Energy, especially oil, is the lifeblood of industrial civilisation. It is what makes our current lifestyles and economic activity possible. But there are two main reasons why we must urgently reduce our use of energy: (1) Burning massive quantities of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) dumps millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and this is causing climate change; (2) Peak oil and other energy supply problems means that energy is going to get scarcer and much more expensive in coming years. We need to use energy much more efficiently and transition to renewable energies without delay.
- Read widely about climate change and peak oil: These subjects have political implications, and this means certain political parties and media institutions have an incentive to muddy the waters. But these matters are much, much, much too important to be determined by political power games. Let the science determine your perspective, not the politics. Read widely and critically. Ask questions. Do your own research. Most importantly, think for yourself.
- Buy ‘green’ energy: Many energy companies today have an option for purchasing green energy (i.e. that is, energy produced from wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, etc, rather than from fossil fuels). Green energy will be somewhat more expensive, but if you take energy efficiency seriously you will probably be able to offset price increases by reducing consumption. Call your energy company today. If they do not offer Green Energy, change companies.
- Take energy efficiency seriously: This can take many forms, including insulating your house well; only heating or cooling the rooms you are in; using energy efficient light bulbs; turning lights off when you leave the room; turning appliances off at the wall; only boiling the water you need, etc. Many small steps make a big difference, both in terms of consumption and cost.
- Use commonsense: If you are cold, put on a sweater rather than always turning on the heater. We are all hardier than we think we are. If it’s really hot outside, keeping the doors, windows, and curtains closed keeps the house cool.
- Solar: If you can afford to buy solar panels and/or a solar hot water system, do so. Not only do most systems pay for themselves over a number of years, but by investing in renewable energy you will be indirectly supporting further research and development of renewable energy systems.
- Question the need: Undoubtedly some modern appliances reduce labour. But some appliances are totally unnecessary and others are just gimmicks. Avoid electronic or petrol-fueled appliances that you do not really need. Drive less.
- When purchasing an appliance, choose the most energy efficient: Energy efficient appliances are usually more expensive, but again, the extra initial cost is usually offset over time by the reduced energy costs.
- Set up a solar-heated shower bag outside: In the summer, a solar-heated shower bag (the kind often used on camping trips) can provide you with solar hot water for free. This won’t work in the winter, but it is likely to reduce energy bills noticably in the summer. And it’s invigorating!