A checklist of simple actions anyone can take

Published Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

I believe that most people are fine and decent folks with good hearts and good intentions.  I think most of us want to do right when it comes to taking care of our planet's environment.

However, given the daily flood of new and sometimes conflicting information that swirls around us, many of us may be unsure of just what that ‘right thing’ is – and that causes many of us to stall. 

So here’s a quick checklist of things anyone can do, starting today, to help save money, energy and the environment.

Level One, the very simplest actions

  • Turn off computers, lights and anything else that uses electricity when they don’t need to be on.  Use power bars for electronics and other devices that use ‘phantom’ power even when they are turned off.
  • Adopt a zero-idle policy: turn your engine off every time you are stopped for more than 10 seconds because idling wastes fuel.  (There’s a persistent myth that frequent stops and starts are bad for an engine; perhaps the best rebuttal is the fact that many new vehicles are now equipped with stop-start technology, which automatically turns engines off when vehicles come to a full stop and restarts them when the driver touches the gas pedal.)  
  • Avoid using car starters because they tend to lead to excess idling.  Even a cold engine in winter is oiled and ready to go after just 30 seconds of idling (and cars tend to warm up faster when driving than when parked anyway).  
  • Avoid drive-throughs because idling in line-ups wastes fuel; it’s more efficient – and often faster – to park and go inside.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water to reduce hot water usage.
  • Check tire pressure monthly because underinflated tires waste fuel.  (Overinflated tires are unsafe and wear out prematurely.) 
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle in that order; and compost organics if you can.

Level Two, actions for bigger savings

  • Drive smarter by treading lightly on the gas and brake – easy, smooth accelerations and long, gentle stops will yield HUGE improvements in fuel efficiency for most drivers.
  • Air conditioning is a huge load on a vehicle’s engine, second only to driving.  Opt for fresh air instead whenever you can.
  • Install low flow shower heads because hot water represents 20% of the average home’s energy use.  Try showering less too.
  • Install LED light bulbs because they offer 75 per cent savings over incandescent lights.  They come on instantly and will last for decades.

Level Three, actions that make the biggest difference

  • Take steps to make your home more energy efficient.  (In most homes, begin by air sealing and insulating.)  Visit www.nbpower.com/en/smart-habits for tips, rebates and incentives.
  • Drive the most energy efficient vehicle that meets your needs.  Check ratings for all vehicles sold in Canada since 1995 at www.tinyurl.com/fuel-ratings. 
  • Use a clothesline to dry your clothes; a clothes dryer uses more energy while operating than any other appliance.
  • Choose locally produced food to reduce the impact of long-distance food transportation.
  • It’s important to change light bulbs, but it’s more important to change laws – so contact your elected representatives at all levels to advocate for programs, policies and incentives to help reduce emissions.

Small actions, but if every New Brunswicker did them, what a difference we’d make for our wallets and for our environment.  Let’s get started!

(Please email me from the website below if you’d like a printable one-pager of these tips.)