"You're going to have to change the priorities of your life if you love this  planet." Helen Caldicott on Global Warming (with permission)

Conserving energy is the easiest and quickest way to reduce our greenhouse emissions and help end or reduce the need for ever more power plants. We in the USA must lead the way.

There are four areas where efforts can be made in reducing energy consumption. 

About half is transportation and residential and is in our hands as consumers to affect. 

Amtrak’s fleet of trains removes 8 million cars from the road and eliminates the need for 50,000 passenger airplanes each year. Without rail as an option, freight shippers would have to put 50 million more trucks on the road. On a per-passenger-mile basis, Amtrak is almost 20% more efficient than air travel, and 28% more efficient than car travel according to the US Dept. of Energy. 



  • Recycling information
  • Electronic waste
  • Ghost/Vampire power
  • Data centers -  a growing problem
  • LED 
  • Residential/commercial and transportation

(See also the What You Can Do page to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint.)

Recycling information

June 2015: The business of recycling in the US has stalled.  
Recycling in recent years has become a money-sucking enterprise in the USA. WasteManagement and other recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities nationwide are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around.  “If people feel that recycling is important, and I think they do, increasingly, then we are talking about a nationwide crisis,” said David Steiner, CEO of Waste Management. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins, while demanding almost no sorting by consumers, the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperilling the economics of the whole system. Today, more than a third of all glass sent to recycling facilities ends up as crushed shards. It is trucked to landfills as daily cover to bury the smell and trap gases. The rest of the glass has almost no value to recyclers and can often cost them to haul away.


EPA information on plastic recycling: Plastics make up almost 13% of the municipal solid waste stream in the USA, a dramatic increase from 1960, when plastics were less than 1% of the waste stream. The recycling rate for different types of plastic varies greatly, resulting in an overall plastics recycling rate of only 9% or 2.8 million tons in 2012. However, the recycling rate for some plastic products is much higher, for example in 2012, 28% of HDPE bottles and 31% of PET bottles and jars were recycled. According to the American Chemistry Council, about 1,800 US businesses handle or reclaim post-consumer plastics. link  Export recycling and China’s Green Fence. Until recently scrap has been the biggest U.S. export to China, including plastics. However a 2013 report from DailyKos suggests recycling is less frequent than we are aware, with much being shipped to China. China’s ‘Green Fence” policy in 2013, limiting waste imported has unsettled the market. link

Electronic waste

E-Waste. The Basel Convention.
Some 53 million tons of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2009, and only about 13% was recycled. The
Basel Convention is an international agreement governing the handling and trade of hazardous waste. Executive director Jim Puckett says the "U.S. has been asleep at the switch.” More than 165 countries have ratified the convention, but the United States has not -  read more  Hundreds of thousands of computers and cell phones are discarded in America every week. The USA is the only leading nation not regulating export of hazardous waste such as lead and mercury in electronic waste. It takes a little effort to do the right thing and recycle safely, but check locally where you can recycle responsibly. More
August 2012: 5-fold increase in e-waste collections as Europe beefs up electronic equipment and devices waste directive - link

March 2015: France tries to limit e-waste. A new French law is designed to make products easier to repair, keep them out of the trash. One reason the world throws out more than 50 million tons of gadgets each year is ‘planned obsolescence’ making it often cheaper to buy a replacement than attempt a repair. Though France may be first to implement these laws, others may follow. In the U.S. the Digital Right to Repair organization is pushing for similar legislation. link

May 2010: INTERPOL global e-waste crime group meeting. Identifying and implementing a worldwide strategy to combat the illegal traffic in electronic waste was the focus of a three-day meeting co-hosted by the U.S. EPA Office of Criminal Enforcement which provided a forum for more than 100 representatives and experts from 21 countries and 12 nongovernmental organizations, the largest ever such gathering of involved countries and agencies. link 

November 2009: Worldwide, consumer electronics now represent 15% of household power demand, and that is expected to triple over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency, making it more difficult to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. To satisfy the demand from gadgets will require building the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants, according to the agency" link

August 2010: E-Waste becomes a top priority for EPA action - link  
to donate or recycle electronic products - EPA  
Four green ways to get rid of cell phones and chargers. link

