Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Green living lessons from the 2013 Christmas ice storm

How to use less water and electricity for a more eco-friendly home
The ice storm taught us that we can get by with less water and less electricity.
Challenging times have a way of teaching us life lessons. Although I wouldn’t wish another outage on anyone I’m happy to admit that I learned a lot during our two (half) days in the dark.

For most it was an exhausting reminder of our dependence on power, it exposed how self-sufficient we are (or aren’t) and proved how we can call get by with less.

We learned we can all use less water:

  • According to Environment Canada Canadian’s use on average 274 litres of water per capita per day in our homes. (The average New Brunswicker uses 394 litres per day.) Those on a well who lost power know best how precious water became. If you were lugging water from friends’ homes or melting snow (or both) for your in-home needs chances are you were treating it like gold.
  • This is how our in-home water use breaks down: 30% of our in home water use is the toilet, 35% is washing and bathing, 20% is laundry, 10% cooking and about 5% is used for cleaning.
  • Choosing low flow toilets, or adopting the "if its brown flush it down, if its yellow let it mellow” approach to toilet flushing are two ways to reduce your bathroom water use.
  • Using low-flow shower heads, taking shorter showers, fewer baths and shutting off the tap while brushing your teeth and scrubbing your hands will help you reduce your bathroom water use too.
  • During the power outage chances are you took more care deciding what clothes needed to be washed. The laundry still piled up but only the truly dirty clothes ended up in the pile. It turns out that it’s a common habit to wash clothes more frequently than necessary, unless you can’t. Being picky about when it’s time to put clothes in the wash saves water, energy and time.   

As for lighting, for the most part we all just lit (with candles or lanterns) the room that we all congregated in. We shared the light and spent more time together as a result.

We were extra quick opening and closing the fridge and even faster coming in and out of the house. We were reminded that size matters when it comes to warming your house and became hyper-aware of how we might be losing our precious heat. If your house isn’t as snug as you’d like check Efficiency New Brunswick’s website for quick, cheap and easy ways your can help keep your house cosy. Sixty percent of a home’s energy use is heating so even making small improvements can make a big difference in energy use as cost savings.

During the outage we were in constant conservation mode. Even when our power returned we were cautious and grateful, using as little power as possible out of respect for those who were still without.  

Sitting in the dark has a way of making you think more deeply about our circumstances. Now if we can only hang onto all that we learned. 

No comments: