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Energy consumption: a balancing act

The United States consumes more energy than any other country. Our country represents just 5% of the world’s population but consumes 23% of its energy. The average American consumes six times more energy than the world average.

So who’s using the energy? Industry and manufacturing account for 33%, transportation 28%, residential 21% and commercial 18%. How does the typical Minnesota family use energy in their homes? Space heating accounts for 47%, lighting and appliances 24%, water heating 17%, refrigeration 5% and air conditioning 6%.

Our population is due to double in the next 80 years. This will result in increased energy demand and resource consumption. We cannot continue to build as we have if we are to meet the greenhouse gas emission goals recommended by the world’s scientists.

We have the ability to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted at a fairly modest cost with small technology and lifestyle changes. Taking steps to conserve now will ensure the stability of future generations.

Unplug. What is standby power and how does it affect you? You might be surprised how many appliances and electrical products use power even when they are turned off—24/7. The only way the power is really off is when an appliance is unplugged. For some appliances standby power can use up to 20 watts per day. Add 20 watts per day to each appliance in your home and multiply it by the number of homes in the United States and it becomes a staggering amount of energy that is wasted.

Conserve. Reducing the amount of energy your home consumes will have a larger environmental impact than using recycled materials to build your home. For instance, the amount of embodied energy in the materials used to build a home are typically equivalent to nine years of energy used to operate the home.

Calculate. Every American can impact the environment in a positive way. The Lawrence Berkeley Lab has a Home Energy Saver calculator at By entering your zip code and some details about your home this innovative program will show you how to save an average of $500 annually in energy bills and will give you the resources you need to make it happen. The Web site also has tips for renters, as well as homeowners.

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. We live in a throw away society.  An average person produces more than 1,000 pounds of trash a year.  What can we do to help? Buy what you need. Purchasing fewer goods equates to less resource consumption and less energy with related emissions being used in the extraction, manufacturing, shipping and disposal process.

Stay away from disposable products.  Buy items that can be reused and that are durable. They may cost a little more initially but they’ll last longer which will save in replacement costs and decrease the amount of trash in our landfills.

  • Recycling a pound of steel saves 5,450 BTUs of energy, enough to light a 60-watt bulb for 26 hours.
  • Recycling a ton of glass saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil.
  • Recycling aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy required to produce aluminum from bauxite.

What Has Water Got To Do With It? Water use consumes an enormous amount of electricity. Water must be obtained, purified and delivered to homes and businesses using pumps powered by electricity. After the water is used, it must be pumped to wastewater plants for cleaning. Follow these easy steps to make water conservation a part of your daily routine.

  • You can save 750-1,500 gallons per month by watering your lawn less frequently.  If you have a sprinkler system, change the settings.
  • Fix leaky faucets and plumbing joints. You’ll save 20 gallons per day for every leak stopped.
  • Install water-saving shower-heads or flow restrictors and see savings of 500 to 800 gallons per month.
  • Running only full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher will save 300 to 800 gallons per month.
  • You can save 400 to 600 hundred gallons of water a month by not using your toilet as a wastebasket.
  • While you wait for hot water to come down the pipes, catch the flow in a watering can to use later to water indoor or outdoor plants. Capturing tap water will result in savings of 200 to 300 gallons per month.

Transportation. The U.S. Department of Energy reviews hybrid vehicles; features fuel economy ratings and will find and compare gas mileage, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution ratings at

Finally, the Sierra Club’s Web site features Ten Things You Can Do To Help Curb Global Warming with easy steps for creating a safer environment for your family and saving money!

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