Living lightly – save energy and money

Mountain Living

By Dr. Irene Shonle

April is the month of Earth Day – a month in which many people look to figure out ways to lighten their footprint on the planet.

We can do this in many ways, including looking at our transportation habits. While many of us can’t avoid a long commute to the flatlands, there are several things to consider here. Is it possible to carpool? Can you do errands while you are already off the mountain? Does your car get relatively high miles per gallon? Are your tires properly inflated? Are you up to date on maintenance, or are you ignoring the check engine light? Some maintenance fixes can actually affect gas mileage more than you’d think.

What about flying? Of course you need to fly sometimes, but consider whether a “staycation” or a driving trip might satisfy vacation needs – we have so many wonderful places to explore that are close by. If you do fly, and like most of us, have to take the economy class, you can at least be happy that being packed in like sardines reduces the per-person carbon emission.

Diet can also play a role. New research is showing that lamb, beef, and dairy have some of the highest environmental footprints. Buying locally grown food can reduce the carbon footprint for transportation. Growing your own greens can help even more (there are still spaces in our community garden if you can’t grow at your house.) Eat fewer processed foods, since the processing increases the footprint.

In your house, there are many options. Some cost more money and time, like adding solar panels to your roof, or insulating your walls (and especially your roof) more. Others cost very little money, and while they seem so simple and easy to fix, many of us tolerate these “egregious energy violations.”

For example, do you still have a shower head that uses more than 2.5 gallons per minute? You can check this by placing a five gallon bucket in your tub and timing the output for a minute. Newer low-flow shower heads manage to have a strong spray yet save both water (another precious resource) and hot water. Another example is windows. There are still enough old-stock houses up here with single-pane windows, which not only waste heat, but make occupants much more uncomfortable. If you can’t afford to replace windows, there are kits you can use to apply plastic film over the windows to approximate a double pane. A final example is having dirty furnace filters. A dirty furnace filter can greatly reduce the efficiency of a furnace, and should be replaced every one to three months during the heating season.

Free Living Lightly workshop

If you’d like to learn more about the latest solar options for your house, more energy-saving tips, or get updated on the latest on climate change, please come to our free Living Lightly workshop on April 17th to kick off Earth Week (6:30 pm at the Extension Office/Exhibit Barn, 230 Norton Drive). Cary Weiner, our CSU Energy Specialist, will be there as well as Carolyn Collins Petersen, who is fresh off the Climate Reality Project Training. RSVPs are REQUIRED (303-582-9106) by April 13th, and the class is subject to cancellation if we don’t meet our minimum for attendance.

The CSU Gilpin County Extension Office is located at the Exhibit Barn, 230 Norton Drive, Black Hawk, CO 80422, 303-582-9106, Colorado State University Extension provides unbiased, research-based information about, horticulture, natural resources, and 4-H youth development. Colorado State University Extension is dedicated to serving all people on an equal and nondiscriminatory basis.

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