energy saver

College – An Opportunity To Live Green!

By Lily Rau

During this back to school season I have been reflecting on my college experience and the different places I called home. I lived in the dorms my first year and then moved to apartments off campus for my last three years. Reflecting on these homes reminded me of the fear and excitement of moving into your first place. For some of us, this is the first time we must think about paying bills, buying furniture, or cooking for ourselves. In addition to some tough choices, having your own place provides you with opportunities to make environmentally friendly decisions!

The largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities come from the burning of fossil fuels for electricity production and transportation. Whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, here are a few simple ways a recently independent college student can help reduce these emissions and protect the climate:

  1. Buy ENERGY STAR products: You may be deciding which mini-fridge or light bulbs to purchase for your dorm or apartment. Look for ENERGY STAR products that meet energy efficiency requirements and can save you money while protecting the environment.
  2. Turn off the lights: Our parents yelled at us for a reason. Leaving the lights on raises the energy bill. Whether you’re paying the bills in an apartment, or not paying the bills in a dorm, leaving the lights on uses more electricity and contributes to climate change.
  3. Unplug electronics: Did you know that appliances and electricity-powered devices use electricity even when they are turned off? When you leave for Christmas or Spring break, make sure to unplug all TVs, computers, DVD players, chargers, radios, cable boxes, and mini-fridges.
  4. Get familiar with public transportation: Many colleges don’t allow students to bring their cars to school their first year. If you can’t bring your car to school, embrace it! Get familiar with the public transportation in your area. Maybe you’ll discover you don’t need a car your second year. This is good for the environment and fuel savings, which is great for a student on a budget!
  5. Get involved: Become an OnCampus ecoAmbassador and work with your school and fellow students to make your campus more environmentally friendly!

For more ideas check out EPA’s back to school tips. Join the discussion with your own back to school tip. Tell us how you’re greening your dorm or apartment!

About the author: Lily Rau is an intern in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. She is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and is passionate about protecting the environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Turning off your Office Lights | Is it “for the Birds?”

By Todd Calongne

Living in a midtown Manhattan high-rise, the views at night are beautiful.  Times Square is lit up with thousands of lights. I see some of my favorite brand names glow down the street without much change from the 1940s. When I look up at the office buildings I see every floor fully lit. I am immediately frustrated because people not working at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning on every floor!  Does the building keep lights on for reasons?

I’m not alone with this bird’s eye view.  There are millions of real birds that fly through New York City every year that also see these overly lit buildings and many of them don’t survive the experience.  In certain conditions when birds fly at lower altitudes they smash into windows at speeds that may be in excess of 70 mph. Ouch…splat!

Photo via http://bit.ly/yISNlj

A study conducted by the Field Museum in Chicago showed that by turning the lights off in an office building the number of birds killed dropped by 83%. The well lit buildings confuse birds with their artificial lights, and often blinded by weather are unable to see glass. Often birds are simply exhausted by flying around the lights like moths near a flame and they are easily injured or killed.

The economic impact for the buildings or owners ensuring lights are off, the impact on our aging power grid and the clear lack of energy conservation aside, us green urban dwellers have an opportunity to save the lives of tens of thousands of our winged cohabitants!

NYC Audubon Society Associate Director, John Rowden, PhD. explains,” The built environment of major cities presents innumerable challenges to native birds, particularly migrants, during the fall and spring. Two issues are particularly problematic for birds: the lights of buildings at night and glass that reflects habitat during the day, both of which can kill birds.” More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Program Your Way To Savings

By Brittney Gordon

Do you use a programmable thermostat? For many years I would have had to answer no to that question. I always tried to turn down the heat/air conditioning as I left for work in the morning and before I went to bed, but that strategy was 50/50 to say the least. If only I had known that for a very small investment I could have regulated the temperature in my home and saved about $180 a year.

A programmable thermostat comes with settings that allow you set the temperature of your house based on your family’s schedule. Use this chart to get started.

Here are some rules of thumb for properly using these thermostats:

  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy-saving set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours).
  2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. Beware: You use more energy and will pay more on energy bills if you consistently override the pre-programmed settings.
  3. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage daily temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning to be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e., several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You’ll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you’re away.
  4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats begin to heat or cool at a set time, reaching set-point temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart) recovery features are an exception to this rule.
  5. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you’ll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience, and energy savings throughout the house.
  6. If your programmable thermostat runs on batteries, don’t forget to change the batteries each year. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

If you need help installing your programmable thermostat, EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has everything you need to get started here.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of EPA’s ENERGY STAR program communications team. The Baltimore native has worked for EPA since 2010.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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78 Degrees?

By Larry Teller

What temperature do you set on your house thermostat during these sultry summer days? (To clarify, I’m asking about the times of the day and week when you’re home but don’t have guests.)

I believe in 78 degree, and here’s why:

  • It feels fine to me, especially when coming into the house on a hot, muggy day (Contrast is often what counts in life),
  • The other day, when the air conditioner maintenance guy was leaving, and resetting the thermostat, he asked, simply, “78 degree?” He has no incentive to make me sweat, right?
  • My own agency offers energy-saving/pollution reduction tips for the cooling season, including
  1. Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
  2. Use ceiling fans instead of, or when needed, to supplement air conditioning,
  3. Close shade and blinds when you can,
  4. Check and replace air conditioner filters,
  5. Plug duct leaks, and (here comes my favorite),
  6. Set your thermostat higher when no one is home, and program it around your schedule

Unfortunately, I’m often the only one in the house who agrees that 78 degree is about right. (Could it be because I pay the bills each month, and $400+ gas and electric bills in the summer make me cry?) You can imagine how righteous-but-weird I feel when I’m moved to sneak a hand around a living room wall corner, or do a tip-toe walk down the stairs at night, to raise the thermostat a degree or two. Logic and charm haven’t (yet?)helped in my house and, so, stealth is often the only approach available.

How do you handle this in your house? Advice is welcome.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action; and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog post.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.