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Energy Experiments for Students

Reducing Waste in the Office and School

Reducing Waste at Home

How many earths would we need to sustain us if everyone lived the way you do?
Click here to play "consumer consequences" and find out.

Truth and Consequences: learn about all about the things we buy here:
The Story of Stuff

Your politicians don't know you care about environmental issues if you don't tell them you do! Click here for Canadian contact information for your MP by postal code

6 Quick, Powerful Ways to Green Your Life:

  • use clean energy: if you can't put a solar panel on your roof or a turbine in your yard, consider buying green power from a renewable energy distributor such as Bullfrog Power
  • eat local organically-grown food as much as possible and reduce or eliminate your consumption of meat
  • reduce waste: buy used when you can and only buy what you need and will use; donate or pass on items that you no longer need but someone else might; make use of libraries including toy libraries; rent tools and equipment you will not need to use frequently; and consider the entire life of each item before you purchase. For further information and inspiration about consumption, watch this clip: The Story of Stuff
  • reduce your travel: walk, cycle or use public transit when possible; conduct meetings with video conferencing; participate in vehicle co-ops and car shares
  • avoid drinking bottled water: drink tap water instead, and bring along your own reusable water bottle when you travel
    **Note: many bottled waters are actually tap water (as indicated on their ingredient list), and no bottled water is required to go through the testing that municipally treated water must in order to ensure its safety; if you do not trust municipally treated water, consider installing a reverse-osmosis system in your home.
  • become aware of your own habits and the effect they have on the planet and strive to improve them for the better

Spending and Investing:

    By law, corporations must work to provide a profit for their shareholders. Because of this, corporations (particularly multi-national corporations) have tended towards poor environmental and human rights practices. Increasingly, CEOs are realising that there is a segment of consumers who care about these issues, resulting in a financial incentive for these corporations to improve their practices and policies. There are also some very lucrative new companies working towards environmentally sustainable ends in the areas of agriculture, green technology and energy as well as others.
    The next time you invest, consider ethical funds for your portfolio. There are many options out there to match your financial situation as well as your own personal values.

    Of course, another important way to make a difference is to use your consumer power to support environmentally friendly businesses, and avoid those with poor environmental practices.

Traveling:

    Walk, cycle, take public transit or carpool whenever possible.
    Replace business trips with video conferencing whenever possible, and when not possible, combine trips to ensure maximum efficiency.

    Driving:

    • do not idle your vehicle; to warm it up, drive immediately after starting at a slow and gentle pace--this is better both for your car and for the environment
    • go into the nearest public building if you are too hot or cold
    • park rather than use a drive-through
    • when you will not be moving for more than 12 seconds, turn off your vehicle
    • maintain your vehicle according to the manufacturer's instructions
    • walk or cycle when you can
    • participate in a "walking school bus" if your child's school offers one; if not consider starting one
    • if you must drive, choose a hybrid vehicle, the smallest that will fit your everyday needs
    • consider renting that minivan, van or pickup for the bigger jobs rather than buying one and using it for everything
    • keep your tires well inflated
    • anticipate traffic light changes to avoid braking hard at each red light
    • if you must commute, use public transit or carpool, investigate whether working from home is an option for you, or consider moving closer to your place of work; Canadians who commute recieve a tax break for their monthly passes
    • teach your children how to use transit, use it with them and give your teen a bus pass (or bike) instead of a car
    • as much as possible, limit your air travel
    • purchase carbon offset credits for car and air travel, but do your research--some (but not all) companies are unfortunately not very reputable (claim repetitive credits for a single tree planting project)

Around the House:

