Sustainability x Global Blog
Energy Reduction (Week 1)
For this post, we will be discussing the different approaches to the issue of energy reduction in the United States and the Netherlands.
What is energy reduction? Why is it important?
While it may not be completely obvious, energy production is directly correlated to harming the environment. When you reduce your energy use, you reduce the amount of toxic Greenhouse Gases (GHG) released into the atmosphere due to energy production and fuel extraction. This helps to conserve natural resources and protect ecosystems and habitats from destruction.
Energy Reduction in the United States
In this interview with Tom Kelly, Senior Energy Manager at Purchase College, he discusses the energy initiatives taking place on campus and beyond. For more information please check out this website or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Energy Reduction in the Netherlands
The Dutch lifestyle gives way to many opportunities for energy reduction.
The infrastructure in the country is designed and planned very differently which leads to a lot of energy-saving benefits. For example, residential areas are designed in a way that makes it easy to get from home to work or to go shopping using either a bicycle or public transportation. Looking at a map of Dutch cities like Amsterdam or Leiden, you can see a circular pattern of canals and roads. The cities were designed to have as many amenities (shops, schools, municipal buildings, etc.) in the center with residential areas surrounding. As the population grew, canals and “rings” were added to the outside of the pattern. This design makes it easy for residents even on the outer rings to access the center of the city by foot or bicycle (or boat!).
In turn, this makes Dutch homes more energy efficient. Doing your grocery shopping primarily by bike, walking or public transportation means that you purchase smaller amounts of food at a time. This means that you don’t need as much space to store it, so you’ll probably have a smaller refrigerator which uses less energy in your home. And a by-product of doing smaller, more frequent shopping trips and having a smaller refrigerator is that you’re less likely to waste food by letting it go bad before you can consume it.
Energy reduction and efficiency in transportation is impressive in the Netherlands. The country of 17 million people has nearly 23 million bicycles, fulfilling more than a quarter of overall transportation needs. There are over 35,000 kilometers of bicycle tracks throughout the country. It’s not uncommon for one household to share one car, but have more bicycles than residents!
The Dutch government has a goal to reduce the Netherlands’ emissions of greenhouse gases to zero by 2050 using solar energy, onshore and offshore wind energy, biomass energy, geothermal heat and hydropower. By 2023, they plan to make 16% of all energy used in the country sustainable and almost 100% sustainable by 2050 (Government of the Netherlands Renewable Energy).
Campaigns to encourage Dutch citizens to make their homes more energy efficient (“Save Energy Now!”) include pushing for better insulation, solar water heating, and solar panels in homes. Grants and low-interest loans are available to homeowners who want to increase their home’s energy efficiency.
And living the Dutch lifestyle, as well as government-focused aid and campaigns, has really paid off for the Netherlands. Between the years 2000-2010, the rate of energy efficiency was 1.1% per year, meaning that without these efforts, total energy consumption in the country would have been 12% higher by the end of the 10 year period than it was. The agriculture and household sectors were the two largest contributors to energy efficiency over that time period, agriculture saved 3.7% per year meaning that consumption would have been 45% higher in 2010.
The Netherlands is also focusing on transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy and their government’s energy and climate policy is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They aim to reduce them by 49% by the year 2030 and 95% by the year 2050 (The Netherlands 2020 Energy Policy Review).
Energy Reduction and you!
There is a direct connection between your personal energy use and the environment. At Purchase College most of our energy comes from natural gas. The average energy use of one typical dorm room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles. If 10% of all US college students were to incorporate energy-saving practices, millions of pounds of carbon emissions could be avoided. By taking steps to reduce your energy intake, you’ll help decrease Purchase’s overall carbon footprint and contribute to a happier and healthier planet.
The average dorm room consumes over 30% of its electricity when no one is present. This is because plugged electronics continue to draw power, even when turned off or idle. The phantom energy load can account for 13-1,500 kilowatt hours of energy per year. A way to avoid this phantom energy is to plug all your electronics into a power strip or surge protector and switch it off when nothing is in use.
Conserve Heating and Cooling:
AC is one of the largest contributors to dorm energy usage. If you can, set your temperature control a few degrees higher to cut back on how much energy the cooling system uses. Do not leave a window open when the AC is running. On hot, sunny days, keep the blinds or curtains closed to block the sun’s warming rays. In the winter, keep building doors closed to avoid letting generated heat escape. If you see any broken windows, cracks in doorways or any damages thermostat controls, please report them to Facilities.
Remember to cut the lights when leaving your room or common area! Another way to “green” your lighting is to swap your incandescent bulbs for LEDs. LEDs are 85% more efficient than a conventional bulb and last 20-25 times longer! LEDs need only 10 watts to deliver the same amount of light as the old 60-watt bulb. Nationally, if all households phased out their incandescents and halogens, the US could have an annual savings of $12 billion in energy dollars.
Water Use as Related to Energy:
Energy is required to extract water from the source, clean it, pump it to your building, pump the wastewater back to the treatment center, and send it elsewhere. The more water we use, the more times that energy-intensive cycle has to be completed! Be mindful of water use, paying extra care to decreasing hot water use such as showers, dishwasher cycles and laundry.
Water takes a lot of energy to heat, about 129 watts per gallon! Reducing your shower time by one minute will save nearly 1,400 watts (that’s equivalent to almost 250 phone charges). Additionally, consider washing your laundry in cold water. Heating the water composes 90% of the energy of a hot water wash cycle. Most laundry detergents are formulated to clean best using a cold wash cycle, plus the added bonus is that your clothes will last longer! Run the dishwasher only when full, 100 pounds of carbon pollution can be avoided per year by implementing this action.
Interested in more?
Calculate your personal carbon footprint , the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint for a person in the US is 16 tons, whereas the global average is closer to 4 tons. By taking the quiz, you can find the areas where you can take action.