By Molly Brown
Now that spring is here and summer just around the corner, energy conservation becomes a lot easier. We use less energy for heating, for starters, and can leave electric lights turned off more of the time.
And what else can one do to save energy and money?
Turn your water heater’s thermostat down to the lowest usable level (110°), so that when you shower, you use full hot rather than having to mix cold with the hot to prevent scalding. You can turn the water off during a shower when soaping up, without getting chilled. (Showers use about half the water that baths do.)
Check for plumbing leaks. Dripping hot water taps or pressure relief valves can cause a water heater to run more frequently.
Do only full loads of laundry, in cold water. If you need a new washing machine, please buy a high-efficiency front-loader. They save on water (and therefore water heating costs on warm water washes) and wring more water out of your clothes, thereby shortening drying time.
What’s more, they use half to a third as much detergent – look at the instructions on your detergent box and see for yourself. Plus, tumbling instead of agitating is easier on your clothes.
Line dry clothes outside more often, saving the huge energy drain of dryers, and using the sun to whiten your whites.
If you use an automatic dishwasher, use the air dry and other low energy use settings. If you buy a new one, make sure it is an “energy-star” model.
Set the refrigerator’s thermostat to the warmest temperature at an energy saving setting that will still preserve food. Forty degrees uses less power than 35.
Replace your light bulbs with the new LEDs. They give out a beautiful clear light, use 1/4th of the energy of a traditional incandescent light bulb and last approximately 25,000 hours. And they contain no mercury.
Use bikes and walk more often, now, without having to brave the cold to do so. On warm days, it is such a pleasure to be out in the sun and fresh air. On hotter days, riding a bike creates a natural breeze to keep you cool.
With so much sun beaming down upon us at long last, consider buying or making a solar oven. It’s a wonderful way to slow-cook your food, using only the energy that comes freely from the sun. In the summer, I hope to do most of my cooking in my solar oven, and avoid heating up the house.
Plant a summer garden, if you haven’t already done so. Replace high maintenance lawns with vegetables and flowers, saving water, avoiding lawn fertilizers and pesticides, and using your yard for sustainability.
As summer heat comes on, save energy by using “mountain air conditioning” – opening up windows to cool the house at night, and closing them in the morning to keep the cool in and the heat out. If your house is well insulated, this may be sufficient to keep the interior livable in hot weather.
If you must use an air conditioner, set the thermostat as high as you can stand it – maybe 80 degrees. It’s so wasteful to over-cool an office or home so that it makes people put on sweaters to stay comfortable!
Although these conservation measures may seem small compared to the enormous challenges we collectively face, such practices bring us into closer relationship with our life-support systems, save us money in the short run, and help us prepare for the greater changes that lie ahead.

By Molly Brown Now that spring is here and summer just around the corner, energy conservation becomes a lot easier. We use less energy for heating, for starters, and can leave electric lights turned off more of the time. And what else can one do to save energy and money? Turn your water heater’s thermostat down to the lowest usable level (110°), so that when you shower, you use full hot rather than having to mix cold with the hot to prevent scalding. You can turn the water off during a shower when soaping up, without getting chilled. (Showers use about half the water that baths do.) Check for plumbing leaks. Dripping hot water taps or pressure relief valves can cause a water heater to run more frequently. Do only full loads of laundry, in cold water. If you need a new washing machine, please buy a high-efficiency front-loader. They save on water (and therefore water heating costs on warm water washes) and wring more water out of your clothes, thereby shortening drying time. What’s more, they use half to a third as much detergent – look at the instructions on your detergent box and see for yourself. Plus, tumbling instead of agitating is easier on your clothes. Line dry clothes outside more often, saving the huge energy drain of dryers, and using the sun to whiten your whites. If you use an automatic dishwasher, use the air dry and other low energy use settings. If you buy a new one, make sure it is an “energy-star” model. Set the refrigerator’s thermostat to the warmest temperature at an energy saving setting that will still preserve food. Forty degrees uses less power than 35. Replace your light bulbs with the new LEDs. They give out a beautiful clear light, use 1/4th of the energy of a traditional incandescent light bulb and last approximately 25,000 hours. And they contain no mercury. Use bikes and walk more often, now, without having to brave the cold to do so. On warm days, it is such a pleasure to be out in the sun and fresh air. On hotter days, riding a bike creates a natural breeze to keep you cool. With so much sun beaming down upon us at long last, consider buying or making a solar oven. It’s a wonderful way to slow-cook your food, using only the energy that comes freely from the sun. In the summer, I hope to do most of my cooking in my solar oven, and avoid heating up the house. Plant a summer garden, if you haven’t already done so. Replace high maintenance lawns with vegetables and flowers, saving water, avoiding lawn fertilizers and pesticides, and using your yard for sustainability. As summer heat comes on, save energy by using “mountain air conditioning” – opening up windows to cool the house at night, and closing them in the morning to keep the cool in and the heat out. If your house is well insulated, this may be sufficient to keep the interior livable in hot weather. If you must use an air conditioner, set the thermostat as high as you can stand it – maybe 80 degrees. It’s so wasteful to over-cool an office or home so that it makes people put on sweaters to stay comfortable! Although these conservation measures may seem small compared to the enormous challenges we collectively face, such practices bring us into closer relationship with our life-support systems, save us money in the short run, and help us prepare for the greater changes that lie ahead.