Energy Efficiency: More than a Buzz Word

Confession: I used to be an energy efficiency rookie.

Sure, I knew the basics like most of us do. I knew that things like leaving a light on in an empty room wasted energy, but my knowledge didn't go much deeper than that. Sound familiar? So when I was presented with the opportunity to interview for a position with an energy efficiency education company, I was googling the topic like mad, trying to cram as much information as I could in just a few days. The result? I actually got the job!  Thus began my crash course in energy literacy.

Training ran the gamut from energy basics to exploring topics about grid management and maintenance. I learned that at its most basic, energy efficiency is a pretty simple concept. Rather than espousing shunning technology, energy efficiency is about making smarter choices so the energy we use works to its full potential. By the end of my training, I definitely had a new appreciation and perspective on the matter.

Efficiency campaigns came in all shapes and sizes, and incorporated other sustainability efforts, too. Some students even planted seedlings in compostable containers for Earth Day!

Before I knew it, I was teaching energy literacy to students in Los Angeles County. I loved it! Kids got fired up about the ways they could save energy, money, and the environment at school. Student campaigns ranged from posting signs on campus reminding everyone to turn off lights at the end of the day, to larger scale projects like taking a petition to the school board for permission to de-lamp light fixtures in over-lit cafeterias. Energy literacy offered the students a chance to learn about exciting new technologies, different career paths and community initiatives, and gave them pathways to perform community service. Not only that, but students had the opportunity to earn money for their schools. As an incentive to the schools participating in these programs, Districts agreed to return between 50 to 100 percent of monetary savings directly back to schools!

The results were dramatic. One of my student groups raised so much money through their energy efficiency efforts, that they were able to buy their school a brand new computer lab. Another group installed solar panels at a home in a low-income neighborhood - simultaneously gaining work experience while giving a family access to a clean and cheap energy source.

Experiencing these student outcomes made me passionate about energy efficiency and energy literacy. Teaching gave me the chance to become knowledgeable about a topic I had previously known little about. Suddenly, I was getting paid to go on field trips to power plants, sit in on lectures about HVAC, and keep up-to-date on the latest energy efficient technologies! Though I was once a rookie, I now consider myself a pro and I love to keep learning.

 Much of my energy efficiency expertise came on the job - we even had the chance to install solar panels!

Much of my energy efficiency expertise came on the job - we even had the chance to install solar panels!

Even though I no longer work directly in the energy literacy field, I have carried my passion into my everyday life in all aspects. Through my work at Kapstone as a Community Intern, I’ve been exposed to new applications of energy efficiency in the urban planning field and overall development industry.

From infrastructure to building techniques, energy efficient opportunities are everywhere. In fact, buildings account for the largest amount of electricity use worldwide, but it is estimated that nearly 80 percent of the energy efficiency of buildings is untapped. The United States uses over a quarter of its fuel alone each year to transport people and goods. Public transit and alternative transportation infrastructure are crucial to ensuring better energy efficiency.

What's exciting is that the opportunities for smarter applications and better outcomes are available today more than ever before. But at a practical level for you and I, it all begins with small personal choices on a daily basis that add up to big changes over time!

 

 

Some students even staged principal-endorsed sustainability marches. But you don't have to put on protest to get involved - you can become an expert by starting with simple steps.

So why am I sharing all of this? Well, I’ve benefited so much from what I've learned over the years and I know that a real impact is possible when people get involved and play their small part. People like you! But sometimes it's hard to know where to start and that's where I come in. I’ll be back every month (or so) to offer you some simple tips, personal experiences, and latest updates in the energy efficiency arena to get you going. It doesn’t take much to get started and every little bit counts. Who knows? Maybe you'll catch the spark and end up a pro too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIP OF THE MONTH:

Ditch your screen saver! Screen savers for your laptop or computer monitor do exactly what their name implies, they save the screen from any image being burned into them. They don’t save any energy. In fact, screen savers use just as much energy as when you are actually using your computer. To save energy and increase your battery life, change your computer settings to have your computer go to sleep or hibernate when not in use. This will save your work and allow you to easily wake your computer when needed. Voila! Energy efficiency that saves you money, energy, and time!