12 November 2008

The Great Water and Electricity Challenge

One of the wonderful things about living simply is that when you simplify your life, you become more frugal and green. You put the days of excess and mindless consumption behind you and you focus on conservation. This leads to your home using less water, electricity and gas, you use less fuel in your car and, in turn, not only save money, you do your fair share in saving greenhouse gases. I find it absolutely incredible that even though we know the climate is changing, few governments around the world have done enough to make the changes needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are some very interesting graphics relating to the USA here, but let me tell you that my own country (Australia) falls far short of where it should be, even though we are told repeatedly that our Great Barrier Reef is dying and will be dead by 2050!

It's up to us, folks. We are the ones stepping away from the mainstream to live in a way that our neighbours don't always understand. As well as not spending like drunken sailors and living as frugally as we can, it's up to us to cut our own usage of fuels that will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so will put us in a win-win situation: we lessen our own burden on our planet and we save money in the process.

There are any number of footprint site on the internet that will tell you what your current footprint is, but I think it's better to do something more practical - measure your own usage and take steps to reduce.

This is my challenge to you: I want you to read your water and electricity meters first thing tomorrow morning. Write down what your meters read and write down the time you do your reading. Then, that day and the following day do your normal routines without thinking about your meter reading - this is to get an accurate measure of your normal usage or electricity and water over two days. Next to your meter reading, write down what you do that uses your electricity and water so you know what contributed to your usage. So if you do laundry, write down how many loads, if you have a bath or a shower, write it down, etc.

When you've monitored yourself for two full days, and at the same time you read your meter on the first day, read the meter again - and write it down. Then, for two whole days, I want your to reduce your electricity and water usage as much as you can. Turn off lights when you leave a room, turn off your computer when it's not being used, reduce your heating or cooling by a few degrees, do as much baking as you can at the one time, cut back on laundry, take shorter showers, turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. It's difficult to suggest ways for you to save as we are all so different, but you will know. And please know that all those tiny savings definitely add up - nothing is too small to do.

I hope that a lot of you will do this with me. If there is enough interest we may do a week long audit - it will be more accurate. When we do the longer audit, we'll include our cars as well and monitor our use of fuel. But this will give us a good idea of areas in the home where we can cut back. It's important that we all do our fair share. Your home contributes to this global mess, just as mine does, so make sure everyone in your home knows what you're doing and ask them to help. This is a job for everyone - even small children, for it is their future world we're all effecting.

Here is an old post about reading water meters. Reading electricity meters is here. If your system is different, go the the website of your supplier and they should have details on how to read your meters.

Don't forget to do your first readings early in the morning of your next new day. Work two days doing your normal routines. On the following morning at the same time, do another reading - this will tell you what you used the two previous days. Then work two days cutting back as best you can on both water and electricity. On the next morning at the same time, do another reading of both meters - this will tell you what you used when you cut back. When you have your figures for your normal days and your followup readings for your two days of conservation, post them in the comments section of the post I'll do on the weekend. By Monday we should have all our figures in and we'll talk about it on Monday.

My hope is that we see some changes that will show us all how we can cut down on our usage on a permanent basis. You will save money doing it, and in these times of rising prices, that is a great goal. But remember too that you'll be doing something practical from your own home to reduce your own greenhouse gas emissions and that is something we should all be striving for.

In an attempt to spread the word, post about this on your own blogs and get as many people as you can to join us - every person who joins will add to a greater reduction.

Please let me know if you're joining in. I'll be here to help you as much as I can.

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