Ghost power

(May 2015 -NRDC report). Vampire power costs Americans $19 billion every year. There has been a veritable explosion in the number of electronics, appliances, and other miscellaneous devices plugged into, or permanently connected to, America's homes. Most are consuming electricity around-the-clock, even when the owners are not using them or think they have been turned off. This always-on energy use by inactive devices translates to $19 billion a year -- about $165 per U.S. household on average -- and approximately 50 large (500-megawatt) power plants' worth of electricity.  link 

Phantom loads/Ghost power. Many household appliances are never fully switched off, but spend most of the time in a standby mode. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory a typical American home has forty products constantly drawing power. Together these amount to almost 10% of residential electricity use. link  The wasted energy, in other words, is equivalent to the output of 18 typical power stations. (Turning off computers when not in use extends their life and saves energy: and do you need that clock display on the microwave 24/7? more)

June 2014: Cable TV boxes 2nd biggest energy user. At night, while most Americans sleep, a power hog is wide awake and running at nearly full throttle: the boxes that operate the cable or satellite television service. The seemingly innocuous appliances, all 224 million of them across the nation, together consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock. They have become the biggest single energy user in many homes, apart from air conditioning. The devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on. link  (July 2014: According to the IEA, the world’s 14 billion television set-top boxes, printers, game consoles and other electronic devices waste $80 billion of power a year due to inefficient technology. link)

June 2014: Cable TV boxes 2nd biggest energy user. At night, while most Americans sleep, a power hog is wide awake and running at nearly full throttle: the boxes that operate the cable or satellite television service. The seemingly innocuous appliances, all 224 million of them across the nation, together consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock. They have become the biggest single energy user in many homes, apart from air conditioning. The devices use nearly as much power turned off as they do when they are turned on. link

March 2011: Energy efficiency canceled out by more and more gadgets. Americans are using energy more efficiently in their households with better windows, insulation and products that meet Energy Star standards, such as refrigerators and clothes washers. Yet those gains are being canceled out by the proliferation of electronic devices now used in homes, including a growing number of personal computers, DVRs and rechargeable gadgets, according to new data released by the Energy Information Administration. Over half of US homes boast three or more TVs.  link

The consumption from these hidden phantom loads in the USA 
is said to equal
the electricity use of Greece, Peru and Vietnam combined!  

Data Centers  - a growing problem

Overview - September 2012: There are now more than three million data centers of widely varying sizes worldwide, according to figures from the International Data Corporation that now exist to support the overall explosion of digital information. The number of federal data centers grew from 432 in 1998 to 2,094 by 2010. Stupendous amounts of data are set in motion each day as, with an innocuous click or tap, people download movies on iTunes, check credit card balances through Visa’s web site, send e-mails with files attached, buy products on Amazonpost on Twitter or read newspapers online. Nationwide, data centers used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, or roughly 2% of all electricity used in the country that year,

Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90% or more of the electricity they pull off the grid. Worldwide, digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show. link  

May 2012: Apples North Carolina data center will use renewables 100% by end of year. Apple plans to use exclusively solar power to run all three of its high-consuming server centres. (The Malden data center will host a 20MW solar farm and be completed by the end of 2012.)  Apple plans on using coal-free electricity in all three of its data centres, with the Maiden facility coal-free by the end of 2012. link
Solar Update     

LED lighting

March 2012: $10 LED's possible soon. UK-based clean tech firm, ZETA Controls, is poised to launch a new patented LED light bulb design dubbed the LifeBulb that is shaped like a conventional incandescent bulb.  An aluminum cage fitted with small light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are positioned to diffuse light in the same way as a 60W incandescent bulb while using just 9W of energy. One of the other main barriers to adoption of LEDs has been the high upfront cost, but the company's first shipment of bulbs, due next month, will be cheaper than current alternatives and there is the potential to reduce the price further if Zeta proves successful in its search for a manufacturing partner. "The first bulbs are being made by hand and we will sell them for 19.99, but once we get a licensing deal with a manufacturer we reckon the price will fall to $15 and then at scale you could get the price below $10 a bulb," he said, adding that the heat dissipation of the new design also extends the life of the bulbs allowing the company to offer a 25-year guarantee.  link

April 2010: Breakthrough on LED efficiency: General Electric (GE) thinks it may have solved the problem with the launch this week of a low wattage LED bulb that provides the same light output as a traditional incandescent bulb but uses less energy while lasting 25 times longer. The new GE Energy Smart LED bulb is expected to consume just 9 watts while producing 450 lumens, a significant improvement on many current LED bulbs that produce 350 lumens or less. GE said that the bulb would also prove remarkably durable. Based on an expected 25,000-hour rated life, and average use of 4 hours per day, GE says the bulb should last 17 years – that is 25 times longer than a general service 40-watt incandescent or halogen bulb and more than three times the life of a standard 8,000-hour rated life CFL. link  LED prices are coming down quickly. The Department of Energy expects a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb to cost $10 by 2015, putting them within striking range of the price of a CFL bulb.

