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Green Living

Just some notes I made on green living. Not particularly interesting, but I wanted to keep them so I might as well publish.

Goal: No impact living, which means living in an environment without having any impact, positive or negative. This also means energy and oil independence and foreign independence. This has the benefit of reducing pollution and smog, mitigating global warming, reducing habitat destruction and creating a more robust economy.

Solution: Reduce energy usage, waste, consumption, be a selective consumer, and use only renewable resources.


  • Energy
    1. Lighting:
      One Billion Bulbs
      Replace all your bulbs with CFL or if you can afford it, LED. 10% of your electricity comes from lighting and this can reduce that cost by a factor of 4-5.
    2. Portable Device Chargers/Charging:
      One Watt Initiative
      My apartment contains 4 bricks. I have no idea what they consume, but they are old and I imagine I could save a couple bucks here.
    3. Servers/Laptops:
      At some point I should replace all peripherals with Energy Star compliant models. Newer servers use more efficient CPUs. My firewall could be replaced with an embedded product without any impact on performance.
      All monitors/display devices should be replaced with LCD displays. They use less power when active.
      Enable all power management features on my computers.
    4. Home Theater Equipment:
      There is actually a lot of things I can do to make my home theater more energy efficient.
      1) My DVD player will not consume much power when active. However, buying an energy star compliant device will only consume <1W during power off.
      2) Number 1 also applies to my receiver and your powered subwoofer. I know my subwoofer consumes a HUGE amount of power during
      idle and probably costs me $10 a month!!! (this is incentive to use it more hehe)
      3) My DLP consumes large amounts of power when active. In the future DLP will use LED lighting and will probably reduce their active consumption from
      around 200W to about 20-40W. If you want efficiency now, buy an LCD display. You can get a good looking picture on an LCD for the right price.
    5. Microwave:
      Microwaves are one of the most efficient ways of cooking food. I use it as much as possible, especially for boiling water.
    6. Dishwasher:
      An EnergyStar compliant dishwasher is very efficient. They use less electricity and little water.
    7. Clothes Washer:
      An EnergyStar compliant front loader is very efficient and will save me $100/yr. They also use very little water
    8. Fridge:
      Fridges have come a long way in 20yrs. An EnergyStar compliant unit uses very little energy. Bottom freezers offer the best performance. If I install it properly I can save quite a bit of money.
    9. Small Appliances:
      EnergyStar kitchen appliances use only 1W in idle.
    10. Clothes Dryer:
      Unfortunately there are no EnergyStar dryers. This is because they all use an heat to dry that consumes around 500W.
      Unfortunately, there is no alternative technology available. Your best bet is to get rid of it and dry your clothes outside if you can. Dryers are one of the last
      unconquered household appliances.
    11. Fireplace:
      Don't use them unless you have to. A wood stove makes a decent backup to your passive heating if it runs out.
    12. Oven:
      Self Cleaning+Convection can save 25% on energy.
    13. Stovetop:
      Flat tops are MUCH more effective, and make cooking easier and safer.
    14. Waterheater:
      Use a solar heater.
      Or use a tankless hot water heater.
      There are also instant hot water heaters which are at the faucet. I don't know if they save electricity, but they DO save on water.
    15. Heating:
      A ground source heat pump can save a lot of energy, but you need room for one.
      Install digital climate control and program it around your habits. This will definitely save you a bunch of money.
    16. Cooling:
      Buy a fan or install a ceiling fan to help displace cool air. The breeze feels good and it feels cooler/warmer.
      Buy an Ice Bear A/C unit. These build ice during the night and then cool using the ice during the day. Cheaper and more energy efficient.
      Again, climate control is very important here.
  • Water
    1. Appliances:
      Buy EnergyStar compliant appliances for dish and clothes washing.
    2. Waste water should be recovered by the city and recycled. It could be used to farm crops or water grass/trees/parks in the city.
    3. You can use graywater to water your own plants (after filtering).
  • Food
    1. Buy products with fewest miles/pound or lowest carbon footprint.
    2. Buy products distributed with clean energy trucks/factories/stores (or at least trucks that use biodiesel and stores that use some renewable energy).
    3. Use your spare land to garden (but good kind like forest gardening, preserve the diversity and local landscape/habitat).
    4. When you buy imported food, make sure the growers in that country were protected! (e.g. human rights, fair pay, etc).
  • Shelter
    1. If you are forced to rent (which I am) then rent an apartment that takes advantage of renewable resources. If you own, then implement the renewable resources and also do the following:
      Fix your house insulation. ceb/mud bricks, pink insulation, reflective material in the roof, etc. superinsulation, shade trees, etc.
      Use south facing windows, double insulated windows
      Install a house fan to improve ventilation (it's all about controlling where the air comes in and where it goes out).
  • Trash
    1. The first and most important thing is to reduce waste. There is simply no need to
      buy consumer goods if you don't need them. Spend it on services or entertainment
    2. Secondly, buy only quality products that last a long time.
    3. Thirdly, buy products that can be recycled when you discard them.
    4. Finally, recycle everything you discard! You can also donate usable goods to friends/family/organizations.
    5. Beware: the products you buy had to be manufactured and that had to produce waste, somehow. Be a responsible buyer!
  • Personal Waste
    1. CO2 exhale, O2 inhale: if you own land, plant 10 trees for every person in your family.
    2. If you don't own land, buy them. Use the web to find websites for this purpose.
    3. Another idea would be contributing money to buying up land for conservation.
    4. Poop: we can do more to make our waste more usable. It could be turned
      in to fertilizer and water for crops, but american population is
      'grossed out' by this. See the humanure project and information on
      treebogs for details on how to do this yourself.
  • Fuel
    1. The only solution here is to use a car which produces no emissions. Ethanol vehicles
      are just a temporary stopping point because they still produce emissions. In other words, if we switched
      to an ethanol economy today, the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere would not decrease, but it wouldn't increase either.
    2. Unfortunately, electric cars present other problems: renters have no place to charge,
      you can't simply (juice up) if you're stuck on the side of the road, cost of replacement
      and repairs, not to mention longetivity and capacity of batteries has not advanced much since they were invented 100 years ago.

