It’s almost embarrassing to say, but up until last year it was not uncommon that we would have the TV on every day until bed time. My wife hated it, but it’s just what I did. What seemed normal last year seems strange and wasteful now. We got rid of cable last last year, it was just not worth the monthly price. We also decided we needed every spare hour back in our lives, and of course as a Bonus we save the electricity from a 55″ flat panel. We do watch a couple of times a week, mainly documentaries from Netflix or Paul Wheaton’s YouTube channel on Permaculture. Every once in a Blue Moon I’ll hook up the digital antenna so I can watch the Cowboys lose, and a little of that goes a long way.
I don’t miss CSI, Lost, Monk, Iron Chef, Man vs. Food, No Reservations, Trading Spaces, Heroes, Discovery Channel, History Channel, NASA, Unsolved Mysteries, Unsolved History, Poirot and Sherlock Holmes reruns on PBS, Deadliest Catch, Law and Order, Law and Order CI, Law and Order SVU, X Files reruns, American Chopper, Biker Buildoff and Myth Busters. I don’t miss them at all.
With the Day 5 challenge, and reading ahead to Day 6, I’m learning much more than I expected about my water and electricity footprint outside our house, to support our basic lifestyle, and it’s really hitting home. Personally I still go back to the premise that helping people live more sustainably has so many direct benefits to their lives and their so-called Quality of Life that it’s the best place to start. I think this will be more true if the economy continues to falter. I like saving money, eating better, and doing fun things with people I love. I know there’s a bigger picture but there’s also a smaller picture, my life, and it’s great to get people excited about their own lives too. It helps paint a picture of the kind of better lives and communities we can build together.
Colin wrote about not having a TV and for entertainment doing things like taking Isabella to the garden to see fireflies and the profound moment that she looked up and said, “I’m so happy Daddy,” note that there was no philosophical discussion of energy consumption. It’s just simply a better way to live. Not only are people being robbed of their lives by watching non-stop-TV-marathon, but hey, we’re being robbed of their lives too. Maybe the next Einstein is chowing down on a bag of gummy bears and an energy drink fixated on Cartoon Channel from Friday dusk until Monday morning, and we’ll never meet that person. We all know why we got here, better content drives more viewers, drives advertising, drives product revenue, etc.
Side note, a friend recommended watching a BBC documentary on Youtube, A Century of the Self. It’s a very long documentary, but take a look at this 10 minute segment to see how women were manipulated into smoking (“Liberty Torches”? Really?). Learn how later after the war, surplus manufacturing was geared to consumer products and powerful investors started propaganda machines to make you buy things. Actually the man at the center was Freud’s nephew using his Uncle’s theories of the Primitive Urges that drive us. He is now known as the Father of the PR industry. The film seems to document the moment we shifted into consumerism, from a ‘needs’ to a ‘desires’ culture. From buying quality items you need (necessities promoted in functional terms like durability), to building an emotional connection about things you buy, making you feel like a movie star (I am powerful if I smoke, I am sexy in this car). Just so you’re aware, the businessmen who created this paradigm shift regularly referred to people like you and me as the Ignorant Masses. I’m not trying to demonize anyone but it’s hard to find the redeeming aspects of these changes for the ordinary folk like you and me. 60 years later we can see the shocking road this has lead us down, in this incredible minute and a half video from CampaignForRealBeauty.com, with the powerful closing message, “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” That’s why I think it is warranted to focus on the smaller picture as a starting point. Just like on an airplane in an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first, or you won’t be able to help anyone else.
So that brings me back to today and my goal to reduce energy consumption in my 7-day-paradigm-shifting-eco-rama-marathon.
Here’s what we’ve done so far before this week
- Full LED lighting in the kitchen with an expensive dimmer switch. The problem is that it flickers, and between the electrician, electric company and fixture vendor, everyone says it’s not their issue. Since our kitchen is now lit solely with 8 LED cans, this is an annoying problem, especially given the cost.
- CFL’s in all other rooms except one incandescent in the bedroom where we read because the CFL’s give me a reading headache.
- Dropped the thermostat to 68, all winter, and OFF during most of the day.
- Energy Star appliances and new, low energy heater for the house
- Got rid of the big water heater and went with a gas powered wall mount, on-demand system that hangs on the outside of the house. Bonus, got about 16 square feet of the house back.
- Insulated all walls except our bedroom. Just haven’t gotten to it yet, and now it’s totally noticeable that the house draft comes from our room.
- Replaced all windows with double pane, new, energy efficient
- Added plantation shutters to all the windows – keeps out thermal energy during the summer and allows a lot of light to come in most of the day
What I’m realizing we haven’t figured out yet
Water filtration system for water quality. We had to go with a powered unit due to water pressure and it runs almost constantly. I will look at gravity fed units but I don’t know anything about this.
Whole house air circulation for dust control. We live by the freeway and have two large dogs, a cat, and a bird (all adopted). Our neighborhood used to be an orchard, and not sure how that contributes but our neighbors assert it as a factor, all this adds up to a lot of dust. We can control it by leaving the forced air fan On Longer and catching it in the filter. It’s using a lot of energy but I can’t deal with the dust.
And what we’re doing this week
I bought a Kill A Watt (yes, new) to get a better understand of what each Thing is using, and measure the ghost power issue. I found that each of our 4 wireless phones from the land-line that we RARELY use is constantly drawing 3.3 watts, and MY HEAVENS THE COFFEE MAKER USES 900 WATTS! WTH? Unused clock radio, 4 watts, white noise window fan to help me sleep is 50.5 watts. For ghost power I’ve got plug strips in the areas we identified like stereo equipment. Looks like the TV stays between 120 and 130 watts while we’re watching it.
In a perfect world Elliptical Machines should produce power and mine doesn’t. Turns out that some do. Here is a study on harnessing human power from fitness facilities. I have added the following two projects to my To Do list, using some old solar panels (from cheap yard lights) to make a cell phone charger, and hooking an alternator to an exercise bike to produce ‘workout power‘.
Power to the people!