6/10/2013 1:26:45 PM

Taking the Green House Energy Challenge

Guest Post by Stephanie Kappel, PBI Climate Alliance Graduate

As a family, we do everything we can to live green. We recycle and compost. We tote reusable grocery bags to the store and steer clear of excess packing most days. We ride our bikes in the summer and shop the farmer's markets. It would be easy to fall into the "good enough" mind set: We do enough. We do our part.

Over the last two years, we've started to look at how we use energy at home—because home energy use is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. As a family, for the sake of arctic habitats that are melting from a build-up of these gases, we've decided we are not OK with "good enough."

Although we've always used our programmable thermostat, last winter we invested in reinsulating our home. We brought a contractor in to assess our situation and learned the insulation in our old, urban home was not properly installed. We were, essentially, heating and cooling the great outdoors! With new insulation in place, we've seen a noticeable difference in our energy bill and the temperature fluctuations in our home have decreased dramatically. The money we save on our energy bill will soon pay for the cost of the insulation project.

With a major energy improvement under our belt, we decided to take PBI's Energy Challenge, and enlisted the help of our green-minded second grader to find new ways to save energy at home. We started out by looking at our electric meter and jotting down the number of kilowatt hours shown on the dial. Then we put a big sticky note on the fridge to remind ourselves to check the number again a week later. By subtracting the first week from the second, we'd be able to find our baseline energy use for a week. Then we'd set a goal to beat it!

In preparation for the start date of our challenge, we sat down to talk about our daily habits that use energy and looked for ways to make improvements. We listed the things we do well—we run the dishwasher only when it's full, turn the lights off when we leave a room, and have swapped out most of our incandescent light bulbs for CFLs.

Next, we took some time to look for ways to improve. In my next post, I'll talk about the discoveries we made and how much energy we saved.

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