- It's a hot day and the air is thick with the scent of your roommate's dirty socks. To make it more bearable while conserving the most energy, you should use a portable fan instead of a portable air conditioner -- because air conditioners use more energy.
True. A typical air conditioner uses 12,000 BTU per hour in order to function. If the air conditioner is left on for 10 hours per day, it will use around 35 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy each day. Alternatively, a typical fan requires 50 watts of power for use. If the fan is also left on for 10 hours per day, then it uses only 0.5 kWh of energy each day. This is roughly 70 times less energy than is consumed by the portable AC.
- Whether you're writing a term paper or adding photos from Saturday's water polo game to your Facebook page, your computer is likely a big part of your life. The average laptop uses only half as much energy as a desktop PC.
False. If you took the "How Green Is My PC" quiz, you'll recognize this question. A laptop actually uses only about one-fifth as much energy as a typical desktop computer. As a college student you should seriously consider owning a laptop rather than a desktop -- not only for the energy-saving benefits but also for the ease of transport. If your roommate is being loud, just pack up your laptop and head to the library!
- When watching a movie (What? You haven't seen Animal House?), to use the least amount of energy you put the DVD in:
The laptop is the best answer in terms of total energy used during the movie; it uses 30 watts. The second-best choice is a desktop computer, which requires about 200 watts of power. An average 32-inch television screen uses 135 watts. A typical DVD player uses 100 watts of power, while a game console uses even more. An Xbox 360, for example, uses 187 watts. Thus, the third-best choice would be to play the movie in a DVD player and watch it on the television screen (about 235 watts), and the worst option is clearly the game console (about 315 watts).
- Which of the following should no dorm room be without?
All of the above. The powerstrip makes it easy to shut down or turn off energy "vampires" that would otherwise draw power 24/7. The coffee mug will save you a few cents and avoid wasting paper cups if you bring it to the local cafe for study sessions. And the extra wastepaper basket is an easy way to collect paper for recycling. Don't want to buy another basket? A cardboard box will work, too.
You school does recycle paper, right? If not, raise a ruckus.
- Whether you share a restroom with your neighbors or have your own, everyone goes to the bathroom. (We learned that in kindergarten, remember?) Is there a more environmentally friendly alternative to standard toilet paper?
Yes. Using recycled toilet paper can help prevent pollutants from entering marine ecosystems. The recycled papers are usually "processed-chlorine-free," which means that no compounds containing chlorine were used in the recycling process. These chlorinated compounds are often used to bleach the paper and can enter into waterways as runoff from factories.
- Whether you're packing it with last night's leftover buffalo wings or a case of Red Bull to get you through late-night study sessions, a refrigerator that satisfies the EPA's Energy Star efficiency criteria is only 20 percent more efficient than refrigerators manufactured before 1993.
False. In fact, an Energy Star refrigerator uses about half as much energy as a refrigerator that was made before 1993. Furthermore, Energy Star refrigerators use 20 percent less energy than is required by current federal standards and 40 percent less than the standard models from 2001. Most college dorm rooms are relatively small and it is thus important to note that compact refrigerators and freezers that satisfy the Energy Star criteria also use 20 percent less energy than is required by current federal standards. But hey -- the best move would be to get rid of your mini-fridge altogether and ask your school to provide a standard size Energy Star fridge for communal use. One of these fridges will use far less energy than 20 mini-fridges, even if they are Energy Star rated. To learn more about Energy Star, visit www.energystar.gov.
- Now that you've successfully pressed college officials for a communal Energy Star refrigerator, do you fill it with locally grown produce, or buy whatever is on sale at the supermarket?
Local produce is usually the more sustainable option. Buying locally grown fruits and vegetables means that they were transported over a shorter distance to reach you. This means that less energy was used to keep the items fresh and refrigerated and that less pollution was released during transport. It also means that the produce reaches you sooner after it was harvested and is therefore more fresh and tasty!
- When it's time to get horizontal (as in trying to get some sleep instead of pulling your fourth all-nighter in a row), you're glad you had the 'rents buy you organic linens because they're healthier for the environment -- and for you.
True. Organic sheets (made from cotton, silk, or bamboo) keep toxic chemicals out of the environment and out of your body through all-natural manufacturing. For example, organic cotton is grown by using the natural ecosystem to control pests. On the other hand, conventional cotton contains many toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These toxic chemicals can remain in the manufactured product and even be absorbed by your body.
- Having a bright desk lamp is critical to late-night studying when you didn't get enough done while cramming at the beach using natural light. (Hey, it was perfect weather for a volleyball game!) Which should you have, an incandescent lamp or a compact fluorescent lamp?
Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). A CFL is more efficient than a traditional incandescent lamp because CFLs emit light at specific frequencies whereas incandescent lamps emit a broader spectrum of light. This means that a portion of the spectrum emitted by an incandescent light source is not in the visible portion of the spectrum and therefore does not contribute to the strength of the light. Thus, CFLs are more efficient because less energy is lost to heat or other forms of radiation outside the visible spectrum.
Also, for a given amount of visible light output, CFLs use about one quarter of the power required by incandescent bulbs and last longer as well. The lifespan of most CFLs is around 10,000 hours, while that of an incandescent bulb is around 1,000 hours. One concern you may have is that CFLs cost more than incandescent bulbs. However, the longer lifespan of the CFL more than compensates for its initially higher cost. Let's take a look. If an incandescent bulb costs $1 and lasts 1,000 hours, you will have to purchase 10 such light bulbs in order to last as long as a single CFL bulb. Thus you will actually have to pay $10 as compared with the $5 that you would have had to fork over initially for the CFL. And hey, they're using less energy, so the bill is less, too.
Another issue between CFLs and incandescent bulbs is the mercury that could be released from a CFL if broken. While CFLs contain mercury (it is a very tiny amount: it would take 125 CFLs to equal the amount of mercury in an older thermometer), incandescent bulbs are actually responsible for more release of mercury into the environment. This is because, as we have seen, the incandescent bulbs are less energy efficient than CFLs and thus require more electricity production, which -- when provided by a coal-fired power plant -- is a large contributor of mercury into the environment. CFLs win again!
For more information on proper recycling and disposal of CFLs (Home Depot now accepts old CFLs for free recycling, for instance) please visit http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf
- The party's in your room this time and the syllabus includes Beirut (beer pong). Do you ask friends to BYOS (bring your own stein), or serve them their brew in plastic cups?
BYOS, dude. You can wash a stein or mug at the end of the night and keep using it well into the future -- until you hand it down to your own college-bound son or daughter. What an heirloom! As for plastic cups, you really get 3 points only if wash them out the next morning so that they can be reused next time!
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