May 2010: Half of commercial lighting will be LED by 2020. The rapid expansion in the LED market will be driven by continually falling costs in solid-state lighting, combined with performance increases that will see adoption of the technology reach an inflection point within the next five years, according to Clint Wheelock, managing director at Pike Research.  link  

LED (light emitting diodes) technology: In the U.S., 78% of the public is completely unaware that traditional (incandescent) light bulbs will be phased out in 2012. [The new federal lighting efficiency standards mean 100-watt bulbs can no longer be made from January 2012, 75-watt bulbs will cease manufacture from January 2013 and 60 and 40-watt bulbs will follow from January 2014. They mirror similar rules already in place in the EU where incandescent bulbs are gradually being phased out.]  By law in 2012 bulbs must be 30% more efficient than current incandescent versions beginning that year. LEDs consume a fraction of the electricity that incandescent bulbs and even CFL light bulbs consume. While LED bulbs cost more than their counterparts, they last 10-20 years, and LEDs differ from CFLs in that they contain no mercury, a very toxic element. Since LED bulbs operate cooler, the decrease in temperature can also keep your home cooler during summer months. The challenges being addressed are the high prices for LEDs and improving the light emissions.  more 

                               Major US cities switching to LED lighting.

October 2013:
New York City switching to LEDs. In an energy-saving effort, New York City plans to replace all of its 250,000 streetlights with LED fixtures in one of the nation’s largest retrofitting projects. The phasing out is part of the administration’s long-term plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2017. The project is expected to save $14 million a year in energy and maintenance costs link
April 2013: Las Vegas converts 42,000 streetlights to LED. The savings in energy and maintenance is expected to be $2 million per year, with a return on investment in seven or eight years, city officials said. link   
In many US cities, however, utilities own street lights and have no incentive to switch - link 

According to the Department of Energy, in the next 20 years rapid adoption of LED lighting in the U.S. can:

  • Reduce electricity demands from lighting by 62 percent.
  • Eliminate 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
  • Avoid building 133 new power plants.
  • Anticipate financial savings that could exceed $280 billion.
Residential/commercial & transportation

Transportation. The USA is currently the largest single consumer of energy. Transportation includes all vehicles used for personal or freight transportation. Of the energy used in this sector, approximately 65% is consumed by gasoline-powered vehicles, primarily personally owned. Diesel-powered transport (trains, merchant ships, heavy trucks, etc.) consumes about 20%, and air traffic consumes most of the remaining 15%.

Call to America: Turn off that air conditioner. Stan Cox, in his book, Losing Our Cool, argues that our climate-controlled lifestyle in modern America is unsustainable, that Americans rely too much on air conditioning. He's not against having air conditioning available during heat emergencies. But Cox says comfort research proves that most people can acclimate to warmer temperatures. "Office workers who have an air-conditioned workplace will have a temperature range they're comfortable in, that may reach up to 78," he says. "Whereas those who work in a non-air-conditioned workplace, they were happy up to 89 degrees." That's if they had plenty of air movement. Cox says fans are a must, and shade makes a big difference. David Orr, who teaches environmental studies at Oberlin College, agrees that cutting back on air conditioning isn't all that hard to do. "I don't think anyone would ask at this point to go cold turkey on air conditioning," Orr says. "But what is reasonable is to use it only sparingly, or as necessary. When you use it, buy the most efficient equipment you can possibly buy." NPR  

March 2010: Ford Motor Company program turns off computers. The company could save $1.2 million and reduce CO2 emissions by 16,000 tons to 25,000 tons annually by just turning off laptops and desktop computers. A new program called PC Power Management, can also shut down computer systems not in use, especially when left overnight and on weekends, to further reduce energy use. Ford's green efforts have earned it the Environmental Protection Agency's coveted 2010 Energy Star Award for the fifth consecutive year. link
August 2011: Survey finds 39% of U.K. employees at small businesses are guilty of leaving PCs on overnight costing up to 30.8m a day. link         