For information on power conservation and reasonable power use, see the wikipedia page on the 2000 Watt Society.

Calculate Power Requirements

The two most promising technologies are wind and solar. Using only electric power can eliminate the use of gas and therefore fossil fuels. If you rent, then maybe you can pay a little more for renewable power only. Wind can be used in the north east and central parts of the country. Solar can be used in the west and southwest. In the south I would imagine solar and wind would be effective. In any case, there are other solutions, like waste conversion that can be used for large scale power plants. Both solar and wind can now be installed on your house. Not only does this save you money, you're helping to restore the environment.

One of the difficult problems w/ wind and solar is what to do when there is neither. One solution is to have both,
and cross your fingers. Not very good. There are two other solutions that work. The first is to piggyback your
power system with the grid. This is good because you only pay for electricity when your demand is greater than what
your solar/wind can produce. The other is to use batteries. This is not as good as the grid. It may not be cheaper,
batteries don't last forever, and they wear out after a few years.

Estimated Power Requirements (Yearly):

  • Microwave: 1W idle, 100W usage (5m/day): 11.8kWh/yr
  • Small Appliances: 3 appliances, 1W idle, 100W usage (5m/day): 35.4kWh/yr
  • Dishwasher: can find one for 300kWh/yr
  • Fridge: can find one for 600kWh/yr
  • Clothes Dryer: 1W idle, 600W active (4hrs/week): 133.4kWh/yr
  • Clothes Washer: can find one for 225kWh/yr
  • Lighting: ~20W CFL run for a total of 5 hours/day: 36.5kWh/yr
  • Servers/Laptops: laptop: 1W idle, 75W active (3hrs/day) + 2 servers: 125W active (24hrs/day): 2280kWh/yr
  • Portable Device Chargers/Charging: 3 adapters, 1W idle, 45W active (3hrs/day): 170.8kWh/yr
  • Home Theater Equipment: 5 devices used 3hrs/day, all 1W idle, active dvd:15W, sub:200W, dlp:200W, ps3:100W, receiver:200W: 821.3kWh/yr
  • Water Heater: using an instant device+solar water heater: 400kWh/yr
  • Oven/Stovetop: 200kWh/yr
  • Cooling (w/ Home Improvements): 7mths a year: 1715kWh/yr
  • Heating (w/ Home Improvements): 3mths a year: 367.5kWh/yr
  • Electric Car: 8hr charge into 1000Ah*12V device: 3504kWh/yr

Total: 10,800.7kWh/yr

Residential Power Generation

Wind (assume ~6mph winds all year)
Quiet Revolution QR-5: 9600kWh/yr
Would need two of these to provide all the required power.

Solar (assume 6hrs sun/day):
Panels at 10% efficiency (100W/m^2):
0.6kWh/m^2/day; 219kWh/m^2/yr
This is a typical efficiency available on the market. Would require 49.3 m^2.

Panels at 20% efficiency (200W/m^2):
1.2kWh/m^2/day; 438kWh/m^2/yr
High efficiency panels can be bought. Would require 24.7 m^2.

Panels at 40% efficiency (400W/m^2):
2.4kWh/m^2/day; 876kWh/m^2/yr
Current world record (in a lab). Would require 12.3 m^2.


It seems possible to go totally energy independent. But it isn't possible to go completely neutral (business practice is still wasteful, etc). But one person doesn't really make much of a difference. I guess you have the satisfaction of knowing you did your part, but it still sucks driving ANYWHERE in California and not being able to see the mountains because of smog, or seeing all the trash on the highways. I'd like to think it's a matter of time, but unfortunately we're headed more towards a "BladeRunner" type future as opposed to a "Back To The Future" scenario.

For more information on energy conservation, sustainable development, and resources I used to put this together see the links in the article and these below. They are all quite good and often link to interesting things themselves:

  1. Sustainable Development Portal
  2. Energy Conservation
  3. Environmental Technology
  4. World Energy Resources and Consumption
  5. Consumer Guide
  6. Energy Saving Now

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