It’s not easy being green
The “Bein’ Green” song was written in 1970 and sung by Kermit the Frog in the first season of Sesame Street. Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own. Frank Sinatra did a version of it in 1971 on his Sinatra & Company album and many other artists have performed it. In recent years, it’s been picked up by the environmental movement, given its obvious connotations. It’s even been used in an EDF advert last year.
Those immortal words take on new meaning these days, when the difficulty of being green is all about how we can act in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. This is often made difficult by apparently conflicting information. For example, do I throw out my old fridge because it’s inefficient, or do I use it till it falls apart? If I throw it out I can save energy with a newer model, but I create more waste (even if it can be recycled) and another fridge has to be made to fulfill my needs. The British alone throw out about 3 million fridges per year, so this is not a trivial concern.
I looked it up on google. It seems that fridges manufactured in or after 2000 shouldn’t be replaced for some time yet. Fridges purchased in or before 1985 definitely should be replaced, as replacing them could pay you back in less than 2 years in savings on your electricity bill. Between 1985 and 2000, it’s not so clear cut. Many domestic appliances didn’t have an energy rating until the early 1990s, but a fridge in good condition may still have life left in it.
So how do you know if you should throw your fridge out or not? For the purely financial aspect of saving energy, there’s a calculator at www.energystar.gov that can help you decide. Unfortunately, it’s tailored to the US market, so europeans will have a harder time using it. You can take a more direct approach, and actually measure the consumption of your current fridge, and compare it against other models.
Tom Harrison has a really informative blog (“fivepercent”) which illustrates the effectiveness of this approach. He has reduced his electricity use by 50% in 4 years, and his use of water by a similar fraction. One post refers to measuring power consumption minute-by-minute using a Cent-a-meter, so you can see which devices are really responsible for your consumption. This gadget works for US and european voltages, and Tom estimates that it can pay for itself in less than a year, even if you are already frugal with your electricity.
Toms approach to everything illustrates the importance of actually measuring the things you are trying to save money on. You could simply do some of the right things, like turning off lights in empty rooms, but when you measure your use of electricity (or water, petrol, etc) you will learn just how effective you are being. I have done this myself with my petrol consumption, and I can testify that it is a powerful incentive to save more. I’ve also started tracking my use of water and electricity by reading my meters regularly. Not as precise a method as Tom, but it’s a start.
The cold weather we have experienced recently has caused record demands for electricity (about 92,000 MW), and EDF announced that they may introduce power-cuts to save electricity. That peak could be eliminated by savings of 10% or more per person, which would mean no power cuts would be necessary. 10% is not much to ask for, even Tom managed to find an extra 10% after four years of actively trying to save electricity!
Maybe it’s not so hard to be green after all…