Car idling costs over 10 billion gallons of gas each year in U.S. The average American idles his or her engine about 16 minutes a day. That means we burn about 10.6 billion gallons of gas each year to go absolutely nowhere. That gas is wasted. According to automotive experts you can make a Toyota Corolla get the same gas mileage as an 18-wheeler by sitting in the car with the air-conditioner running while waiting in a school pickup line. Experts concur that if you’re waiting for more than 30 seconds, you’ll save gas by stopping and restarting your engine. You’ll keep the air cleaner, too. Some cities and states even have anti-idling laws to prevent air pollution.  link

Eco driving. Each of us can make serious cutbacks in our lifestyles to impact these numbers. Driving at 55 instead of 65 mph cuts CO2 emissions of American cars by about 20% according to the International Energy Agency. Throughout Europe eco-driving is the new trend.  (link  Also check out ecodrivingusa  Even a 20% reduction is like cutting a $3.60 gallon of gas to under $2.90.

Tips for efficient driving: truth and myths about saving gas/petrol

JAPAN SHOWS WHAT CAN BE DONE: In 2006, companies including Toyota, Hitachi, Isuzu and Sharp asked everyone from chairmen down to workers to strip off their much-loved ties and jackets as office air conditioners were set no cooler than 82.4 degrees. In metropolitan Tokyo alone, the campaign saved 70 million kilowatts of power from June through August. Because of climate change, this and other decisions now means that Japan's energy consumption per person is now almost half that of the United States.  Slate article

Residential. On average, about half of the energy used in U.S. homes is expended on space conditioning (i.e. heating and cooling). Different figures are often quoted for how many homes can be supplied by so many megawatts. One cited recently, to provide an example, is that 500 MW can supply 80,000 US homes, but 280,000 German homes. This indicates how much more energy Americans use compared to Europeans. Raise the thermostat setting. Cooling below 75 degrees in the summer can double a bill. For each degree cooled below 78, cooling bills can rise by as much as 10 percent. On the other hand, raising the thermostat from 73 degrees to 76 degrees could save 30 percent on air conditioning costs. See other Duke Energy tips on reducing energy use in the home.

July 2010: If all the commercial buildings in the U.S. that exist as of 2010 were retrofitted to be more energy efficient, the country as a whole would save over $41.1 billion a year in energy bills. link

U.S. households could cut emissions sharply - study: A research team led by Michigan State University identified 33 specific energy-saving actions ranging from weather-stripping of homes and using slow-flow shower heads to reducing laundry temperatures and driving at highway speeds of 55 miles per hour and under. The actions would appreciably reduce energy consumption and either cost little or offer attractive returns on investment without requiring changes in lifestyle. link

June 2010: Switching off lights has bigger impact than you might think. Switching off lights, turning the television off at the mains and using cooler washing cycles could have a much bigger impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power stations than previously thought, according to a new study published this month in the journal Energy Policy. The study shows that the figure used by government advisors to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide saved by reducing people's electricity consumption is up to 60 percent too low. link

The Natural Resource Defense Council offers some simple ways that will save energy which you all can do today: link

Tips on saving energy at home: earth911.com  


LEED - What is it? In the United States and in a number of other countries around the world, LEED certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability. link

Why homeowners should care about LEED certification
LEED building is still largely voluntary in the private building sector, though many state and federal agencies now require LEED Certified construction for all new building projects. So why should homeowners ask for LEED Certification with new homes, major remodels, and even smaller projects? Let's start with savings. Because LEED Certified homes comply with green building standards they are far more energy efficient than traditionally built homes. That translates to substantially lower heating and cooling costs and lower utility bills. And since LEED building also utilizes many Energy Star rated building materials, from insulation to appliances to roofing materials, you can expect to get substantial tax breaks from a LEED approved home, as well.  link
Two recently released studies, one by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) and one by CoStar Group, have validated what the green building community has known all along: third party certified buildings outperform their conventional counterparts across a wide variety of metrics, including energy savings, occupancy rates, sale price and rental rates.  link

63 million newspapers are printed each day in the U.S.
Of these, 44 million, or about 69%, of them will be thrown away.
Recycling just the Sunday papers would save more than half a million trees every week.

Copyright 2008 thinkglobalgreen.org   All Rights Reserved