In the recent issue of TIME magazine, there is an interesting article by the title 51 Things We Can Do. Among the list are some sensible (and worth-a-try) things that will not only make Al Gore happy, but also help you save some money in the long run. What amused me the most was tip #45: Make One Right Turn After Another; here is an excerpt:
In 2004, UPS announced that its drivers would avoid making left turns. The time spent idling while waiting to turn against oncoming traffic burns fuel and costs millions each year.
In metro New York, UPS has reduced CO2 emissions by 1,000 metric tons since January. Today 83% of UPS facilities are heading in the right direction; within two years, the policy will be adopted nationwide.
If you have difficulty in visualizing it, here is a graphic (MS Office clip art rocks) that might be worth a thought:
The image compares two overly-simplified (for the purpose of comparison) ways of making a to and fro journey. In both cases you travel the same distance, but in all probability, choosing the route with all left turns will take more time (unless you are lucky enough to catch protected left green signals at all three intersections).
Huh?…but how’s one vehicle making right turns going to help?
Towards that, here is a bit of insight into why UPS is trying this out (source):
“It seems small, but when you multiply it across 88,0000 vehicles making nearly 15 million deliveries every day during the course of a year, it adds up.”
If 88,000 vehicles making more right turns mean millions of dollars for UPS, it will certainly mean something significant for the US as a whole with about 240,000,000+ vehicles.
Obviously, right turns are nice only in US (and other right-hand traffic countries); similar logic applies to left turns in UK, Japan, and other left-hand traffic countries.
Other handy tips
The TIME article mentions other common sense tips that are worth trying. Some of these tips must have been repeated a million times on different blogs and websites, but TIME’s interesting numbers adds a better perspective from the point of view of motivating people towards applying these tips. Not all of the 51 things mentioned in the article can be easily implemented by the common man, but here are some that most of us can try without drastically altering our lifestyle:
- Give up those incandescent (filament) light bulbs.
CFLs cost three to five times as much as conventional incandescent bulbs yet use one-quarter the electricity and last several years longer.
If you are worried about whether it makes economical sense to buy the expensive compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs, read this: Save Money On Light Bulbs. With some reasonable assumptions, CF bulbs will actually save you money in the long run. By the way, a similar logic also applies to appliances. Compare appliances based on their power consumption (look for kWh or kilowatt-hour ratings), and extend the comparison over a few years down the line. Power efficient appliances may be expensive at first glance, but may turn out to be cheaper when it comes to operational costs. Also, the rule of thumb is: less power consumption = more environmentally friendly.
- Some tips for every household.
Open a window instead of running the AC. Adjust the thermostat a couple of degrees higher in the summer and lower in the winter. Caulk and weatherstrip all your doors and windows. Insulate your walls and ceilings. Use the dishwasher only when it’s full. Install low-flow showerheads. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water. Turn down the thermostat on the water heater. At the end of the year, don’t be surprised if your house feels lighter. It just lost 4,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide.
Forget about the 4,000 lbs of CO2 for a while…you will save a ton of money by implementing these tips. So if you are not so much of a *green-person*, at least try it for the sake of money. And if you don’t care about the savings, think about how much you can contribute towards the environment by reducing 4,000 lbs of CO2.
- Insulate your water heater
Wrapping your heater in an insulated blanketâ€”one costs about $10 to $20 at home centersâ€”could save your household about 250 lbs. in CO2 emissions annually. Most water heaters more than five years old are constantly losing heat and wasting energy because they lack internal insulation. If the surface feels warm to the touch, get your heater an extra blankie. You’ll both feel better.
This is something I have never thought about…and due to my procrastinating tendency, this will take me some time to implement…but it sounds like a sensible thing to do, so go ahead and try it.
- Switch off your computers, lights, and other electronic equipment when not in use.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75% of all the electricity consumed in the home is standby power used to keep electronics running when those TVs, DVRs, computers, monitors and stereos are “off.” The average desktop computer, not including the monitor, consumes from 60 to 250 watts a day. Compared with a machine left on 24/7, a computer that is in use four hours a day and turned off the rest of the time would save you about $70 a year. The carbon impact would be even greater. Shutting it off would reduce the machine’s CO2 emissions 83%, to just 63 kg a year.
I see this happening day in and day out. I don’t think anyone in my entire building switches of their computers before leaving for the day. There must be more than a 1000 computers in here. Recently, after the university started adding an *energy surcharge* in our tuition bills, some people have started switching off the lights…but only about 25% of the people are doing it.
- Check tire pressure regularly and get your car tuned-up periodically.
If you can boost your gas mileage from 20 to 24 m.p.g., your old heap will put 200 fewer pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
Tire pressure gages costs about a dollar in most stores, air is free at most gas stations, and it doesn’t take more than five minutes to check your tire pressure. I think procrastination is the only barrier here. Drive sensibly; speeding eats up a lot of gas and is not very efficient. Better mileage = more savings, reducing 200 lbs of CO2 = cleaner conscience.
- Manage and pay your bills online.
If every U.S. home viewed and paid its bills online, the switch would cut solid waste by 1.6 billion tons a year and curb greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.1 million tons a year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.
Apart from the environmental concerns, there is also an organizational factor associated with this. With online transactions, you don’t need to sort important pieces of mail from a ton of junk ones, or worry about shredding paper statements, or worry about USPS not delivering your payment check on time…all small things, but with major *headache* potential. This also saves a small amount of money on postage stamps.
- Say no to plastic grocery bags and yes to cloth or paper bags (this one won’t save you money..but it’s worth doing it for the environment).
Every year, more than 500 billion plastic bags are distributed, and less than 3% of those bags are recycled. They are typically made of polyethylene and can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade in landfills that emit harmful greenhouse gases. Reducing your contribution to plastic-bag pollution is as simple as using a cloth bag (or one made of biodegradable plant-based materials) instead of wasting plastic ones.
Just saying “I use recyclable plastic bags” is not enough. Even recycling plants take up a lot of energy. Therefore, it makes sense to reuse them as much as possible before recycling. Thin plastic bags won’t last long when you start reusing them…that’s where reusable cloth and paper bags (paper bags made from recycled paper) come into picture. Try them, they are not expensive at all.
- Live a sensible life.
Live simply. Meditate. Consume less. Think more. Get to know your neighbors. Borrow when you need to and lend when asked.
This is tip #51 in the list…sounds exceedingly simple and yet it’s the most difficult thing to act on. I would modify the words “consume less” to “consume sensibly”. Live your life well…but live it sensibly. Hey! wait a minute, it says…”Think more”? But, aren’t we Americans?