While in 2013, blogging took a back seat to other activities, in the past year, I again presented an updated version of Everyday sustainability, this time at United Nations University in Tokyo. There you have it. If you want to follow the hyperlinks, to sources inside the preso, (slideshare shows only as image) please download the pdf version.
Sustainability for me starts with learning and awareness, and it includes human ingenuity that makes modern life affordable and comfortable for many. As a small example, I labeled switches with the wattage each controls (here 60W) and marked with a red dot the lights to switch off as soon as not needed (incandescents). Changing consumption choices while keeping comfort costs close to nothing and can return a lot.
The lower switch is a timer adjusted to 6 minutes for the fan that exchanges the room air volume about once in this time. Running it longer would just draw more cold air into the home, or warm air in summer, driving up the heating or cooling cost for no gain in comfort.
If sustainablility means more...
If sustainablility means more
- profits - doing first what has a return first
- preparedness - ready and resilient in face of somewhat foreseeable events
- permanence - and taking a course of action enabling to do it in the long run
then here are a few guidelines I use to set priorities in purchasing and use of home applicances. Part of the princples I find useful are reflected in this home sustainability pyramid of conservation.
(image source: Minnesota Power, retrieved 2013-01-13)
Some of these principles you can see in action by the everyday examples I calculated in said presentation, such as
Estimating total cost of ownership, including purchase, installation (if I cannot do it myself), energy, maintenance, possibly resale value
Calculating the old vs the new, when and whether for a foreseeable time of use we reach the break even point, to enjoy a return on investment
Estimating whether there is a return on embedded energy, using a conservative estimate to do without complexity of an LCA: what if all of the factory price of the device (half of retail) were all from retail energy, how many kWh is it? Do we break even by using the energy-saving alternative, and if so, by when?
By these principles, we put LEDs or CFLs in many - but not all places. We keep incandescent bulbs in our home in places that do not see much usage of light, such as storage rooms, stairs, and toilets. There were still using the original bulbs, after 15 years.
Sustainability can be a hybrid car
Applying the same calculation to our eight year old minivan turns out we do not drive enough to have a return on a hybrid vehicle with half the fuel consumption (double the mileage). Would we drive twice as much or would fuel prices double, the hybrid pays for its additional cost within the next eight years.
Preparedness can be a hybrid car
Stilll, we would buy one because it is a great emergency power generator in case of long outage. Folks in the U.S. have run their home on a Prius with [great results]. Overall fuel efficiency at 1500W through an inverter is 30% better than a modern portable 1600W inverter generator, both calculated by amount of fuel brned for a given run time at full load.
Alas, no Prius for us. Since our grown kids are too tall to fit in its back, we look forward to this new Noah hybrid minivan, released at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. Same drivetrain specs as the 3rd generation Prius, we expect performance just a bit lower, becasue of higher vehicle weight and drag. Still better than the gasoline Noah. Of course, we wish to order the 1500W inverter option, at 70,000 yen for the prior (non hybrid gasoline) model it is reasonably priced, compared to other RV or marine inverters.
If you wish to learn more about practical preparedness and what you can do with what you have, Steven Harris may have a few podcasts for you. He may not be up to date about people in Tokyo and Japan, but being an electrical engineer, I find his recommendations are worth a listen and what I tried of his advice served us well. He includes workable safety advice.
How do you combine economical conservation and comfort with ecological living?