VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


An Energy Diet That Really Works

In the few weeks I started the 360-degree Energy Diet I have made measurable progress in shedding some of the more profligate aspects of my lifestyle. But more importantly, I have reset my consumption habits and hope to be a better steward of our planet going forward.

One of the goals of the 360-degree Energy Diet is to engage citizens concerned about energy issues. I’ve certainly become more sensitive about that and I’m willing to advocate to friends and anyone who will listen to me about our collective need to be more responsible about the decisions we make about energy.

We use more and more energy to power our civilization, not only because we are rising rapidly in number (seven billion people on Earth this year, and on our way to nine billion or more), but because economic development and progress in technology is driving more consumption per person.

Most of the energy we use is derived from fossil fuel, a finite resource which in and of itself is a growing problem as we run out of it. Our soaring consumption of fossil fuel and the consequent devastation of forests, oceans, and other natural habitats is changing the chemical balance of the planet, exacerbating climate change. It’s a great conundrum: How can we advance and share the benefits of our industrial civilization more equitably without inflicting crippling damage on Earth and ourselves?

One of the most significant things we can all do is conserve energy by cutting wherever possible the things we do that waste this and other precious resources. It was in that spirit that I agreed to sign on to the 360-degree Energy Diet, to take stock of my current lifestyle and to see how I can improve.

You can follow the steps of the diet here — and I urge you to try it yourself.

Household Energy Cut 16 Percent

In my case I wish to report that for the duration of the Energy Diet I cut my household electricity consumption by 16 percent — measured in kilowatt hours, versus the same period last year, as noted on my utility bills. It was achieved by changing light bulbs, turning off the thermostat, using a lot less hot water, sealing windows and doors. And it was done during unseasonably hot and dry weather, when we experienced above-normal temperatures for June in Virginia.

I don’t have hard figures for gasoline consumption because I used my vehicle so differently this spring compared with spring of 2010, but I worked hard to do all the things I was supposed to do to drive more efficiently. It feels like I have been buying less gas, but without a reliable historical record I can’t prove it.

I also don’t have my water bills for this period, but I am certain I must have cut consumption because of the measures taken. (See my earlier blog about water.)

By eating more sensibly — less meat and more raw/vegan meals — I also lost body weight over the past few weeks. And I obviously saved money, in the form of lower bills for utilities, gas, and food. So it immediately becomes clear that the 360-degree Energy Diet has a real impact on my health and wallet as well as my environment. That’s money that can be spent toward investing in new energy-efficient appliances, such as the new air conditioner we will need when our current one, now more than 20 years old, expires. The low-energy models with more sophisticated thermostats that have become available since the one we now use was installed will obviously make an ongoing contribution to lowering our energy consumption.

The Energy Diet caused me to go through a lengthy check list of things I could do. I am proud to report that I have managed to do much of what I was supposed to do. (See the list below.)

It won’t end here for me. As I replace vehicles and equipment I will look for low-energy options. I will continue to chip away at my consumption. And I will advocate for everyone to do the same.

David Braun accomplished at least some part of these items recommended by the 360-degree Energy Diet:

* Limited daily intake of beef to 8 ounces
* Switched to sustainable seafood
* Ate vegan or raw for a certain number of days per week
* Bought grass-fed beef instead of conventional
* Gave up at least one processed food
* Drove no faster than the posted the speed limit, avoided rapid acceleration or braking
* Removed extra weight from car, inflated tires
* Used public transportation instead of driving
* Reduced your planned air travel by one trip
* Carpooled or found a ride-sharing program
* Recycled all glass, aluminum, plastic, batteries and paper
* Eliminated advertising mail
* Changed to paperless billing
* Eliminated the use of plastic and paper bags
* Began composting at home
* Used biodegradable bags for trash or walking the dog
* Recycled or donated old athletic shoes and clothes
* Recycled or donated old electronics
* Gave up bottled water
* Turned off tap when brushing teeth, scrubbing dishes
* Shortened showering time
* Replaced shower head with a low-flow model
* Used xeriscaping for yard
* Installed a low-flow toilet
* Tallied stats for water, electricity, natural gas and gasoline use
* Switched to organic produce
* Switched to eco-friendly cleaning methods
* Switched to locally made (non-produce) products where possible
* Cut use of disposable items
* Repaired or extended use of clothing items
* Stopped using wrapping paper for gifts
* Changed Printing Habits
* Rented or borrowed instead of buying infrequently used items

This item is next on the to-do list:

* Install a rain barrel to collect water for garden, lawn and plants

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn