Celebrating Earth Day With a NEEP Intern

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Education is the foundation for progress. We need to build global thinking on the concept of climate change, and build more awareness of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to inspire action in defense of environmental protection. At NEEP, we do this every day, most especially around Earth Day.

This Earth Day, not only will I be spreading awareness about climate change, but I also hope to get out for a long run. I love running. And, most of Boston is still on a runner's high from this year's Boston Marathon. When I talk to people about home energy usage, I often explain the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency by giving a very simple example based on my experience as a runner.

When a conservative runner paces himself, he cuts back on his speed. This allows him to save his energy, so he has enough energy available at the end of the race to get across the finish line. In other words, energy conservation is the act of saving energy by reducing a service.

On the other hand, an efficient runner approaches his race a little differently by focusing on proper running mechanics. He does not waste energy and gets to the finish line faster. Energy efficiency is defined as saving energy but keeping the same level of service by using energy more effectively.

And trust me, it doesn’t take more effort to make that happen. 

This is a very good analogy for understanding decisions about using our carbon-based fossil fuels. I personally know a lot of people who would rather give up on something that they may need instead of putting more effort into meeting that need. When looking at areas where you might save energy, there are a few things that may seem silly at first, but if you look more deeply at those, you will find that you could make some changes in term of reducing energy use.

Water is another case in point.  

Water Filtration Process

You may think water just runs out of faucets, and that’s the end of the story. But there’s more to it. Do you know how much energy, money and effort are required for making water drinkable for our communities? This process takes time, it consumes energy and it produces a lot of CO2 that is released into the atmosphere. We could choose either to not consume water at all, which is not humanly possible. Or, we could use less water than usual by changing our behavior, which could be a good move. But I propose a third option – something even more tangible. We could use it more effectively and efficiently. By installing water-saving devices and water-smart meters we could reduce, monitor and control water usage and (hopefully) reduce water waste without drastically changing our behavior.

When we think of our future, our children, and the future of the next generation, it is helpful to realize that energy efficiency is our future. It is not just thinking of switching to renewable energy. We could also take advantage of those technologies that provide a significant opportunity for reducing GHG emissions starting now.

Because at the end of the day, what’s important – whether we are training for a race or raising our families – starts with what happens tomorrow.  

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