As we inch toward the summer months and the temperatures begin to rise, your energy bills may also start to creep up – but the good news is there are plenty of ways to save energy this summer—whether your goal is to save money or to save the environment.
1. Maximize cooling efficiency.
Consuming too much energy during the summer has impacts beyond your carbon footprint and the environment: It hits you in the wallet. Saving energy in your home or apartment saves you money. There are ways you can maximize your air conditioning without having to sweat it out. Think about installing blackout curtains, for example, which helps you not only to reduce light and get better sleep, but it also keeps the sun's rays from heating up a room. The more heat that enters a room, the harder your air conditioner or cooling system has to work. Even simple shades from your local big-box retailer can do the trick.
These days, as we're all are spending more time inside, our energy bills can mount, surprising us in a not-so-fun way. Programmable thermostats can help you regulate the temperature inside your home or apartment during peak warm-weather hours. Set it to kick in during the hotter afternoon periods. Give it a break as the sun goes down. Or, if you're spending time away, set it to cool off the home only when you're in it. A smart thermostat can do the job for you, turning on the air when you walk into the room. You can even use your phone to turn them on and off, just in case you leave the house and forget the air is running.
Other tricks include making sure vents aren't blocked, which causes your cooling unit to work harder, and making sure you're turning off lights when you're not in the room, because they contribute to the rising heat inside. Use natural light sources whenever possible.
2. Take a look at how you're using appliances.
Summer is a great time to change your habits in ways that help you save energy. Think about your daily habits – washing clothes, for example. Use the washer only for full loads, which uses less water in the long run, and use cold water to wash your clothes to save the energy needed to heat the water. Hang dry your clothes. Clothes that dry on a line outside get a naturally fresh scent. If you're in an apartment or condo, use hangers and a shower rod or invest in a folding rack to air dry your clothes.
If you purchase your own appliances, consider the latest smart versions that conserve the most energy. Smart refrigerators can conserve not only the energy that they use, but they can help you cut down on all of the energy use associated with purchasing food. They can tell you what's about to expire, for example, so that you consume the products you already have. That cuts down not only on food waste and energy you consume by driving to the store, but on all the production-associated energy, including on the farm, transportation to a food manufacturing facility, the energy used to procure raw materials and produce the containers and packaging, delivery to the store, and so on. Without a smart refrigerator, you can be smart on your own and buy just what you need and keep track of what you're consuming to cut down on waste.
3. Assess how you're using resources.
In the bigger picture, there are numerous opportunities each day to change how we're using resources and make better choices to save energy. Using public transportation is a big one – when can you use the bus or train instead of taking your car? When public transportation is not possible, can you share a ride with friends or family to maximize the use of a car? Can you complete multiple errands on one trip? Think not only about the gas, but the oil needed to maintain a vehicle, the wear-and-tear on the vehicle and the roads, and the emissions entering the air. Better yet, use a bicycle or your own two feet whenever possible.
Think about the clothing you purchase. "Fast fashion" accounts for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions because of the energy needed to produce textiles. The industry also consumes a massive amount of water. That new shirt or pair of jeans might be cheap, but the cost to the environment may not be apparent. Think about the clothes you already have – how much of it do you actually wear? How long did that last cute blouse last, or even hold your interest?
When you need something new, think about purchasing fair trade or sustainably made staple items like jeans, t-shirts, and underwear. These items may be more expensive than you're used to, but you're paying for sustainable production, quality, and stronger support of textile workers. If you don't need something new, but you want something new, discover the joy of thrift shopping – it's a great way to hunt down treasures, develop a new style, and support local businesses or local organizations that often use the proceeds to support other charitable efforts.
It's a great year to reassess our habits and find better ways to lessen our impact on energy consumption, the environment, and our budgets. It's all about the choices we make each day.