By Leta Ames ‘19
How can students reduce their energy use? You may already know the classic energy saving tips, such as turning off the lights when you leave the room or shutting down your computer when it’s not in use, but what can you do to go further?
Despite 18.6% of our energy being produced by non-hydroelectric renewables (solar, wind, etc.), most of Claremont’s energy is produced through natural gas. Although the shift towards renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is necessary to combat climate change, personal reduction of energy consumption is important to make this transition easier and further reduce environmental impact.
The biggest way to be conscious of your energy use is to think about the fact everything you do requires energy directly or indirectly. In your dorm room, there are plenty of small ways to reduce your energy use such as charging your phone before bed so that it is not drawing power during the whole night or taking shorter and cooler showers, the bonus with this is that you also save water as well.
With some energy reduction strategies, there are misconceptions about what is the most effective. So, should you always turn off your lights even if you’re just headed to the bathroom? Is it better to leave your air-conditioner on at a constant temperature rather than letting your room heat up?
Does it use less gas to restart your car rather than idling? The answer to these questions is it depends!
Across all types of lightbulbs, from inefficient fluorescent and incandescent to efficient CFLs and LEDs the answers to when you should turn off your lights varies. Incandescent lightbulbs are much less common now, but you’ll still see them in the world and around campus. These lights are very inefficient and produce a lot of heat so they should be turned off whenever they are not needed. CFLs are more efficient and turning them off for more than 5 seconds negates the effects of turning them back on, but flipping them on and off reduces their lifespan. The commonly followed standard is they should be turned off if you are leaving the room for 15 minutes or more. Also, an important thing to remember is that, albeit a small amount, CFLs contain mercury and must be disposed of properly, you can find recycling centers in the area online. Finally, LED lighting is by far the superior choice when it comes to lighting, they “use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting”. Unlike CFLs, you can turn an LED off and on to your heart’s content and not affect its lifespan. Additionally, LEDs do not contain mercury like CFLs.
Making air-conditioners more efficient would make a huge dent in addressing climate change. Operating your air-conditioner in an efficient manner is also important in addressing wasteful energy use. Now that the days have started to cool off, turning off your air-conditioning might seem more feasible. Overall, it’s best if you can cool your spaces using fans, avoiding using hot appliances, and closing your windows and blinds during the day. If you must use your air-conditioner there are some things you can do to keep your carbon footprint in check. If you have control try to set your thermostat at a higher temperature, turn off your unit when you leave the room, and make sure your windows and doors are closed when your air-conditioner is on. Also, don’t forget that turning down your thermostat won’t cool your room any faster, it will only put more stress on the system, wearing it down and wasting energy.
You can also consider heading to one of the many air-conditioned communal instead of cooling your individual room.
Finally, what about your car? The best way to reduce your energy use and carbon footprint when it comes to transportation is to walk, bike (scooter, longboard, etc.), or take public transportation.
Driving an electric car can reduce your energy use, but if you’re plugging in outside of California your footprint may be higher than you’d expect based on how the energy is produced. If you’re driving a gas-powered car you can reduce your impact by turning off your engine when it’s not in use. California has strict regulations to reduce idling in cargo trucks, but the regulation for non-commercial drivers only apply on school grounds. Idling your car adds to carbon emissions and reduces air quality. If you are sitting for more than ten seconds (unless you are in traffic) turn off your engine. Additionally, if you want to use your heater or air-conditioning, leave your car sitting, it’s more effective to begin driving.
There are many other ways to reduce your energy use that I didn’t touch on in this column, and there are many great resources on the internet.
Some of the ways to get involved with energy reduction on campus or around the area are through SEED (Scripps Environmental Education and Development, email@example.com), CHERP (an organization in the community working on making homes more energy efficient, cherp. firstname.lastname@example.org), Put a Price on It (a group tackling policy to tax carbon emissions, email@example.com).