallet This Winter.” EPA Newsroom.!OpenDocument. Nov. 2, 2006.

11.‑“Making Your Bathroom Healthy, Efficient and Comfortable.” GreenHomeGuide. . Feb. 13, 2007

12.“Making Your Bathroom Healthy, Efficient and Comfortable,” 2007.

13.Take Action!” Stop Global Warming. .


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