April 23, 2007

Lighter Footstep

Yesterday I linked to an article about "ten first steps to a lighter, more sustainable lifestyle." Here, I'll compare what the article suggests with what my family is doing here in Tokyo.

Energy Use

Chris Baskin's first four suggestions are ways to save electricity.
  1. Make the switch to Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs). This was a no-brainer for us. CFLs cost a bit more initially than incandescent bulbs but the good ones last six times longer, use 1/5 of the electricty and burn much cooler; they pay for themselves many times over. Older CFLs flickered and took a long time to light up but the new ones don't flicker and they light up right away, reacing full brightness in a matter of seconds. He didn't mention this but another way to save on lighting is to use lower watt bulbs when possible.
  2. Monitor your thermostat. When we (rarely) use our heaters and air conditioners we keep the thermostat set as close to the natural temperature of the room as we can without being uncomfortable. Rather than using the air conditioner, we try to control the climate with windows, drapes and fans. Insulation in Japan is almost nonexistent, but it helps that we have neighbors above and below our apartment as well as on the left and right. We live pretty cramped compared to most people back in the US but we save a lot of energy by having a smaller area to heat and cool.
  3. Clean or replace your air conditioning filter. We do this.
  4. Unplug idle appliances and electronic devices. Rather than unplugging, we have our computer and peripherals on a power strip and turn it off there when we don't need it on. We try to make a point of turning off our TV at the switch instead of with the remote control so it isn't wasting electricity waiting for the remote to turn it on again but I should probably get a power strip for the TV, DVD player and stereo too.
We also save electricity by setting our water heater to run only at night when electricity is about 1/4 of the price. It's well-insulated and the water stays hot all day. We are looking into lowering our basic monthly bill by reducing our contract from 50 to 40 amps. Another small thing is that we turn the coffee pot off right after it brews (saves energy plus fresh coffee tastes so much better than stuff that's been baking on the hot plate for hours).

In the next post I'll tackle water conservation.

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