Many of us struggle to achieve our ideal weight and maintain optimal fitness. The summer brings both challenges and opportunities. The long sunny days give us ample opportunity to be outside doing activities such as biking and swimming that help us stay fit. At the same time, summer cook outs with family and friends often include eating summer staples like hot dogs and potato salad, not to mention drinking ice cold beers, which contribute to weight gain. At least we are generally aware of what we should be doing to stay fit. When it comes to energy, most people don’t know where to begin.
Why Become Energy Fit
It’s impossible to overstate how vital energy is in our daily lives, from waking up in the morning to the sound of the annoying buzz of the alarm clock to firing up the computer to see what has transpired on our social media feeds during the wee hours of the morning. But, frankly, we rarely think about the energy we use. Yet the choices we make have significant impacts on our wallets and the environment. Today, over 80 percent of the energy we use on a daily basis is derived from fossil fuels. When we use these fuels pollution is created including carbon emissions that are linked to climate change.
Just like getting physically fit, becoming energy fit requires that we watch how much we consume and do our best to use forms of energy that are good for us and the planet. The biggest barrier to becoming energy fit is largely a lack of knowledge. I’ve been teaching a freshmen-level course at Green Mountain College for over a decade called Energy & Society. This course is fundamentally about helping students gain energy literacy. The U.S. Department of Energy defines energy literacy as, “…an understanding of the nature and role of energy in the world and daily lives accompanied by the ability to apply this understanding to answer questions and solve problems.”
Lean & Clean
The first step in becoming energy fit is to find ways to reduce your household energy use. A great place to start is to have an energy audit performed for your home from a qualified professional. Here is a short video from the U.S. Department of Energy on what a home energy audit entails. In addition, the whole family can make it a fun competition to see who can save the most energy by turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use. There are lots of little things that can be done to save energy that can add up to BIG savings.
The second step would be to find out how you can use green energy in your home. Depending on where you live, some power companies allow you to purchase green energy. Better yet, investing in a home solar energy system could be a great option if you have space on your roof or property to locate a solar photovoltaic (PV) array. PV converts the energy from the sun directly into electricity we can use in our homes. I created a web site Go Solar Coach to help homeowners navigate the sometimes confusing process of going solar. You will be much more satisfied with your decision to go solar if you are an informed consumer.
Many of us work hard to stay physically fit by eating right and staying active. It is important for the future of the planet for more of us to also become energy fit. By reducing the amount of energy we consume and working to use clean, renewable energy we can both save money and the planet!
Steve Letendre, PhD