New Internationalist

Personalizing Energy Consumption

Climate change is one of those big global issues that grows exponentially as you research more into the causes and solutions. Its easy to let it overwhelm and write it off as one of those 'too big for me' situations. But it need not be.

A solution that works for me and helps me own the problem and feel good about the little steps I'm taking towards change is personalising it, working out where my life fits in the big picture, and taking it from there.

So my strategy is this: calculate, compare & simplify.

Calculate

Being a bit of a nerd, and loving visualising things, www.wattzon.com has been a great place to start to calculate my energy consumption. Its the most comprehensive tool I've found so far, and takes into account your electricity, gas, heating, travel, things you own and even the food you consume.

After entering your details, it'll give you a life summary, mine came to 5,171W. This is where it starts getting interesting for me, because even though I'm only making two flights this year, one for a training day competition I won and one heading overseas for a holiday (that I've planted trees for), it still takes up more energy than to house me or feed me.

Compare

5,171W is great, but it doesn't mean anything to me unless I have some context to put it in. Here's where wattzon is neat. You can pull up your result in a nice little chart compared to others using wattzon, compared to historic energy figures worldwide. You can even chart your life energy use and how big a wind generator / solar panel you'd need to power yourself!

sighmon's life = 5,171W

sighmon's energy consumption vs the average wattzon user.

sighmon's energy consumption vs the world 

 

sighmon's energy consumption and the size of a wind generator needed to power him

sighmon's energy consumption and the sized solar panel needed to power his life

Simplify

So after having a look through the graph, I have 3 areas to work on: housing, flying & food. I've done quite a bit of work simplifying my life lately and its definitely paid off. My transport costs have been minimised by skateboarding to and from work, and my housing energy costs have also been reduced by partitioning off rooms in my house and sharing showers with my partner. I already have green energy at home, so to further reduce my housing energy I think I'll have to have someone else move in to live with me and maybe install some more insulation in the roof to help reduce heat and cooling costs. If you're not using green energy yet, google your local energy comparison website to see how much extra it will cost you to switch. The Australian website is www.goswitch.com.au

Flying energy use is also a relatively easy fix. Don't fly! Next year I'll try and have a fly-free year by driving, bussing or training my way to other states around Australia if I absolutely need to travel. It'll take a bit more time, but slowing down is a pretty therapeutic thing to do anyway.

Food energy is one area that I think I'll find it harder to reduce. I'm a vegetarian, I share meals with my partner, and always cook extra food for the freezer for 'fast food' when I'm tired. So I think the best way forward for me will be to join a local community garden, so that I can source my food locally which means it'll use less energy and taste much more fresh. A quick google search found an Australian listing for me, there's even one within skateboarding distance. Yay.

Conclusion

I figure I'm on the right track. The little changes I've implemented lately seem to have put me in a place I'm happy with. My energy consumption is about 2/3 of the Australian average, and I've worked out areas that I can work on more.

One more interesting conclusion is that the government of my country still determines a lot of my personal energy consumption, so another step I'm going to keep on doing is making phone calls, sending emails and signing petitions  to make sure the national decisions they're making on climate change are also helping to reduce my personal and our countries energy use. GetUp Australia are a great local group to support for me.

Share your results!

I hope you've enjoyed looking at my energy results, I'd love to see yours and hear your ideas for solutions you've found.

Post your results in the comments section below, or in a reply to me on twitter. :)

NI twitter account: @newint

My personal twitter account: @sighmon 

Thanks to Ross Hill for sharing the link to www.wattzon.com with me.

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