The student housing that I have been issued as a master's student at the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research is environmentally friendly. It is lit during the day by daylight. It is heated in the winter by passive solar heating and during the summer we keep it cool by keeping everything closed. We have a solar hot water heater. I believe that the materials they used weren't the most sustainable, although I would have to check. This is a shame because according to the New York Times, the most important energy usage in buildings comes from the construction phase, so the building of the materials and then the durability of the house (if it isn't durable, you have to construct it again quickly).
However, living in a house that is designed to reduce my energy consumption has been interesting. I never gave a lot of thought to these issues, or the thought I gave was based on how much I was paying, before.
Nevertheless, my husband and I found that even here, we are among the highest electricity users. How could this be? I care about conservation. But it appears that like many conservationists, I care, but don't let that translate into action. I think it probably boils down to the big conservation indicator--wealth. My husband is older than I, saved money before returning for his Ph.D., and earns a higher scholarship than I. And we pool our resources and don't have children. So we don't have the same economic incentive to conserve electricity and have more devices that use electricity.
Even so, our electricity consumption is made up of the following:
12 lights (one of which I now replaced with a fluorescent)
1 ceiling fan
1 electronic fan
electronic component of our hot water heater
hair dryer (SELDOM used)
chargers for camera, cell phones, toothbrushes
electronic fan in the bathroom
2 space heaters
That is 32 items. Since hearing that we are high electricity consumers, I have tried to make some changes.
1. when a light went out, I replaced it with fluorescent lightbulb. DH hated the light, and it was in the area he uses as a workspace when he works from home. Instead, I put the fluorescent in the outside light, which we seldom use, but which it is possible to accidentally turn on and leave on, causing a big electricity drain.
2. I learned that vampires, things that suck energy when they are plugged in, even if not on, can use 10% of your electricity. For example a tv or cable box. So I try diligently to unplug them when not on, and educated DH about that. Also chargers stay unplugged now when not in use.
3. I learned that despite my previous hazy notion, items like computers do use more energy when left on. So now I try to always turn off the computer when not in use, and also pay attention to other things like the ceiling fan or radio, and turn them off.
Even with these changes, we have not done anything drastic. Our biggest usage is probably due to the fact that I am one of those people who is always cold, so we were leaving a space heater on overnight in the winter. What we should have done, is bought an extra blanket. Surely we could have even bought a used one, or borrowed one from DH's family. It is embarrassing to write that we didn't do that, but one must be honest.