  • line dry your clothing rather than run your dryer (this is easier on clothing than using a dryer, and your clothes will smell much better too!)
  • hand-wash your dishes, or at least turn off the drying option when you run your dishwasher
  • only run your dishwasher and clothes washer with full loads
  • choose and use environmentally friendly cleaning products
  • use compact flourescent or LED lighting
  • turn off your porch light when you go to bed, and install a photosensor so that it will not be on during daylight hours
  • use a push mower on your lawn (much easier to do if you plant shade grass seed / drought resistant grass seed)
  • use power bars and turn them off when not in use (bigger savings that you'd guess!)
  • instead of running your central air nonstop, consider just running the furnace fan to circulate cool air from the basement
  • open your windows when the outside air cools down (during the summer months)
  • use a programmable thermostat to set back your heating target overnight and when the house will be empty during the winter months and to reduce cooling likewise in the summer months
  • unplug appliances when not in use
  • plant trees and shrubs around your house; coniferous trees on the north side, deciduous on the south; the conifers will provide a wind barrier in the winter and the deciduous leaves will block sunlight in the summer and let it in during the winter; trees are nature's way of controlling CO2, so your shade tree planting will have a double impact; in smaller areas plant native shrubs instead
  • when planning a party or holiday celebration, take waste into consideration
  • if possible in your area, purchase power from a green power supplier, such as Bullfrog, or get your neighbours together and make a bulk purchase of solar, photovoltaic, wind and or geo thermal energy systems for your home
  • instead of using a screen saver, set your computer to revert to sleep mode when not in use, or better, turn it off
  • pay your bills electronically rather than with "snail mail", or arrange for automatic witdrawal from your bank account
  • replace your written correspondence with email or telephone calls

Food:

  • eat lower on the food chain: if you eat meat, try reducing your consumption to one or two meat meals a week or less--your body will thank you for it
  • defrost frozen foods in your refrigerator rather than with the microwave
  • wait until all (or most of) your ingredients are prepared to preheat the oven when baking; bake several dishes in succession (or together) to make best use of the heat
  • buy locally whenever possible; support your local farmers and reduce the distance your food travels
  • save those tropical fruits and veggies for the times of the year when most produce is imported anyhow
  • choose whole, natural foods and avoid purchasing processed foods as much as possible
  • try growing some of your own fruits and veggies, and buy organic whenever possible
  • if you really want to make a difference, try out the 100-mile diet
  • limit or eliminate your use of the following products: coffee, chocolate and sugar
  • if you must drink coffee, buy organically grown fair-trade certified coffee and replace your disposable paper filters with a permanent filter; use a thermal caraffe to keep it warm and fresher for longer
  • teach children to regulate their own food portions to eliminate food waste: have them only take what they need and try new foods in small quantities first--and always allow them to go back for more

Using and choosing appliances:

  • consider a front-loading washing machine which saves water and energy, and can be gentler on your clothing as well (but do your research--brand alone is no guarantee of endurability, as we have recently discovered)
  • research consumers reports and the energuide ratings when making choices
  • when possible, choose gas over electric appliances, unless your electricity comes from renewable sources
  • if you must drink coffee, choose a thermal coffee caraffe rather than one with a bottom element
  • unplug appliances when not in use
  • choose the most efficient appliances you can, being careful to consider the way you and your family will use it as compared with the "average" usage
  • don't be fooled by guaranteed parts--be sure that the service charges are also covered, but best of all, be sure the appliance won't break down in the first place!
  • rather than just turning off your appliances when not in use, unplug them (you'll be surprised with the difference this makes to your electricity consumption!)
  • consider carefully whether you really need a basement freezer or extra refrigerator--the energy cost to run these are quite high and often negate the savings you may have had on buying large quantities

Holidays and Celebrations:

  • for winter parties, use your porch for extra cooling for beverages
  • don't let gift-giving get the better of you; try these tips instead *keep in mind that most gifts are sent to landfill within 6 months--ensure those you give won't be among them
  • for decor, use local and natural materials whenever possible (potted plants, local flowers, Halloween pumpkins and strawbales, Christmas trees, etc.) or at least easily stored and reusable (LED mini-lights, holiday table cloths, etc.)
  • hold parties in a location that is easily reached by guests/co-workers, etc. taking transportation into consideration
  • put out food at a specific time for a specific duration to reduce waste and spoilage
  • send elecronic cards and invitations whenever possible
  • rather than exchanging generic or novelty gifts, ask your company or family to bring along donations for the local food bank, or charitable donations that match the personalities, interests or focus of the group or individual
  • instead of using disposable dishes, napkins, cutlery etc. rent the items from a party supply store (they will do the washing and laundering for you)
  • in cooler weather, turn down the thermostat an hour or more before you expect your guests to arrive--you will waste less on heating and your guests will be more comfortable